Browns, General

Manziel’s place in NFL Hall of Busts: While We’re Waiting

Johnny Manziel Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chefs
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Mornin’ y’all. So, the NFL season is officially underway with every team having played their first preseason game and the second games about to get underway. The Browns managed to avoid a critical injury in their first game along with Terrelle Pryor and a few others giving hope there might be GIF-able moments in an otherwise lost season. Despite the poor display – in what should be a poor overall season – it was about as much as can be expected from the first preseason game under yet another new coaching regime. So, I hope this post finds you in the highest of spirits with the wind forever at your back, and I’ll do my best to not bring you down as we discuss Johnny Manziel’s place in the NFL’s Hall of Busts.

Teddy Bridgewater might have been “my guy” for the 2014 NFL Draft, but it was mostly based on the off-the-field concerns about Johnny Manziel. Despite his smaller stature, Manziel had above average skills in ball placement, mobility, and accuracy-especially on the move. His issues of learning a NFL offense were similar to the other quarterbacks coming from limited college offensive systems. Again, his off-field issues were red flags, but I was willing to trust that the Browns front office did their homework on that angle – silly me. Plus, there was a legitimate argument that the moribund Browns needed a quarterback with the unflailing confidence that Manziel outwardly showed and helped Texas A&M make some remarkable comebacks – such as the 2013 Peach Bowl against the Duke Blue Devils.

And, these glimpses of his potential did show up on some of the rare times he made it onto a NFL field. He demonstrated his ability to carry an offense with his legs in windy conditions at Kansas City in 2015. He showed an ability to make big plays in several other games. There were times when Manziel transformed into Johnny Football.

So, it is not lightly that I have Johnny Manziel enter the NFL Hall of Busts. I don’t find any weird pleasure in having a member of the Browns have this marked upon them. I don’t desire to lambast Manziel for his troubles. I hope that he can get his life together, make a comeback into the NFL, and lay waste to this entire post. But, when the present facts are laid upon the table, the results are clear. Johnny Manziel is not only a prominent member of the NFL’s Hall of Busts, but there are legit arguments that he could be considered the BOAT (Bust of All-Time).

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2001/draft.htm

Rules and Stipulations for the NFL’s Hall of Busts

OK, some ground rules here. This first-ever induction class is limited to this century. There will be some discussion of a few pre-2000 individuals, but it can be assumed all busts before the 21st century have had their proper head sculpture dipped in lead.1

In addition, all players must have been first-round picks. While it is appreciated that such a distinction means that the famed 2009 second-round Browns class will never be fully recognized, Brian Robiskie, Mohammed Massoquoi, and especially David Veikune can still be seen in the rotating display portion of the museum and searchable in the database under the term Mangenius.

Also, it is important to note that the higher a player was picked in the first round can add points to their bust-dom. The first overall, Top 5, and Top 10 picks are the tiers of demarcation for failing to live up to be the face of the franchise their team had bestowed upon them.

Oh, and the number in parenthesis by each player’s name is their career value ranking as determined by pro-football-reference.com. Think of it as WAR for football players and it is one of the few tools able to be utilized to compare players across positions for their value.

Cleveland Browns Non-QB Division

  • 2002-16 William Green (14), Running back – 46 career games
  • 2012-3 Trent Richardson (17), Running back – 46 career games
  • 2013-6 Barkevious Mingo (11), Outside linebacker – 46 career games

Digging through the true NFL draft busts revealed that the Cleveland Browns have actually drafted OK in the first round. I mean, no one is happy with how the careers of Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Kameron Wimbley, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow turned out, but each player had associated highs to pair with their well-documented lows though Warren and Wimbley achieved most of those highs for another team. Even Phil Taylor wound up with a career AV of 20 while playing in 44 games before his knees betrayed him.

The non-quarterback list quickly whittles down to our first two entrants: Trent Richardsdon and Barkevious Mingo. Ray Farmer claims the glory of being in the front office for both the Mingo pick and another potential upcoming enshrinee in Justin Gilbert.2 William Green was only able to avoid enshrinement based on his lower overall pick status and the “Run, William, Run” call against the Atlanta Falcons helping the Browns make their lone playoff berth of the expansion era.

Dishonorable mention as future potential inductee:
2014-8 Justin Gilbert (3), Cornerback – 23 career games

Cleveland Browns QB Division – except for Manziel

  • 1999-01 Tim Couch (30) – 62 career games
  • 2007-22 Brady Quinn (2) – 24 career games
  • 2012-22 Brandon Weeden (14) – 33 career games

As disappointing as it was that Tim Couch did not become an immediate football saviour for an expansion franchise, he also played decent for a number of years before his shoulder gave out and Kelly Holcomb surpassed him. However, the Browns other dips into the first-round for quarterbacks have been less successful and always utilizing the No. 22 overall pick. Brady “Captain Checkdown” Quinn and his 5.4 YPA did finish with more touchdowns (10) than (9) in his Cleveland time, but he also finished with two less touchdowns than games started. Weeden gave Browns fans many memorable moments between his flag snafu, double-pass non-touchdown, and the flip.

Non-Browns Non-QB Division

  • 1999-24 Reggie McGrew (0), SF, Defensive Tackle – 9 career tackles
  • 2000-29 R. Jay Soward (2), JAX, Wide Receiver – 14 career receptions
  • 2001-10 Jamal Reynolds (3), GB, Defensive End – 14 career tackles, 3 sacks
  • 2002-12 Wendell Bryant (4), AZ, Defensive Tackle – 28 career tackles, 1.5 sacks
  • 2003-2 Charles Rogers (4), DET, Wide Receiver – 36 receptions, 4 touchdowns
  • 2003-15 Jerome McDougle (3), PHI, Defensive End – 30 tackles, 3 sacks
  • 2004-31 Rashaun Woods (1), SF, Wide Receiver – 7 receptions, 1 touchdown
  • 2005-7 Troy Williamson (8), MIN, Wide Receiver – 87 career receptions, four touchdowns
  • 2005-17 David Pollack (3), CIN, Linebacker – 22 tackles, 4.5 sacks
  • 2006-26 John McCargo (3), BUF, Defensive Tackle – 35 tackles, 2.5 sacks
  • 2007-16 Justin Harrell (2), GB, Defensive Tackle – 18 tackles
  • 2007-17 Jarvis Moss (3), DEN, Defensive End – 34 tackles, 6
  • 2008-6 Vernon Gholston (8), NYJ, Defensive End – 16 tackles
  • 2009-2 Jason Smith (10), STL, Offensive Line – 45 games
  • 2009-11 Aaron Maybin (5), BUF, Defensive End – 25 tackles, 6 sacks
  • 2009-16 Larry English (7), SD, Linebacker – 60 tackles, 12 sacks
  • 2011-23 Danny Watkins (9), PHI, Offensive Guard – 24 career games
  • 2012-5 Justin Blackmon (9), JAX, Wide Receiver – 93 receptions, two touchdowns

The Browns are not the only team in the NFL to select draft busts this century. Plenty of other teams have selected players who have failed to come close to meeting expectations. The list above includes a player who is currently suspended indefinitely (Justin Blackmon), a first-round pick who was ancient by NFL standards when drafted (Danny Watkins), lots of wide receivers (does anyone even remember R. Jay Soward?), and a slew of pass-rushers who didn’t rush the passer well (step right in Vernon Gholston).

Dishonorable mention as potential upcoming inductees:

2013-3 Dion Jordan (3), MIA, Defensive End – 39 tackles, 3 sacks
2013-7 Jonathan Cooper (6), AZ, Offensive Guard – 24 career games
2013-12 D.J. Hayden (9), OAK, Cornerback – 129 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 sack
2013-26 Datone Jones (7), GB, Defensive End – 41 tackles, 8 sacks
2014-1 JaDaveon Clowney (6), HOU, Defensive End – 32 tackles, 4.5 sacks
2014-26 Marcus Smith (1), PHI, Linebacker – 3 tackles, 1.5 sacks

Non-Browns QB Division

  • 1999-03 Akili Smith (1), CIN – 22 career games
  • 1999-12 Cade McNown (7), CHI – 25 career games
  • 2002-01 David Carr (44) – 94 career games
  • 2002-03 Joey Harrington (30) – 81 career games
  • 2002-32 Patrick Ramsey (14) – 37 career games
  • 2003-19 Kyle Boller (17) – 67 career games
  • 2005-25 Jason Campbell (47) – 90 career games
  • 2006-3 Vince Young (33) – 60 career games
  • 2006-10 Matt Leinart (12) – 33 career games
  • 2007-1 JaMarcus Russell (6) – 31 career games
  • 2009-5 Mark Sanchez (34) – 75 career games
  • 2010-1 Sam Bradford (33) – 63 career games
  • 2010-25 Tim Tebow (12) – 35 career games
  • 2011-8 Jake Locker (15) – 30 career games
  • 2011-10 Blaine Gabbert (12) – 37 career games
  • 2011-12 Christian Ponder (22) – 38 career games
  • 2013-16 EJ Manuel (9) – 22 career games

The most difficult part of this exercise is finding where to draw the line on the quarterback bust chart. The Akili Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Blaine Gabbert guys are easy because there is no plausible way to state they were not busts. However, players such as Vince Young and Tim Tebow won playoff games and helped orchestrate some team success, while Joey Harrington was stuck miring in the Matt Millen muck. Then there are the players such as Jason Campbell that never lived up to their first-round billing but did have success as a backup quarterback later. The boundaries are drawn and there is some team success factored in because no one said life was fair.

Johnny Manziel Bust Profile

  • 2014-22 Johnny Manziel (5), Quarterback – 15 career games

A sparkling resume if a player was purposefully attempting to add items in which every bust category was checked off. Manziel even created immediate conflict between the front office and owner who selected him and the coaching staff that wanted no part of the associated circus.

Amazingly, while he did show some sparks of his talent, Manziel’s star in Cleveland flamed out faster than any quarterback before him. Even Brady Quinn received double-digit starts for the brown and orange whereas Manziel only started eight games.

Manziel managed to end his time with the Browns by doing something that only Tim Tebow had accomplished before him by never starting a Week 1 game. So, there was never a season in which the front office, coaching staff, and fans pointed to Manziel as the quarterback they trusted to guide them through as season. Manziel also is the only first-round quarterback to have completely flamed out of the entire NFL after a mere two seasons. Both Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden made themselves useful backups for other teams.3

Summary Judgement

While Charles Rogers, Vernon Gholston, and Wendell Bryant each were massive disappointments, a non-quarterback does not affect every single snap when they are on the field and, as such, cannot be the BOAT. The worst of the worst quarterbacks were Akili Smith, Cade McNown, JaMarcus Russell, and Johnny Manziel. Each fanbase can make a legitimate argument for why their quarterback deserves to have the BOAT label associated with them. Russell and Manziel opponents can point to their ripping apart the fabric of the team both on and off the field. Smith opponents can point to how he was woefully unprepared to be a NFL quarterback and have the statistics in their corner to prove it. And, McNown opponents can note he not only lost football games, but Tim Couch stole his model girlfriend.

Regardless of the BOAT, each player listed here set their team back years of development at key positions. Most of the teams have since recovered and moved on. Manziel has now been properly laid to rest in the Bust Hall of Fame, so the Cleveland Browns can start that process in what promises to be a bumpy year. Hopefully whoever does start the most games at quarterback in 2016 can shift the discussion to the happenings ON the football field.

  1. What? You didn’t think they’d be bronzed did you? We needed something that would help sink a ship to the bottom of the ocean and even Superman couldn’t see through. []
  2. Yes, in addition to the selection of Johnny Manziel. []
  3. Yes, Romeo Crennel double-dipped on Quinn and started him with the Chiefs. So, Quinn might be the only quarterback on this list to get the same head coach fired from two different jobs. []

  • humboldt

    Interesting thoughts, Bode.

    (1) Rigged is a strong word. By whom, for whom? Through what mechanisms?

    (2) Don’t you think ugly NBA defensive games can still be beautiful in their own right? The switching and communication; the leveraging of mismatches; watching players perform in key moments down the stretch. I played football/baseball and know the least about basketball strategy, but – like soccer – it is objectively a beautiful game, and the only of the major 3 sports where nearly everyone on the court is in great physical condition (i.e. no Danny Sheltons or Bob Wickmans on a basketball team).

    (3) You are likely right about the AAU system, but, to me, this isn’t a knock on the game of NBA basketball; rather, it’s a knock on the amateur feeder system, the handlers who manipulate and profit from it, and the fetishism of sport in our culture. Any form of athletic competition or repetitive movement in excess can risk physical damage; however, with football, boxing and MMA that repetitive movement involves inevitable concussive and subconcussive hits to the head that we know have lifelong consequences. Given my line of work, it’s harder and harder to support a game like that. You and I have extolled the virtues of flag football, and I genuinely believe the sport needs to evolve into this model to preserve itself.

    Thanks for the food for thought. Also glad you were able to enjoy the Finals – what a special time in our Cleveland fandom

  • mgbode

    (1) my full thoughts on this are here:
    http://www.scout.com/cleveland-sports/story/1683711-putting-the-aau-in-nba

    (2) the last 5 minutes were just sort of ugly basketball. beautiful moments w/ The Block and The Dagger, but there was no flow to either side. defense can be pretty, that wasn’t it. And, Danny Shelton is a physical marvel – don’t be hating.

    (3) NBA is directly responsible for the AAU culture, but that is a whole ‘nother 1000 words or so.

    No problem, glad to have you back to discuss stuff w/ – missed it.