Brett Favre said he sees a bit of himself in Johnny Manziel. Favre told USA Today back in February, “I almost thought I was watching film of a young Brett Favre.” At first, I thought, is Brett that bored or is he going senile?
Even ESPN Analyst Jon Gruden confirmed this comparison. He does know Brett pretty well having coached him in Green Bay.
But let’s compare, shall we.
Both Favre and Manziel are gunslingers. As quarterbacks, the fame and the blame usually lands on their shoulders. I would define a gunslinger as a guy who will do whatever it takes to make the play no one else can make. Of course they’re also required to have a cannon for an arm. Sometimes it goes so bad, we can’t look. But most times, they dodge the bullet and fire their own. Watching Johnny’s backyard ball does look a bit like number four. For example…
As true gunslingers, Brett and Johnny are reckless on and off the field. Few quarterbacks have the ability to attract a never-ending spotlight. Brett and Johnny have made mistakes. Most people remember the autograph scandal causing Johnny Manziel to be suspended. Most people don’t remember Brett Favre was in the news for a bad reason too. His vicodin painkiller addiction made him almost lose his career, his family, and his life. Both made it a happy ending not letting any criticism or scrutiny keep them down, but using it as fuel to become professionals and men.
Young Brett Favre runs around like a schoolboy ecstatic following a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXI.
But while acknowledging their similar path to become leaders, let’s not forget why we love these guys. Brett and Johnny are kids at heart. When we get older, we somehow learn to keep in our emotions. Not these guys. Watching them jump for joy and chase their teammates in the endzone says one thing that is rare. They share a true love for the game.
Something else these kids have in common is the chance to save a franchise. Johnny will try to make the Cleveland Browns a contender. Cleveland hasn’t won anything since the movie, “Major League”. When Brett came to Green Bay, the Packers haven’t won the coveted trophy since Super Bowl II. Both played college football in their southern hometown and moved north to the historic black and blue divisions playing for great football towns. Throwing in 15 degree weather isn’t easy but both have hands the size of King Kong.
With all that said, there are a few differences. Johnny is not the prototypical size of a pocket quarterback. He’s shy of an average 6’0 whereas Brett stands like a statue, 6’2 and 225 lbs in his prime. Still, big and tall versus short and quick doesn’t mean one is better than the other.
More importantly though, Johnny’s college stardom stands out as compared to an unknown Brett Favre coming out of school. Manziel is a Heisman Trophy winner, he already adopted a nickname, “Johnny Football”, he’s doing McDonald’s commercials w/ LeBron James all while still in school not even playing an NFL down yet; compared to the NFL commissioner misspelling Brett’s name as “Brett Favor” at the 1991 NFL Draft. After all, Brett did become somewhat of a celebrity himself. Among Wrangler Jeans commercials and multiple retirements and comebacks, he even made a cameo in the movie, “There’s Something About Mary” as Cameron Diaz’ ex-boyfriend.
Anyway, expectations are obviously different as “Johnny Football” was drafted in the first round by the Browns hoping he’ll be the savior for a struggling franchise. The Packers traded for Favre who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round making him an unknown backup who was Tom Brady before Tom Brady.
Last but not least, Favre is the Iron Man, never missing a game. Yes, I’m predetermining that Manziel will not break the streak before he even starts his pro career, but I think it’s safe to say that record among all the others will stand forever. Favre earned himself respect around the league as the face of the NFL for two decades. Johnny has the talent, but I’m not so sure about his toughness.
So what did we learn today? Well, ultimately, Johnny Manziel has the potential to be the new face of the league, but he has to lead the Browns first. In that, Brett and Johnny have something very much in common. Whatever moment in time or whenever career status, all eyes are on them.