For the first time in decades, it appears the Cleveland Browns are doing something brilliantly: reigning in the ego of Johnny Manziel before he ever sets foot on the field.
It began on draft day. Cleveland came into the first round with two picks, and traded down from the fourth spot to ninth, and then back up to eighth. It seemed like a logical place to go after a quarterback, but instead the Browns passed on Manziel in favor of cornerback Justin Gilbert.
That opened a trap door under Manziel, who awkwardly sat in the green room sipping water until Cleveland saw fit to trade up to the 22nd spot and take him there. It sent a perfect message to a kid whose self-assured attitude is seen by some as a detriment — “We think you’re good. But not so good that we had to take you in the top five, or even the top 10.” And the team made him stew a while watching other teams decide he wasn’t good enough, either.
Suddenly, the cocky kid is heading into training camp with a chip on his shoulder instead of thinking his shit don’t stink.
The team continued that line of motivation on Monday, as Browns owner Jimmy Haslam revealed that the team has told Manziel to “start thinking like a backup.”
Haslam made the comments while speaking at a luncheon at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton, where he also astutely noted that Cleveland “is not Hollywood” and Manziel would have to come to town willing to work hard.
Browns players towed the company line, saying that incumbent Brian Hoyer is their guy.
Center Alex Mack said, “I think good old Johnny Football is going to be a good addition for Cleveland. Don’t know who the starter is going to be yet, though” and linebacker Jabaal Sheard said “Hoyer’s going to come out fighting.”
The Browns may have every intention of starting Manziel Week 1, but they aren’t showing their hand. Basically, they are playing him the same way a great jockey does an amped-up thoroughbred: Hold him back early, and you may have yourself a winner at the end of the race.