Hall of Famer Len Dawson: Johnny Manziel is ‘terrific’

Johnny Manziel has the approval of at least one Hall of Fame quarterback.
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

By Josh Poloha

Following the Cleveland Browns' 17-13 loss to Kansas City Sunday, cleveland.com’s Tom Reed spoke with longtime Chiefs radio analyst and former quarterback Len Dawson about Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. An Alliance, Ohio native, Dawson spent 14 of his 19 professional seasons with the Kansas City franchise. He was drafted by the Steelers before bouncing to the Browns, but it wasn’t until he made his way to Kansas City in 1962 (by way of Dallas; the franchise was known as the Dallas Texans from 1960 to 1962) that he became a star.

The Hall of Fame quarterback spoke very highly of Manziel. When asked if the second-year man could be Cleveland’s starting quarterback for this season and beyond, Dawson said, “Why don’t you go around the room here and ask the Chiefs’ defensive players who had to run him down all day, ‘Do you think he’s a starter?’ I think he is. He makes plays and most of them are good. That’s what you are looking for in this league, guys who can make plays.”

While Manziel was critical of his performance against the Chiefs, in which he completed 13-of-32 passes for 136 yards and an interception, Dawson spoke highly of him. Down 14 at halftime, the former first-round pick nearly led the Browns all the way back, something that Dawson thought was very impressive.

“He’s terrific, really,” Dawson said of Manziel. “He completely puzzled the defense of Kansas City because of his ability to move and throw on the move as well.”

Dawson was particularly impressed by the way Manziel was able to make plays with his feet, putting on a running clinic against one of the league’s top defenses. He finished with 11 carries for 108 yards (the team had 232 rushing yards total) against a Kansas City defense that allowed just 92.5 yards on the ground per game (seventh in the NFL) before Sunday afternoon. Manziel’s 108 yards rushing set a franchise record for a quarterback.

“He rushed for 108 yards,” said Dawson. “Tell me how many quarterbacks rush for over 100 yards in a football game? Not many. He’s a very exciting player to watch and he can create a lot of things and he creates a lot of problems for a defense.”

If Cleveland loses in their season finale against Pittsburgh, they will secure a top-two selection in the 2016 draft. Dawson, however, doesn’t seem to think the Browns should waste that pick on a quarterback this time around.

“He’s a really good athlete. It’s going to be fun to watch him develop over time,” he said.

Whether the Browns front office believes Manziel is the quarterback of the future in Cleveland is still in question, but Manziel at least has the stamp of approval from a Hall of Fame quarterback.

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