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Browns Rookie Connor Shaw Shows How Unprepared Johnny Manziel Really Was

Will Burge@WillBurgeContributor IDecember 28, 2014

Cleveland Browns quarterback Connor Shaw sits on the bench in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Gail Burton/Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns probably hoped at the beginning of the year that they could run a rookie quarterback out onto the field in Week 17 when the playoffs were on the line. Well it happened, but that rookie was Connor Shaw and not Johnny Manziel. And those playoff hopes belonged to the Baltimore Ravens.

Despite being out with a hamstring injury, Manziel’s lack of preparation was highlighted by Shaw’s solid play on Sunday.

Shaw was not supposed to even be on the active roster. He was a practice squad guy, a rookie project who would hopefully turn into a solid backup quarterback at some point in his career. He certainly was never supposed to be starting the season finale on the road against a division rival. Even more so, he was not supposed to hold his own.

Let’s start by saying Shaw did not look good. His performance did not elevate him into the quarterback competition next season, and he won’t be getting comparisons to Tom Brady anytime soon. He did, however, keep the Browns in the game for three-and-a-half quarters and showed knowledge of the scheme and the game plan.

That is more than anyone can say for Johnny Manziel when he got his first start at home against Cincinnati.

The differences were staggering. In the midst of a hostile environment, Shaw kept his calm, communicated with the offense and never looked rattled. Did I mention that he was undrafted? He obviously does not have the physical abilities of a first-round, pick but he outprepared and outperformed one on Sunday. 

He went 14-of-28 for 177 yards and an interception. He led the Browns to 16 first downs and 259 total yards of offense. These are modest numbers, but when your defense is playing well, they are good enough to keep you in the game. The Browns led until the seven-minute, 33-second mark of the fourth quarter.

And while the defense was putrid against Cincinnati, and Manziel did not have that to rely on, he was still a first-round pick who looked lost and ill prepared. There is no excuse to be the one who looks like an undrafted rookie when he had the luxury of being the backup quarterback all season. He should know exactly what the team wants to do.

He should also know exactly what the team does not want him to do. Among those things would be to throw a holiday party for his teammates, which causes some of them to be late for work. It caused others to not show up at all, according to CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora. 

What’s wrong with a holiday party? Nothing. What’s wrong with a holiday party the Friday before a “meaningless game”? Well, it probably isn’t a good idea, but it is also not the end of the world. What’s wrong with a holiday party the Friday before a game, and the team has to send security to your apartment to make sure you’re alive? Everything. 

#Browns Joe Thomas on the issues of the weekend: It's part of the NFL. Everyone has bad apples.

— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) December 28, 2014

It is never a good thing when both a team’s first-round draft picks are referred to as “bad apples” by the team’s only perennial Pro Bowler, but it’s even worse when one of those guys is supposed to be the future at quarterback. Remember, this is just a few short days after Manziel stood in front of the media and said, “I’m not the guy that I've always been.”  

The issue was so serious that owner Jimmy Haslam broke his long silence and spoke with reporters after the game: 

#Browns Jimmy Haslam: This is ultimate team game, a player who can't show up for meetings, can't make practice disrespects himself, team ...

— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) December 28, 2014

... more Haslam: We're not going to tolerate people who are irresponsible, no matter what round they're drafted in.

— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) December 28, 2014

More from Haslam: we're going to give them a chance, we're going to work w/them, hopefully they grow up. if can't, they won't be #Browns.

— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) December 28, 2014

So while it looks like Manziel will get another shot to prove himself, the noose continues to tighten around his neck. The only person responsible for Manziel’s situation is Manziel.

Good franchises do not cut first-round picks after just one season. Winning franchises break them in and force them to be winners. Just look at tight end Vernon Davis in San Francisco. The Browns front office needs to make these picks work otherwise it was another wasted draft, and they lose even more ground on the rest of the AFC North.

It can still happen, but it will take some work. Things are never good when an undrafted rookie can help point out some of the major flaws in your “future of the franchise” guy. 

#Browns coach Mike Pettine on QB situation for 2015: Pretty obvious it's still a big question mark.

— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) December 28, 2014

Shaw did not make himself the answer to that question on Sunday but he definitely helped make it that much more complex to answer.

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