Browns owner Jimmy Haslam claims he didn’t know of Johnny Manziel’s lifestyle when he drafted the former Heisman Trophy-winner last year.
“I don’t know how much of Johnny’s personal life was known by everybody then,” Haslam told a press conference on Friday. Manziel currently sits in a rehabilitation facility to transition from his party lifestyle to a sober one.
Manziel slipped to the 22nd pick in the 2014 draft based largely on the concerns that Haslam now suggests were largely unknown last spring. College Station police arrested the Texas A&M quarterback on alcohol-related charges after a late-night fight in 2012 and the following year the Manning Passing Academy ejected the Heisman Trophy-winner from the camp because of “oversleeping.” Pictures of Manziel partying remained a staple of social media throughout his tenure at Texas A&M.
“It will come down to how comfortable each team is with his willingness to spend all the extra time in the film room and play a more fundamental and less risky style while still allowing for those play-extending qualities that he possesses,” Chris Landry, a scout who once worked for the Browns, told Breitbart Sports prior to last year’s draft. “While it is okay for a pro athlete to enjoy himself socially, he must be totally committed to be the best quarterback between the ears. It is what separates the Matt Staffords, Jay Cutlers, and Tony Romos from the Brady, Manning, Brees, and Aaron Rodgers types. All of these quarterbacks make the big plays but it is the latter [group] that also minimizes the mistakes.”
As remarkable as Haslam’s claims appear, his franchise spent first-round picks on Brandon Weeden, Tim Couch, and Brady Quinn since their 1999 reboot. But Haslam, who purchased the team after the Browns drafted all of those quarterback busts, bears responsibility for Manziel and not the duds who came before.
Manziel looked like a college quarterback in limited NFL play this past season. He threw two picks to one touchdown on 18-35 passing. He finished his rookie season passing for 175 yards.
Haslam’s team appears as dysfunctional as his quarterback. The Browns may sacrifice a draft pick as a result of texts sent from the general manager to the sidelines during games. Starting QB Brian Hoyer, a free agent, has talked about bolting from his hometown team this offseason. Josh Gordon, the team’s best player, may miss yet another season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Despite a team in disarray, the Browns fielded a competitive team in the ultra-competitive AFC North, finishing 2014 with a respectable 7-9 record under new coach Mike Pettine.