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Talbot: Is 'Johnny Football' worth the gamble?

A look at the Texas A&M quarterback before Thursday's NFL draft begins

Posted: May 6, 2014 - 8:47pm  |  Updated: May 7, 2014 - 12:09am
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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel  L.G. Patterson
L.G. Patterson
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel
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Johnny Manziel is a spoiled rich kid.

That’s just part of the “Johnny Football” persona.

And that’s part of the debate before the NFL draft begins Thursday as NFL general managers weigh whether or not the enigmatic quarterback is worth the trouble.

But, that is nothing new for Manziel.

In June 2012 Manziel was pictured shirtless in a doped-out looking mugshot provided by College Station police.

It was the first time I had ever heard of him.

Then, he was not “Johnny Football” — at least, not outside of Kerrville.

Then, he was just a backup quarterback, a guy who was going to flame himself out of school because he did something stupid. At the time, it looked like he handed the quarterback job at Texas A&M to Jameill Showers, who I had covered when he was a quarterback at Killeen Shoemaker.

But, Manziel worked his way back on the team. When he did, he was behind Showers on the depth chart. Despite Manziel’s scrambling ability, Showers still threw a better ball.

So, Manziel did what few college quarterbacks can do. He spent a reported $25,000 on a quarterback coach.

Then he did what every athlete is supposed to do — he worked hard and got better.

By December of that same year, he had won the Heisman Trophy, the first redshirt freshman to ever win the award, and Showers was pondering his impending transfer to UTEP.

Manziel’s unique talent cannot be questioned.

That is why some draft pundits have him going as high as No.1 overall to the Houston Texans and others have him going in the top five to the Cleveland Browns or Oakland Raiders.

Unique talents don’t always work out, though.

After his stint with the Tennessee Titans, Vince Young has been in and out of camps trying to make an NFL roster.

And despite winning his fair share of games, Tim Tebow was never really given a second chance after Denver — thanks to an inability to complete 50 percent of his passes.

Manziel is a similar enigma.

A flamboyant one almost as divisive as Tebow, but not quite. As easy as he is to watch on the football field, his antics off it are hard.

The mugshot in June 2012 was followed by photos on Halloween featuring Manziel partying in a Scooby-Doo costume, some candid photos from spring break and a shot of him holding fistfuls of casino cash.

Then there was the notorious shot of Manziel inside a Dallas club, celebrating Texas A&M’s Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma with a lit sparkler in his mouth and a bottle of champagne in his hand.

That particular photo raised even more questions about the free-spirted behavior of the quarterback.

An overblown media storm soon ensued and, for once, there was a rush on Manziel that he couldn’t escape.

Now, because of those exploits some draft experts have him slipping all the way to the Browns with their second pick of the first round (No. 26).

If he does fall, it would benefit Manziel and the team that drafts him.

It’s better to be a late first-round bust or be a late-round steal — much like Randy Moss was, after character issues slid him down the NFL draft board — than JaMarcus Russell.

If Manziel does fall, Thursday will be even more interesting.

Dallas GM and owner Jerry Jones has repeatedly said the Cowboys are not looking at drafting a quarterback. But, Tony Romo is 33 years old and coming off his second back surgery, and one of Jones’ biggest draft-day regrets was passing on the aforementioned Moss.

At the No. 16 spot, he would regret not gambling on Manziel, too.

As the No. 1 overall pick, though, Manziel’s worth is still in question. It’s one that won’t be answered until he takes the field on Sundays.

For the team that drafts Manziel it seems there are only two outcomes.

Ending up embarrassed or having an embarrassment of riches.

 

NICHOLAS TALBOT IS THE A-J MEDIA SPORTS EDITOR.

 

 

 

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Johnny Knucklehead

I'm pretty sure the Texans are smarter than to risk the first pick on Johnny Knucklehead. That could set back their franchise years if he doesn't work out. Yes he is exciting, yes he is athletic, but in the NFL so is every other player.

Ask VY how that worked out for him being an athletic qb that every ut fan said he couldn't miss in the NFL. Manziel is a poor mans vy.

Heisman trophy is the most overrated award that translate to poor NFL players(tebow, couch, mark ingram, Bradford, troy smith....). Maybe half the writers/voters don't watch the majority of the games. It's a popularity contest kind of like preseason rankings that mean nothing really.

Interestingly Manziels parents said in SI they want manziel not to be drafted by a texas team, specifically the Texans, so he would be away from his party buddies at aggieland.

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Texans may draft him to get fans in the seats, not to win games.

Texans may draft him to get fans in the seats, not to win games.

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