Deliver us from Manziel Mania

The gauge of greatness is measured in time. For the league’s most heralded superstars, their careers have been evaluated, scrutinized, criticized and praised, all in accordance of time. Some superstars find solace in individual recognition while others define their legacy along with the team’s they coveted. That success comes in waves or spurts. Some might see success fairly early in the career, cashing in on a team’s expectations on the individual. Other might be left to stay on the sideline in their anticipation for one day to sitting on that illustrious throne (ex: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady).

But for all players that set foot into the NFL, the vast majority don’t achieve much. Some don’t ever find their rightful place to call home. Even when all arrows lead up, some players can’t just get pass the hump. For those, we wonder what if and how. For example, the spotlight of our discussion, Johnny Manziel.

Johnny Football

Johnny Manziel was one of the most electrifying college football  players in history. With a strong arm, vision, ability to move around the pocket and scrambling prowess, Manziel was a legitimate threat to defenses. What critics frowned upon either being too small to play in the league or downright reckless, his fans praised his ability to be instinctive and play with heart. Despite being only a three star recruit out of high school, with performances against heavily loaded Southeastern athletic conference bill, Manziel was able to reach heights unlike before.

Getty Images

In his first year starting as a redshirt freshman, Manziel went on to break many records in the SEC and for NCAA. He became the first freshman to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season. After an amazing year, Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy, the youngest in history.

After completing his third year at Texas A&M, Manziel would forgo his last two years as a college athlete and pursue a career in the NFL. But the critics came on hard about whether drafting Manziel was wise. As the success came in heaps, so did the pressure to stay on the up-up. During his stay at Texas A&M, Manziel  was center stage for a number of controversies. From suspect tweets wanting to leave College Station to Manziel being suspended for allegedly receiving payments for signing autographs. Even when before Manziel became starting quarterback at Texas A&M, the redshirt freshman at the time was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors. After pleading guilty with failure to produce identification, the other charges were dropped and Manziel was named the starting quarterback for the Aggies.

An Inevitable Downfall

(AP Photo)

Despite his size and the nature of his game on and off the field, the… Cleveland Browns selected Manziel in the first round as the 22nd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, for Manziel, the trouble didn’t stop. Honestly, it got worse. Even though Manziel proved that he was able to see playing time on the professional level, his off field antics kept him off the field. After a season that showed promise for the young quarterback, it unfortunately led to an early ending for Manziel after suffering a concussion and he would not return for the 2015 season. The day before the Browns’ final game, Manziel was seen in a Las Vegas casino. The next day, as mandatory for all concussed players, Manziel failed to appear in front of the team medic.

Ugly, Ugly, and more Ugly

Not too long after, Manziel saw a string of problems going forward. In 2016, LRMR, a marketing agency that represented Manziel, reported that they would no longer work with him. Later that year, after only two months representing him, Manziel’s new agent removed Manziel from his itinerary of represented clients. Manziel stayed in the negative light due to an ongoing investigation by the Dallas Police Department. The investigation included a claim of domestic violence against Manziel’s former girlfriend. According to the victim, Manziel had forced her in a car, pulled her hair and threatened to kill her and himself. Manziel eventually accepted a plea deal that included counseling and monitoring by the state for a year or face prosecution.

From then, Manziel spent the next year at the bottom of bottles alleging an alcohol addiction. Manziel was also on record for abusing drugs, however, which drugs were never specified. In the beginning of the 2016 season, Manziel was suspended by the league for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Soon after, the Browns released Manziel. In addition to the death of his playing career, Manziel’s supporters had concern of his well being.

His father, Paul Manziel, told ESPN, “”He’s a druggie. It’s not a secret that he’s a druggie. Hopefully, he doesn’t die before he comes to his senses. I mean, I hate to say it, but I hope he goes to jail. I mean, that would be the best place for him. I’m doing my job, and I’m going to move on. If I have to bury him, I’ll bury him.” After a year of counseling Manziel found out that he was suffering from bipolar disorder and is now medicated.

A Bright Future

Johnny Manziel sat with reporters from ABC News discussing his new outlook on life. He talked about getting engaged, following his recovery and embracing his roots. All which see that point to a comeback. First and foremost, this article is not an advocation for Manziel’s defense. A lot can point to his downfall from his upbringing or his destination in Cleveland. Manziel came from a wealthy background, received more recognition than players that had worked harder and (or) were better, played in the NFL and threw his life away because of his sense of entitlement.

With that being said, the boy can play, which means a lot in this day and age of football. The Browns were looking for a player when Manziel needed a sense of mentorship. A franchise that is arguably the worst in NFL history didn’t have enough leaders for a kid like Manziel. From what he was in the past and his tenure with the Browns and how we see it today, no one can be surprised at the outcome.

(AP Photo | DAVE MARTIN)

What’s Important?

At the age of 25, despite not playing football for about two years, Manziel is more than able to make a comeback in this league. For the ones that see it as impossible, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Manziel had been offered with a chance to play in the Canadian Football League and for Manziel, that is a good enough platform to show his skills and the progress he made as a person during his hiatus.

Manziel is a good player that allowed his personality and behavior off the field inveigle who he was on the football field. Some might believe that that attitude gave him that star studded ability. That is for us to see going forward. The prospect of Manziel joint the NFL one day are pretty high depending on his performance in the Canadian Football League. Fortunately, Manziel is in no rush. At 25, a start in a career would be he usual for an NFL quarterback. Manziel has already seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and seems to be looking towards the right path.

Like always, only time will tell whether Manziel would be ever to step up to the plate. Fortunately, the pressure is as high at it can get for him. To being able to take care of himself and live an honest life should be enough as his top priority. Football should definitely come second unless it is paramount for his recovery. What people will say, fans and doubters, shouldn’t matter as his destiny lies in only one person’s hands. For Manziel, well, he has a lot of time, none for mistakes but much to prove his rightful spot in this league or at least his place in our universe.

 

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A Tale of the Tape: New England Patriots

The Pittsburgh Steelers… The Dallas Cowboys… The San Francisco 49ers… are some of the most storied franchises in the NFL. However, on February 4, 2018, the New England Patriots have a chance to surpass them. They hone one the most impressive dynasties in professional sports. Last year, critics raved as Tom Brady surpassed the great Joe Montana in Super Bowl wins when he helped his team defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

After a playoff run that raised some eyebrows, the Patriots look to climb the mountain once again. This season came with its up and downs, but looked like another great season of the past. Led by arguably the greatest coach of all time, they finished a season that bloomed from a questionable start.

This year, Tom Brady separated himself from the doubters and set the bar to the highest its ever been. Coming into the season as the favorite to return and win the Super Bowl, the Patriots started off unusually bad. After a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, critics were quoted stipulating that the Patriots had taken a step backwards. Turning forty in August, Tom Brady’s abilities were questioned if he could lead his team back to the Super Bowl.

The defense faced strong criticism also. After allowing an astonishing 537 yards with almost 150 yards in rushing. Blinded by a facade of the championship prior to the season, the team went through a bit of a search for its identity.

But of course the team rallied behind the veteran presence of Brady, who led by example. In his seventeenth season, Brady put up 4,577 passing yards and 32 touchdowns as the 2x MVP look as dominant as ever.

The defense also followed him. After an abysmal showing in the beginning of the season, the defense grew immensely. After only allowing 366 yards per game this year, the defense became an anchor for the team. Last week, the anchors came up again. The high ranked defense stopped one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL and set up a signature fourth quarter comeback from Brady.

The Patriots have looked as dominant as they did at the beginning of their reigning dynasty. Thirteen years ago, they edged the Eagles in a score 24-21. If history repeats itself, the Patriots are looking good once again.

Tom Brady walks into this game as the greatest quarterback that ever lived, but could possibly walk out the greatest player to play in the NFL. For him, he has a legendary coach behind him. One could mention without Bill Belichick behind his sails, Tom Brady might not have made it this far, but that’s not a knock on Brady.

If anything, it’s in his favor. You can’t separate the greatness from Noll and Bradshaw, Walsh and Montana or Johnson and Aikman, so why separate the dynamic duo of Belichick and Brady? It is said, “Greatness is measured through repetitions of consistency”.

Time will tell how Belichick and Brady measure among the great ones. Till then, the time to witness their greatness is now. Super Bowl LII will be a testament to that. If the Patriots have anything going for them, it is a resume and laundry list of teams by the years that failed to stop them. On that list, the Eagles have shown up once but after February 4th, they might show up twice.

 

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The Denver Bronco Quarterback Carousel

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What will the Broncos do at quarterback? (Photo: imfromdenver.com)

The quarterback is the most important position in football, and arguably the most important position in sports. NFL teams spend years looking for their franchise QB- just look at the Cleveland Browns.

The Denver Broncos have had the honor and privilege of having Peyton Manning as their quarterback- over the last 4 years. We all suspected this would be the last season with Manning under center with an NFL team. As the season went on, the clearer it became that he was running on fumes. It was his time to go.

Peyton Manning out, and Brock Osweiler in… Right? Nope. Many people thought at the end of the season Manning would retire, and John Elway would hand the keys over to Osweiler.

That was probably Denver’s initial plan, and I cannot blame them.

Osweiler helped lead Denver to the playoffs. He played in 8 games last year, winning 5 of those 8. He threw for nearly 2,000 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions.

In my opinion, he had done enough to earn a mid-level contract spanning over 3-4 years. I think Denver was more than ready to give him that, but I don’t think anyone thought the Houston Texans would give him the mega-contract that they did (4-year/ $72 million).

Denver would have been absolutely insane to match that contract, and they didn’t. They made the right call letting Osweiler walk, but who will be the next QB for Denver?

Rumors point to NFL-journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, or current 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I think either of these guys are decent options.

Fitzpatrick had a career year last year in New York. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards, 31  touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He led the Jets to a 10 win season for the first time since 2010, and the second time in almost 10 years. The trouble with Denver signing Fitzpatrick is both his age (33) and the fact he is asking for too much money.

According to CBSSport.com, Fitzpatrick is looking to get somewhere around what Sam Bradford earns (18 million a year). The money he wants doesn’t quite make sense because that he is an inconsistent 33-year-old QB. If Denver decides he is their guy, they can expect more QB turnover in the near future, and I am not talking about the interceptions that Fitzpatrick will throw.

Trading for Colin Kaepernick presents different issues for Denver. Unlike Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick’s age (28) is not an issue, but Kaepernick is slated to earn 12 million dollars in 2016. Denver only has 17 million dollars in cap space. It would be  foolish to give Kaepernick, a quarterback who recently lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert, over 3 fourths of their remaining cap space.

Another problem with Denver trading for Kaepernick is that he wants to be a Cleveland Brown. According to ESPN, Kaepernick has ties with the coaching staff in Cleveland and feels he is a good fit with the Browns. Why trade for a guy that is expensive, inconsistent, and wants to be in Cleveland?

Recently Denver acquired former 1st round pick Mark Sanchez. I think that was a brilliant move. He is about the same type of passer as both Fitzpatrick and Kaepernick, but he is substantially less expensive. His time in Philadelphia wasn’t all that bad; there were moments of greatness.

I believe Sanchez gets a bad rap and is actually a decent quarterback. Is he Denver’s next Franchise quarterback? No, not at all, but he is an experienced and affordable quarterback, who can properly bridge the gap between Manning, and their next quarterback.

I think the best course of action for Denver is to draft a guy like Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, or Kevin Hogan in the 1 of the first 3  rounds of this years draft. Let Sanchez and your rookie compete in camp and go into the season with the same defensive plans as last year. They didn’t need much of a passing game last year to win the  Superbowl. If it isn’t broke, why fix it?