Trusted sources out of the Houston Texans headquarters say that the brain trust (led by owner, Bob McNair, general manager, Richard Smith, and new head coach, Bill O'Brien) is leaning toward drafting a quarterback as their first pick in this May's upcoming NFL Draft. McNair is sold on Johnny Manziel, but O'Brien is not. The tiebreaker in this equation may go to the general manager, but considering the huge swing-and-a-miss in the form of veteran safety Ed Reed last off-season, we may know where Smith's bread is buttered.
I agree with O'Brien that the 2012 Hesiman Trophy winner is not the way the Houston Texans should go. I can make the argument that the Texans can go this way due to the box-office attraction the 6'1", 190lb. quarterback provides in, and near the Houston metropolitan area. In fact, in his exit interview, the former Texans defensive coordinator and interim head coach, Wade Phillips, said to McNair that they should draft Manziel. It would be, as he said, "like the Luv Ya' Blue days all over again." For the uninitiated, the Luv Ya' Blue era was the closest a Houston professional football franchise ever came to unseating the Dallas Cowboys as a winner on the field and a marketing juggernaut off of it. What made the era (1978-1980) so magical was that the then-Houston Oilers were swept up in the hoopla of the 1977 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Texas, running back Earl Campbell. The following year, in a Monday Night Football tilt between the Oilers and the Miami Dolphins, the craze grew to epic proportions as the rookie running back gained almost 200 yards. The city has struggled to have the same love affair with a professional football team since. Since Wade Phillips was on the coaching staff at the time, he would know, firsthand, at what impact a Texas-born product would do for the city of Houston.
To add even more symmetry to this selection: Earl Campbell's nickname was The Tyler Rose. Johnny Manziel was also born in the East Texas town of Tyler. So a Heisman Trophy winner - plus huge stats at a high-level Texas university - plus a huge need at the position should equal a slam dunk draft pick. Right? Not so fast!
The new head coach, O'Brien, says that he isn't sold on Manziel because of his work ethic. Here's where I have to challenge him. After his historic 2012 season, Manziel was challenged by the media in not being a quarterback. He was, instead, a playmaker who happened to be taking snaps under center. Fast forward to this off-season, and his numbers showed a marked improvement. In 2012, Johnny Football was 295-for-434 (68% pass completion), 3,706 yds., 26TDs, and 9INTs. He also ran 201 times for 1,401 yds., and scored 21TDs. In 2013, Manziel was 300-for-429 (a little under 70% pass completion), 4,114 yds., 37TDs, and 13INTs. He rain only 14 times for 759 yds., and scored nine TDs. So he ran less in 2013, but his other numbers improved. Factor in that Texas A&M had to fight for every single point because of their bad defense and it makes Manziel's numbers that much more impressive. Obviously, Manziel successfully came into 2013 wanting to prove his critics wrong, and show he can be a pocket passer.
So 'work ethic' isn't where I would go with this young man. Immaturity on the other hand ...
Before his football stardom began in the summer of 2012, Manziel got into a late-night fight and was arrested. He was charged with disorderly conduct, failure to identify and possession of a false driver license. In the summer of 2013, Manziel was under investigation of accepting payments from autographs signed during a signing show earlier that winter. The NCAA dismissed the investigation, but sat out the first half against Rice this past September because he 'inadvertently violated' the rules. Throw in oversleeping and leaving the Manning Passing Academy early, plus getting kicked out of University of Texas fraternity parties - and O'Brien has to ask this question: Can this rebellious 21-year-old be a leader of men on my team?
Coach O'Brien has it wrong. It's not his work ethic that concerns me. He's a gamer. He's a baller. He's a playmaker - and a shot caller. Wait. Oh Lord. I heard myself sound like First Take's Skip Bayless, there, for a minute. UNLEASH!!! I'm sorry. I digress. He'll come to work. He may not come to work sober. He may even come to work late, but he will put in the work. It's just that, with the quarterback position in the NFL, he must be the first person in the practice facility and the last person to leave it. Is that Jonathan Paul Manziel at this current moment in time? I don't think so. Plus durability became an issue during 2013, as well. I know. I know. "The Seattle Seahawks just won a Super Bowl this week with a 5'11" signal caller." Yeah, but Russell Wilson plays the game above his neck. Manziel plays the game with his guts. Think Brett Favre - only shorter and thinner.
The Texans do not need to draft a player with so many different question marks. They need a sure thing. Although it's not a sexy pick for most, the Texans should go in Bridgewater's direction. I'd actually be happy if they went with Central Florida's quarterback, Blake Bortles - and there is speculation that O'Brien wants to mold him. From where I sit, O'Brien and Manziel is truly like oil and water. They ultimately would not mix. The new head coach desires a quarterback who comes with his lunch pail ready to work. Manziel is cut from the mold of a Joe Namath or even a Kenny Stabler. They worked hard - and they partied just as hard. O'Brien wants a guy under center who wants to eat, sleep, breathe, bathe, drink and talk football all day - every day. He groomed Tom Brady, and he's desiring the chance to teach another hungry young quarterback how to play the game - just not Manziel.