No quarterback in NFL history has shed the dreaded “undersized” label and reached historic heights better than Drew Brees. But the Saints’ All-Pro signal-caller also knows that without that prototype size, leadership, preparation and talent are a must to make it in the NFL.
So perhaps no current player in the NFL knows what’s in store for Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel — and what kind of NFL career the Heisman winner can have — better than Brees. And when it comes to Johnny Football, consider Brees a fan.
“He is a heckuva player,” Brees told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “He’s fun to watch. He makes all kinds of plays.
“He’s got all the playmaking ability to be a great player. [There are] guys like [Manziel] in this league. Russell Wilson and his ability to run the football and extend plays outside the pocket and throw the ball down the field. Intermediate [routes], I mean he can do it all.”
Most importantly, Brees thinks the third-year sophomore who most expect will declare for the NFL after this season has the most necessary of intangibles — the ability to take control of a huddle and lead an NFL offense. When asked if Manziel, who is listed at 6-foot-1, could be a starter at the next level, Brees put it simply: “Yeah, absolutely.”
“There’s way too much weight put into physical stature as opposed to can you find the open guy,” Brees said. “Can you deliver it accurately? Can you make plays? Can you lead your team to victory? Can you lead them? Period.”
Since winning the Heisman last season, Manziel has seemingly received as much attention for his off-the-field behavior as for his performance between the sidelines. Most notably were offseason allegations that the Aggies QB received money in exchange for signing memorabilia — the NCAA found no evidence to support the claims but both the school and the NCAA agreed to suspend Manziel for the first half of the season opener. But after the tumultuous offseason, Manziel has kept a low profile this season and is wowing his critics with more than 3,000 passing and 600 rushing yards to go with 39 total touchdowns.
One challenge that Manziel will immediately face as a pro is digesting an NFL-sized playbook. He must not only comprehend the schemes and plays, but execute them with precision. According to Brees, that ability is one of the biggest in terms of separating the great quarterbacks from the good.
“I think the physical qualities are not nearly as important as the psychological qualities of playing the quarterback position,” Brees said. “Certainly you have to have some level of throwing ability and fundamentals and that kind of thing. But speed, height, arm strength those things are way overrated when playing the quarterback position.”
Manziel’s poise on the field and ability to improvise make him an elite collegiate quarterback. In the NFL, he’ll need to earn respect of the veterans — on and off the field — to maximize his potential.
“You have to instill confidence in the guy’s you’re playing with so they’ll follow you and play for you so you can get the best out of them,” Brees said. “It’s all about leadership.”