It’s been 50 long years since the Browns delivered Cleveland a championship. Just to give context to how long ago that was, Jim Brown gained 114 yards for a team that no longer exists (old Browns), against a franchise that no longer exists (Baltimore Colts), in a stadium that no longer exists (Municipal Stadium), in league that no longer exists (NFL before the merger). Heck, the Browns and Colts would play for the AFC championship now. In other words, it was a different world.
Which is why the latest report that the Browns may already be cutting bait with Johnny Manziel leaves me shaking my head. It’s sadly just more of the same along the Cuyahoga. Temporary solutions, quick-fix paint jobs, no vision for the long term. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen believes the Browns are “about 90%” ready to move on from Manziel, and there’s rumblings Cleveland could be looking to trade up for Marcus Mariota or acquire another quarterback before the season. First, putting any odds at 90% seems, well, pretty odd. That’s a strangely specific number. Has anyone ever said, “I’m probably gonna make the camping trip. I’m like 90%”
More importantly, if the Browns have essentially decided Manziel is not their problem anymore it just speaks to the real issue. The franchise doesn’t see anything through. Since the Browns reentered the league in 2000, it’s been a deli line of quarterbacks, coaches and GMs. Chris Palmer’s no good, go get Butch Davis. Scratch that, hire Romeo Crenell… no make that Eric Mangini… Pat Shurmur’s the guy… did I say Shurmur? I meant Rob Chudzinski… it’s gotta be Mike Pettine… wait, who’s our head coach again?
The clown cavalcade of quarterbacks is even a bigger farce. Just envision that poor, tortured Browns soul who wears an old Tim Couch jersey with every Cleveland signal-caller’s name since scratched on the back. The list is longer than a Best Buy receipt. So when the franchise positions itself to draft Manziel last May, and lights a fire of excitement under the city that they finally have a long-term guy… dropping him off at the curb is ridiculous.
The red flags are obvious with Manziel. He didn’t learn the offense. He was distracted by his personal life. He was terrible when he finally started. He’s in rehab. But deciding now is the time to swing for the fences again is just stupid. It’s like being stuck in two-feet of mud and flooring it until the engine floods. Then waiting for an hour until it turns over, and flooring it again. Until it floods. Every hour, on the hour… for 15 years. Guys, that ain’t the solution.
Granted, Manziel may never end up amounting to anything. He may be Jamarcus Leaf or Ryan Russell. An overhyped, first round pick that never had the maturity to handle all this. But it’s up to the Browns to see this through. It doesn’t mean he has to enter training camp as the starter every year of his contract. But it does mean that after just one start in the NFL, the Browns must figure out a way to squeeze anything they can from him. Once upon a time there was a quarterback chosen in the first round who was deemed too short, scrambled too much, and enjoyed plenty of late-nights. His name was Billy Kilmer, a durable, dependable starting QB for nearly 15 years. Jeff Blake was only 6’1”, critics said he relied on his feet too much and wouldn’t be able to take the NFL pounding. But he was the Bengals signal-caller throughout the ‘90s, went to a Pro Bowl, and made 100 career starts. Manziel doesn’t have to revolutionize the league, but the Browns just need stability.
It’s disctintly possible (probable?) he never becomes the game-changing star he was once projected. But you live with your decisions, and make the best out of the situation. Right now, the situation is your first-round pick of a year ago is sitting in rehab. Preparing for scenarios where he’s not your September starter is prudent. Tossing him overboard and throwing more money, time and resources at the quarterback dart board? That’s how you got here in the first place.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.