According to various reports and various sources, the Cleveland Browns will conduct a private workout with Johnny Manziel this weekend. According to some of those reports, Manziel will then visit with the team at its Berea headquarters next week.
If the latter part is true, he’ll be among the final group of pre-draft visitors the Browns entertain.
The workout will be the last — or at least one of the last — on the team’s pre-draft circuit of private workouts with quarterback prospects.
That’s not coincidence.
From what we know, the Browns have employed a unique strategy throughout the process when it comes to the quarterbacks. They conducted no formal interviews with quarterbacks at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and have had no front-line presence at any of the reported top prospects’ pro day workouts.
Instead, the Browns opted for their own workouts and to bring quarterbacks into their building as part of the 30 pre-draft visitors the league allows for meet-and-greets and even chalk-talk sessions, but no on field work.
It’s been a strategy, and presumably a well-calculated one.
So we can safely presume Manziel going last (or close to it — "league sources" and "various league sources" can’t seem to get matching stories on this one) was talked about first.
Maybe Browns general manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine — both new to their jobs, as seems to happen every year — were impressed enough with Manziel’s game tape and swagger that they decided to give him the last shot to sway whatever vote is left to be made in a draft room full of new faces in new roles and in a draft that’s as unpredictable at the top as any in recent memory.
Maybe Farmer and Pettine either see something they don’t like in Manziel or are skeptical enough about his size and penchant for making non-football issues that they intentionally set up this visit (or visits) at a time when many teams have shut down draft work due to the holiday and too many months of draft mania to make someone think they’ve been patiently waiting on Manziel all along. Maybe a potential trade partner will call with an offer to move up to the Browns spot at No. 4, or in case the Browns have made any inquiries about moving up, maybe this news could lead to some actual negotiating.
It’s quite a business. There’s no way the Browns and Manziel waited this long to dance by accident.
Remember in February when Manziel’s camp strategically invited two Texas-based reporters to talk with Manziel, and he strategically told them he’d be the guy to end the losing in Cleveland and take the Browns to the Super Bowl?
This strategy thing can work both ways.
The last pre-draft impression doesn’t have to be the strongest, but considering Farmer caught a flight home from the Senior Bowl to meet Pettine when Pettine was hired, and then Farmer became the general manager two weeks later with little warning, and that neither has ever worked with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan or quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, it’s not hard to assume momentum might matter in Berea. It’s entirely possible that Manziel is as polarizing inside draft rooms — we really don’t know. The Browns have carefully said nothing — as he is outside of them, and that recency and what seems to be Manziel’s unflappable charm might sway a non-believer.
Manziel has hit home runs in every public part of the draft process thus far, even in the ones that aren’t supposed to be (the Wonderlic test) or aren’t always (his pro day that became kind of a regional/national holiday) made public. The guy is a star in America before he ever plays a down in the National Football League.
In some NFL organizations, that’s somewhere between a problem and a red flag.
In some NFL organizations, that’s very needed and should be welcomed.
Who are these Browns? We still really don’t know. What do they really value, want and think of Manziel? They have no reason to tell anybody.
Maybe we’ll find out in three weeks. Maybe we’ll never know.
Either way, there’s certainly going to be more strategy involved. And whether Farmer and Pettine are willing to bet their jobs on Manziel succeeding in Cleveland or not, they only have to tell us if they actually turn in the card.