By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Welcome to Johnny’s World, where life with the Browns may have changed forever.
Before the dust even settled on the Browns stealing the NFL draft show by trading up and taking buzz-making quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick of the draft, the Browns were hawking sales of Manziel No. 2 jerseys on their Website and via Twitter.
According to a source, 25 minutes after Manziel was picked, the team had received 200 new ticket account orders and 300 renewals.
By the end of the night, Brent Stehlik, the club’s chief revenue officer, tweeted “thanks our team in the ticket office for working OT, phone lines are ringing off hook #teamwork”.
Reviewing what they had done – which included drafting cornerback Justin Gilbert after a trade down that also netted them the Buffalo Bills’ first- and fourth-round picks in 2015 – GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine concealed the excitement they had pumped into Browns football.
Farmer said the pursuit of Manziel intensified when he slid out of the top 10 and into the middle of the draft. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Browns first sought to move up to No. 11, but that deal with Tennessee didn’t materialize.
Farmer was asked what role owner Jimmy Haslam had in the pursuit of Manziel.
“Jimmy is just like what he’s been the entire time – asks a lot of questions, he wants to be involved, he’ll make his position known,” Farmer said. “At no point during the draft did Jimmy try to influence the decisions that were made. He was well aware. At no point did he push, shove or dictate things we were doing. He was allowing us to go to work.”
Besides his short stature and schoolyard playing style outside the pocket, teams shied away from Manziel because of his bigger-than-life persona and the circus atmosphere he attracts.
Pettine was defensive coordinator of the New York Jets when they traded for quarterback Tim Tebow in 2012. That proved to be a disastrous distraction to that team.
“It’s something in the coming days we’ll discuss how we handle it,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be an issue, but it’s something we’ll have to address and have a plan for.”
And then there’s the team itself. Pettine has maintained that he doesn’t favor playing a rookie quarterback. The coach has propped up Brian Hoyer as the starter and lauded him for his ahead-of-schedule recovery from ACL surgery in October.
“We reached out to him (after acquiring Manziel),” Pettine said.
And Hoyer’s reaction?
“Just as you’d expect,” he answered.
Was it “bring him on”?
Farmer interjected, “I was the one who texted him and that’s what he said.”
For his part, Manziel said all the right things and vowed to earn the respect of his new teammates.
“Brian obviously is a very good player who I really do respect, and he’s a teammate of mine now,” Manziel said. “I’m going in to try to show these guys that I’m obviously here to compete and see what I bring to the table. Obviously, that’s the coaches decision, and whatever happens in that regard will happen.”
Pettine said, “Whether he was taken at 4 or 22, it’ll be a competition. I meant that when I said it. I don’t think you can hand jobs to people when they come in.
“Despite what’s around him, and what’s following him, there will be that pressure to play him. We’re in the business of evaluating who will be the best quarterback for the Cleveland Browns to win football games and that’s who we’ll play, whether that’s Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel.”
So whose jersey do you think is selling hotter right now – the quarterback’s from Cleveland or Johnny Cleveland’s?
|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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