Job No. 1 for Browns' New Coach, GM: Give Up on Johnny Manziel as Cleveland QB

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 4, 2016

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel speaks with media members following the team's 30-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks n an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Seattle.  (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)
Scott Eklund/Associated Press

Browns coach Mike Pettine was fired. So was the team's general manager, Ray Farmer. But this is not news. Browns coaches get fired as often as an American household makes bacon and eggs for breakfast.

There is always massive turnover in Cleveland. Everyone gets canned, all the time, which is very Clevelandy. The Browns have had eight head coaches since 2000. No, a coach and GM getting fired in Cleveland is not news. The real news will come soon.

The real news will be what the new head coach does with Johnny Manziel.

The Browns have many issues, more than almost any team in football, but the crucial issue, the most important of them all, is what they will do with Manziel. Everything revolves around that.

In a quarterback league, the new coach and general manager will have to determine if Manziel can be a viable long-term solution for a franchise that has had one of the worst long-term quarterback situations in league history.

The answer to "Should a new coach keep Manziel?" is: Hell no.

How anyone would ever trust Manziel now is beyond me. And I'm not talking about how a concussed Manziel was allegedly in Las Vegas last week. Though that would be so damn Manziel. You just don't see a whole lot of reports on whether Carson Palmer or Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers could have, maybe, possibly been in Vegas, or not. (Compounding matters, Peter King reported (via Rachel Nichols), Manziel didn't show up for a concussion-protocol appointment Sunday.)

Pettine and his staff never truly trusted Manziel. They wanted to; believe me on this. They truly, desperately wanted Manziel to work out. As one Browns assistant told me Saturday night: "For us, a successful Manziel meant more job security."

The assistant, who asked not to be identified, said the concern of the staff was that while Manziel did recently prepare harder and play better, there was always "the concern that another report would come out about Johnny or he would do something not smart."

"Frankly," the assistant said, "Johnny scared us."

That is not a way you want your quarterback described unless he's being called that by an opposing coach. Like, hey, that Tom Brady sure is scary, said Rex Ryan.

A smart staff will send Manziel packing.

Pettine basically told reporters some of this last week. Pettine was blunt, probably because he knew he was going to be fired. According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Pettine said:

Here is a guy that has an NFL skill set. He's very talented. If you spend some time with him, he's a likable guy. You root for him. But there are problems there that we'll talk as we're headed to the offseason about getting addressed. We want to make sure that all of our players are in good shape as people first, players second because I don't think you can be as effective as you can be as a player if things aren't right off the field, and he's a good example of that.

I think he's shown on the field that he can [be the quarterback of the future], but we always talk in terms of long-term, sustained success. And that's what you want to strive for, and if things aren't right off the field, that's very difficult to have that level of consistency, especially when you're in a position of leadership.

Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was just as blunt. When asked how important it was for Manziel to get his off-field life under control, DeFilippo said in the same report: "It's tremendously important and not only for on the field, I think your teammates need to see you doing the right thing as well. That's part of the position. It's a lifestyle. I've talked about that a bunch. Playing quarterback in this league is a lifestyle. You need to eat, sleep and breathe football. I think we made strides in that department. I don't want to say we're there all the way. But I think we could all agree in this (media) room, I think we have made strides in that department with the young man, and he'll continue to get better."

Manziel and recently fired Browns GM Ray Farmer, after Manziel was drafted in 2014.
Manziel and recently fired Browns GM Ray Farmer, after Manziel was drafted in 2014.Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Pettine and the offensive coordinator made their remarks after video surfaced of Manziel holding what looked to be a can of Four Loko, via Busted Coverage, which contains 12 percent alcohol. This past offseason, Manziel spent 10 weeks at an inpatient rehab center that specializes in treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.

No, this one thing isn't horrible. There are worse looks. It's the totality of what Manziel has done. We won't get into every incident (you know what they are), but what's true is that Manziel consistently lacks professionalism.

Again, look around the league. The best quarterbacks are the most trusted quarterbacks, on the field and off. No one ever wonders if Brady is fully dedicated. Look at the young pass-throwing talent in the sport now like Marcus Mariota in Tennessee, Blake Bortles in Jacksonville and Derek Carr in Oakland. Not only are they more talented than Manziel, but the next video Mariota will be in will be him saying how he was upset about not hitting the gosh darn slant.

None of this is meant to be insensitive to what may be addiction issues. This is, however, a cold, bottom-line business, and the new coach will have to make a cold, bottom-line decision.

David Richard/Associated Press

There's one last thing about Manziel that the new coach, if he's smart, will also realize. Manziel isn't that good.

If anything, Manziel has to outwork everyone, something he doesn't seem willing to do. By NFL standards, he's not particularly fast, he's not particularly accurate with the football, and he's not particularly good at deciphering defenses. This requires Manziel to be relentless in his preparation, not the opposite.

There have been partying quarterbacks before. Ken Stabler used to study the playbook, he once famously said, by the light of a jukebox. Yet Stabler was incredibly gifted both mentally and physically. He was, easily, one of the most accurate passers in history and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Joe Namath was an all-universe party dude but he was, well, Joe Namath.

Manziel isn't close to those guys. He's not even Ken Dorsey, let alone Ken Stabler.

When the Browns hire their new coach, that coach may be tempted to think what some coaches always do. Where the last staff failed, I can succeed. I'll change him. I'll make him a pro.

That would be a mistake. There's only one thing for the new coach to do.

Say goodbye to Johnny.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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