Johnny Manziel has a larger than life personality and the game on the gridiron to back it up, causing the quarterback-craving Cleveland Browns to select him with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. But national media members hoping to get a glimpse of Johnny Football in rookie minicamp will be disappointed, because the team is diffusing the potential circus before it gets underway.
Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post reported Tuesday that the Browns are taking such a hardline policy in order to prevent Manziel's individual magnetism from overshadowing an important time for incoming players:
Wow, the Browns told me the national media is barred from their rookie minicamp this weekend due to the team's "tight grip" on Manziel.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) May 13, 2014
The team's PR director compared the potential Manziel fiasco to that of former first-round pick Tim Tebow:
Browns PR director told me: "We don't want this to be a Tebow situation. It's not going to be Johnny Football Mania out there."— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) May 13, 2014
Hubbuch added his own commentary on the minicamp matter:
Of all the teams you'd think might welcome positive national pub, it would be the Browns. Instead, they told me to cancel my flight. SMH.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) May 13, 2014
It's going to be the highest of comedy watching the amateurs who run the Browns try to control the Johnny Manziel circus.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) May 13, 2014
If the Browns didn't want the Johnny Manziel circus, THEN WHY DRAFT THE GUY?— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) May 13, 2014
It will indeed be difficult for Cleveland to control the atmosphere surrounding the former Heisman Trophy winner. Manziel brings with him a spark of hope under center that the franchise hasn't seen since reentering the league in 1999, and the rookie minicamp will take place from May 16 to 18 (h/t CBS Cleveland).
Although the perception may be that the Browns are attempting to downplay Manziel, this is actually a savvy policy. The move falls in line with how the organization's brass has treated him since choosing him to be the QB of the future. Owner Jimmy Haslam said with conviction Monday that Manziel is the backup, per the Associated Press' Tom Withers:
Haslam on Manziel: "He's not the starter." #Browns— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) May 12, 2014
ESPN's Louis Riddick didn't agree with this, expressing similar sentiments to Hubbuch's criticism of Cleveland's plans to guard Manziel closely:
Manziel. Prepare to be a backup? Really? That is how you set the tone for your 1st rd QB in a city dying for excitement? #dumb— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) May 12, 2014
How do you feel about the Browns' rookie minicamp policy?
Brian Hoyer will enter training camp atop the depth chart, but thanks to Manziel's unique scrambling skills, underrated arm talent and playmaking ability, he may be able to start as a rookie. Before Manziel can even entertain that as a possibility, though, digesting the basic concepts of play-caller Kyle Shanahan's offense will be the first order of business.
That's why this minicamp is so pivotal. It gives Manziel a chance to establish himself and get down to work on the gridiron. Preventing the media from blowing every move he makes at this early juncture in the offseason program out of proportion is wise, because the controversy and competition surrounding the Browns' ever-turbulent QB situation will be enough as it is.
General manager Ray Farmer knew what he was getting into when he drafted Manziel, and the Browns are playing it perfectly thus far. They passed on him twice in the draft, then saved Manziel from falling perhaps out of the first round. Standing less than six feet tall and coming off a long wait in the green room are incentive enough for Manziel to pour all his efforts into adjusting to the professional level.
Now that he's seen an instant relegation to backup status and won't enjoy the hoopla he seems to embrace at every turn, Manziel will be forced to focus on improving as a quarterback. While the move to cut off the national media may harm the perception around the Browns in the short term, it is wise for the long haul.
This will avert any potential alienation teammates may feel toward Manziel's celebrity-caliber aggrandizement, allowing the talented youngster to earn his stripes and concentrate on the task at hand.