The impetuous decision to fire Rob Chudzinski after just one season was baffling, misguided, and has sent reverberations through Berea to this day; maybe even including the return of Hue Jackson after a disastrous first two seasons on the job. There are other ghosts hanging around Berea, and it’s reasonable to wonder if the ghost of Johnny Manziel isn’t still haunting the “war room.”1 Could the Cleveland Browns’ history with Manziel– a fiery, undersized, Heisman Trophy winning competitor on the field with concerns off the field– keep the Browns from drafting another player who checks those boxes in Baker Mayfield?
For those that p’shaw at the notion of comparing Johnny Manziel to Baker Mayfield, I hear you. Manziel was a unique case in the history of NFL draft picks. That said, there are some similarities. Both carry themselves in a way which causes opponents to take utter glee in not just shutting them down but rubbing their nose in it. Manziel’s reputation for enjoying a party was another level, but Baker Mayfield does have an alcohol-related arrest attached to him. That alone doesn’t make him the next Manziel, but it’s not to be dismissed either.
Of all teams, the Browns have to get this selection correct. Manziel was a cautionary tale for everyone in the NFL, but nobody more so than Jimmy Haslam and the Browns. Despite the fact that Manziel was alleged to be off Joe Banner’s board, Ray Farmer found a way to hand in a card with Manziel’s name on it after he took over control of the roster. The team suffered through the embarrassment of the Manziel experience during the heart of Mike Pettine’s years. Making things worse, the other first-round pick in that draft, Justin Gilbert, is also out of the league, which amplified the poorness of the Manziel pick.
Does any of this history have anything to do with Baker Mayfield and the 2018 NFL Draft?
Well, all NFL teams should be doing extra background work on Mayfield’s off field life. The Browns should be doing as much background profiling on him as humanly possible. They need to talk to the people who taped his ankles in middle school if that’s what it takes to complete the task. Hell, pick a battery of BuzzFeed quizzes just to see if he can fake his way through one designed to see how big of a *ahem* “jerk” you are.
Mayfield ticks all the check boxes on the field for a team to draft a quarterback in the first round; except a couple inches in physical stature. His arm is great. He has mobility to extend plays. He has had success in college leading his team to victories on major stages. He has the Heisman hardware. He seems to process the game beyond just his first read. It’s all the stuff that had me excited about Manziel too, by the way. As outsiders who don’t get to do all the interviews and psychological testing, Baker Mayfield is great. It’s the things we can’t know from the outside, which could upend his career in unpredictable ways.
It’s one thing to draft a guy who can’t develop and just doesn’t become the player you want him to become. It’s quite another to draft a guy and have him end up in Vegas in a disguise when he was missing treatments for being in the concussion protocol. Putting the ugly history of Manziel on Mayfield is unfair, but the Browns have a responsibility to mitigate the Mayfield risk. Manziel doesn’t preclude the Browns from drafting Mayfield, but his failure makes the process more detail-oriented.
- Translation: passed out on an inflatable in the cold tub. [↩]