By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
And now for the rest of the story: The curtain has been lifted on the thought process inside the Browns’ draft room that led to the trade up and selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel.
It was Jimmy Haslam’s call, after all.
Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains told an Arkansas radio station that Haslam gave the order to “pull the trigger” on the trade with Philadelphia for a third-round pick and select Manziel at No. 22 in the first round.
In an interview with host Bo Mattingly on ESPN Arkansas, Loggains said that he exchanged texts with Manziel as the Browns scurried to trade up during the middle of the first round.
Loggains said the Browns knew they had to get in front of Kansas City at No. 23 to get Manziel.
“He shoots me a text and says, ‘I wish you guys would come and get me. Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together,’” Loggains said.
“When I got that text, I forwarded it to the owner and to the head coach. I’m like, ‘This guy wants to be here. He wants to be part of it.’ Soon as that happened, Mr. Haslam said, ‘Alright, pull the trigger, we’re trading up to go get this guy.’”
Always the guy: Loggains said that Manziel was the No. 1 quarterback on the Browns’ draft board.
“As soon as I decided to come take this job in Cleveland, I knew that our owner liked Johnny a lot,” he said. “You go through this whole process. I think I worked out 14 quarterbacks, went to their schools, ate dinner with them, worked them out, spent time in the classroom with them, brought them to Cleveland. Once we finished all our evaluations, it was Johnny’s name at the top of the list and then everybody else. I knew we knew the quarterback and we were very high on Johnny.”
Loggains said the Browns realized the breadth of Manziel’s celebrity when they decided to take him.
“I think already he’s got the leading jersey-seller in the whole league in front of guys like Brady and Manning and Brees,” he said. “This guy comes with a celebrity like no other ... He’s Johnny Football and everything that comes with it.”
But that reputation has not hurt Manziel’s budding relationship with his new teammates, the coach said.
“So far, we’ve had him here since Monday, he’s been a great teammate, been very quiet around the veterans. He just works hard,” Loggains said.
“Everyone’s intrigued by him because of who he is. They just want to see that you work. Once you work, you become part of the team and they’ll embrace you. In the NFL, it’s not a 9-to-5 job. It’s 12 to 14 hours a day … you got to show these guys how much football means to you.”
The genie’s out of the bottle: The Browns have tried to throttle down expectations of Manziel in the early going. Haslam has said he must “act like a backup.” GM Ray Farmer has said Manziel will be treated like any other rookie.
Manziel has accepted the message and played along, too, saying he comes in “at the bottom of the totem pole.”
“I think we can throw him out there right now and I think he’s gonna be one of the most exciting players in the NFL, run around and make plays like he did at Texas A&M, we all saw,” Loggains said.
“But there’s some things fundamentally (Manziel must work on). He needs to become more comfortable in the pocket, and he needs to learn to play under center.
“He spent a lot of time with (quarterback coach) George Whitfield in California working on some fundamentals. There’s some things he needs to continue to work on … mainly playing in the pocket and being able to win on third down throwing the football.”
The Browns are trying to control the process of indoctrinating Manziel into the NFL culture. They are limiting media access to their two-day rookie minicamp to a total of 15 minutes on Saturday. Only credentialed local media are permitted in; national media have been banned.
Manziel and the other rookies will be available for interviews only on Saturday. Sunday is off limits to all media.
The Browns have been purposely vague from the beginning of their pursuit of a quarterback. As a result, inaccuracies have been all over the map.
Loggains’ illuminating interview confirms some reports as blatantly untrue (including ours that the Browns initially intended to take Teddy Bridgewater), and also contradicts the company line that Haslam had no influence on the decision to trade up and select Manziel.
Now that that’s out of the way, the hope is that the rest of the organization will be as candid as Loggains – and that he won’t face sanctions for his honesty.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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