If you weren’t buying Johnny Manziel to Cleveland Browns hype-train tickets before, get ready to pony up the dough after the organization rounded out its coaching staff by hiring Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator.
Despite not handing him the job directly after his January 29 interview with the team, news leaked soon after that the Browns would indeed hire the younger Shanahan to revitalize their stagnant offense, Alex Marvez of FOX Sports 1 said on Saturday. It took until Monday for the team to officially announce the hiring, but it was a formality by that point:
After two seasons tailoring an offense to the dual-threat abilities of Robert Griffin III, Shanahan is indeed an ideal mind to develop a system conducive for Manziel’s future success. The highs and lows of the Washington Redskins offense during his tenure there give him a solid starting point to work from when implementing his new system in Cleveland.
So the hiring makes a lot of sense, something we all saw coming since the Browns haven’t exactly been quiet about their interest in the polarizing former Heisman Trophy winner.
Some have even speculated former head coach Rob Chudzinski and his staff were let go for disagreeing with the direction the front office wanted to go in at the quarterback position. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King asked that question the morning after Chud’s canning:
What if there was a disconnect between the quarterback the front office wanted (I hear Cleveland really likes Johnny Manziel, who is not the Aikmanish pocket passer more to Turner’s liking) and the one the coaches preferred? If they made a clean break now, they wouldn’t be delaying what they felt was inevitable.
Long before King was hypothesizing arousing accusations, Browns scouts—including assistant GM Ray Farmer—were checking out and apparently becoming tantalized with Manziel while he led Texas A&M in a near-upset of then-No.1 Alabama for the second year running.
I’ll go one step beyond King and speculate a little on my own. What if the trade of Trent Richardson was also a product of what I’ll refer henceforth to as “The Manziel Effect”? Like King's theory, all of the confusing events of the past 365-plus days could be tied to that single idea.
The Richardson trade was shocking at first. Since then, most moved on after seeing him struggle more and more as the season unfolded. They loved it and saw it for what it was: a means to an end. A means to secure a quarterback who can lead the Browns out of obscurity. For giving him up, they received ammo for the 2014 draft to do just that: a second first-round pick.
Which QB will the Cleveland Browns draft in May?
After seeing inconsistency and incompetency rolled into one at the position last year, the Browns would be crazy not to try to find their answer this May at the game’s most critical position.
Much like the idea of drafting Manziel, the importance of the quarterback position to this management group is written on the wall in the draft war room. But the latter is literally there, on the wall, in writing: “We will have a CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL QB.”
And they are reportedly willing to do whatever it takes to get their top target, who is rumored to be Manziel. That includes a willingness to trade up from the No. 4 overall slot, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. With 10 draft picks—five in the first three rounds—they certainly have the means to make that happen.
You can say what you will about the merits of mobile quarterbacks and their ability to stay healthy in the NFL, but it’s hard, not impossible, to deny the Browns are not at least toying with the idea of moving in that direction by going all-in on Manziel.
The hiring of Shanahan to run the offense of defensive-minded head coach Mike Pettine is just another telling sign of the seemingly linked fate between the two parties.
For a team and fanbase that have had little to celebrate over the past 14 seasons since returning to the league, where’s the danger in giving it a shot?
Manziel is anything but a safe pick, for a variety of reasons, but the allure of his maximum potential is—without a doubt—very real. On the surface, Shanahan’s personality might be a bad thing for a brazen Manziel, considering the coach’s past brush-ups with RGIII and Donovan McNabb.
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But the one thing he does do that trumps personality conflicts and off-field drama is win. In six seasons as a coordinator, his offenses have finished in the top 10 of the league four times. He’ll get a chance to make his mark with the Browns, a team that has struggled inexplicably on that side of the ball for as long as anyone can remember.
With the hire of Shanahan, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his crew appear to be going all in, entrusting their success on The Manziel Effect.