HOUSTON – Cleveland may be the place NFL quarterbacks have regularly gone to see their careers fizzle and die. But with “ManzielMania” gripping the south shore of Lake Erie, Browns fans are betting they’ve won their best chance at a championship team in nearly 50 years.
Fans lined up early at the Browns Team Shop to buy Johnny Manziel No. 2 jerseys and the team reported that by the end of Friday they had sold nearly 2,300 additional season tickets.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper ran a massive banner headline that said “Here’s Johnny.” And by early afternoon he met the Cleveland media at the Browns team headquarters along with Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. But even though Gilbert was the first player drafted by the Browns and taken 14 spots ahead of Manziel, Johnny Football fielded most of the attention and the media questions.
“I play with a lot of heart, with a lot of passion. This game means everything to me,” said Manziel. “And it doesn’t matter whatever the situation is. I want what’s best for this team and I want to win.”
But from Houston to College Station reaction was mixed: Aggieland fans elated that the Heisman star was drafted in the first round while Houston sports pundits doubted the Houston Texans ever wanted Manziel at all.
“He’s an unconventional quarterback but he’s a once in a generation player and it’ll be their loss for sure,” said Aggie fan Mike Hardy as he watched the NFL draft in College Station.
“You can have the best defense,” said Texans fan Brian Hall. “But if we can’t score what are we gonna do?”
“I honestly believe, as weird as it may sound, if Manziel was sitting here at No. 33, I don’t think the Texans would take him. I believe that. I don’t think they would take him,” said Mike Meltser with Houston’s Sports Radio 610.
“It could come back to haunt the Texans but not nearly as much as if he were in the division,” Seth Payne, a former Texans defensive lineman and radio show host with Sports Radio 610.
Meltser and Payne at Sports Radio 610 believe it wasn’t Manziel’s off-field troubles, his celebrity friends, or his cult-hero status that kept the Texans from drafting him instead of Jadeveon Clowney. Payne believes the Texans made the choice based on seeing Clowney as the best player available and seeing Manziel’s height and style of play as not the best fit for the team’s future plans.
“I think he’s gotten beyond that point where his immaturity is hurting him,” said Payne of Manziel. “Now he’s just a fiery guy that’s got the right kind of attitude.”
“Obviously I’m a rookie coming in. I’m low guy on the totem pole and I know my place,” said Manziel at the Friday afternoon press conference in Cleveland. “And more than anything I need to show these guys with actions other than words or anything I can say to earn their respect.”