On the Ball: Officially on the Manziel Bandwagon
So my brother contacted me this week to offer his congratulations for completely whiffing on all three of my Final Four column predictions, for all the world to see—thank you very much.
I told him it gets even better. I also managed to finish dead last in our 17-entrant office pool—even the girl who picked New Mexico to beat my beloved KU (her best friend lives there) topped yours truly, and the Lobos lost before the matchup could even play out. It was like the opening scene of Office Space, when Ron Livingston’s character Peter is stuck in morning traffic and looks over to see the old guy in the walker out-pacing him. Humbling times.
Fortunately, the NFL draft is coming up and I love playing armchair GM—almost as much as Monday morning quarterback. I have plenty of experience in guessing who will be great and then overly criticizing my favorite team for not getting them—it’s a rare talent.
In 1998 I would have taken Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. The next year, I liked Edgerrin James over Ricky Williams—though both turned out great. In 2001, I had no idea who Tom Brady was, but I was pretty sure the Giants guessed wrong when they took Ron Dayne in the first round—I still don’t know how he racked up 7,000-plus yards in college.
This year I’m itching for my Jets to grab the electrifying—if not controversial—Johnny Manziel.
He’s always the quickest-thinking person on the field and he flat-out can make plays—even when his linemen let him down.
What could make him drop to the Jets at pick number 18 is his size—as well as his off-the-field behavior, though I don’t understand the former.
It always makes me laugh when the college football season ends and the scouting combine begins—like they’re looking for a track-and-field team instead of a winning football player. All of a sudden players like the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy, Johnny Manziel, are scrutinized because they’re a quarter-inch below six feet tall and concerns about whether they can see over NFL linemen abound.
Did everyone forget about 5-foot-10-inch Doug Flutie, who played in the NFL into his 40s? He only made the Pro Bowl and might have led the Bills farther in the 2000 playoffs had Wade Phillips not pulled a quasi-Grady Little move and benched him before the game even began.
Second of all, if college linemen aren’t too tall for Manziel, why are they suddenly too tall when they graduate to the NFL? Are coaches/executives/GMs suddenly expecting a growth spurt, at age 22, from a bunch of fat guys?
When I told a friend of mine about my Manziel-to-Jets dream, he gave me the same look as when I told him of my idea to give the top four seeds in the NCAA tournament home-court advantage—he wasn’t near as gracious as my brother.
He said there’s no way the Jets are going to select a quarterback in the first round after taking Geno Smith in the second last year. I agreed that they probably wouldn’t because they previously took Smith so high, but in my opinion once you draft a player it doesn’t matter where they were picked—it only matters if they can play. In a related story, last year Smith finished dead last in quarterback rating with a 66.5.
Even though I liked the Jets signing Michael Vick to a low-liability contract (one year), when speed is your main weapon and you’re coming off a year plagued by hamstring issues, it doesn’t seem near the sure thing Manziel is. And the offense-starved Jets need a sure thing to put some points on the board.
Of course, 17 years ago I would have bet anything that Arizona State’s Jake Plummer was going to be the next Joe Montana. After he was picked by the Cardinals in the second round I bought hundreds of dollars worth of his rookie cards and waited … and waited, and waited, and waited (as did the rest of the NFL) for a payoff that never came. Guess I was wrong. At least I was smart enough not to proclaim it in a column back then.