Browns owner: Relationship with Johnny Manziel can be repaired
Johnny Football might not be done in Cleveland.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said Thursday that he believes the team's relationship with Manziel can be fixed.
Manziel, who had a turbulent second season in the NFL, was benched for his woeful actions off the field. Haslam noted that the former first-round pick has made "undeniable" progress as a starter.
While head coach Hue Jackson has been on the job for two weeks, he has yet to meet with Manziel. FOX Sports NFL Insider Mike Garafolo reported that Jackson privately expressed during his job interview that he didn’t want to work with the second-year quarterback if offered the job.
Haslam said any decision about Manziel's future with Cleveland will be made by Jackson and new vice president of football operations Sashi Brown. And while Manziel's off-field antics, which led to him being benched last season and include new videos of him partying, have concerned the Browns but Haslam isn't ready to publicly say the quarterback's days in Cleveland have ended.
Speaking with reporters backstage at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards along with his wife and Browns co-owner, Dee, Haslam discussed several topics before the event, including his recently hired and restructured front office and Manziel, who has had two tumultuous seasons with Browns.
Manziel was benched last season by former coach Mike Pettine for off-field misbehavior, and Haslam was asked if he was concerned that more videos have surfaced of the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, who spent 73 days in rehab last year, partying.
"We made clear, I don't have any different feelings than we had on Sunday January 3rd," Haslam said referring to the final day of the season when Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer were fired hours after a loss to Pittsburgh. "I think Johnny made progress on the field last year. I think that's undeniable. We have a certain expectation for our players and that includes Johnny and he's got to live up to those expectations."
The Browns may already have decided to move on from Manziel. Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown doesn't think that would be the right move.
"I know a lot of kids that if you don't know how to deal with them, you lose them," the greatest Brown of them all said. "They don't come ready made. But on the other hand the argument is that he's a man. He should know how to conduct himself. He has an opportunity. We've got all of that. But I like him and I hope that they are able to relate, and I think if they're able to relate, that he will respect the coach.
"I don't want to see him traded or anything like that."
Haslam said there would be obvious disappointment if that day comes.
"Look, one of the reasons the Browns are in the condition they're in is they've not drafted well," he said. "Our predecessors didn't draft well and we didn't draft well. Any time a number one draft pick or any high draft pick is not successful and is not a big contributor, that's disappointing to the organization."
The Browns have the No. 2 pick in this year's draft and likely will use it on a quarterback, perhaps California's Jared Goff or North Dakota State's Carson Wentz, who met with Jackson this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Quarterback Josh McCown, who started for Cleveland last season and grew close to Manziel, isn't sure a change of scenery would be best for the Browns and the young QB.
"It's hard for me to comment on that," he said. "I want what's best for him, and he's a member of our team, so it's what can we do for him to help him be the best member of the Cleveland Browns that he can, in whatever role that is? So that's what I'm for."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.