Haslam’s tough talk on Manziel rings hollow

by Cleveland Frowns on December 29, 2014

After yesterday’s 20-10 loss to the Ravens in which the Browns ensured their seventh consecutive losing season, owner Jimmy Haslam made a rare appearance in front of the TV cameras to send a message to certain of the team’s young players.

“I think a player who can’t show up for meetings, can’t make practice, can’t make weight-lifting, disrespects himself,” Haslam said. “But I think more importantly, and I think this is what these young guys miss, they disrespect the team, the coaches, the staff, the fans. There’s a lot of people in our organization whose livelihood depends on how well we do. We’re not gonna tolerate people who are irresponsible, no matter what round they’re drafted in.”

Haslam was referring to 2014 first-round draft picks Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert, as well as third-year receiver and 2013 All Pro Josh Gordon, all of whom were subject to discipline by the team over the weekend thanks to a series of developments that would seem absurd in any other NFL city.

Here, though, it’s just December in Berea and Johnny Football – who in 2014 generated as many negative headlines for off-field incidents as any American athlete in recent memory, performed as poorly as a quarterback possibly could in his 6 quarters of play as a regular season starter, and just last week repeated a vow to take his football career more seriously – had a “big” party on Friday night attended by a number of his teammates. The party was so much fun that Johnny and Gordon failed to show up for the team walk-through and a scheduled rehab appointment on Saturday morning, and the Browns had to send team security to Johnny’s home in an attempt to locate him.

money phone

For his part, Gilbert – whose attendance at Johnny’s party has neither been confirmed nor denied – failed to show at a team meeting on Saturday night after the team had traveled to Baltimore. Strangely enough, Gilbert last week became the second Browns 2015 first-round pick to promise to rededicate himself to his NFL career. This, after having come under fire for horrendous play and “one of the worst attitudes some in the organization have ever seen.”

All three players were banned from the Browns sideline on Saturday, with Gordon having been suspended and kept home from Baltimore altogether.

Of course, the offenses of these three young Browns might seem like small potatoes in comparison to Haslam’s, which include a multimillion dollar fraud scheme against the most vulnerable customers of one of America’s largest privately held corporations, as well as the relentless plundering of a dying planet’s critically fragile ecosystem. But that’s hardly the only reason that the Browns owner’s moralizing comes off as so empty here. Especially when one considers that the decision to draft Manziel was almost certainly Haslam’s own, and then considers what the Browns season might have looked like had they not spent a first round pick on the most polarizing figure to enter the NFL since Tim Tebow.

Of course, it’s easy enough to imagine that the pick spent on Manziel could have been used on any of a number of players who would have actually helped the team on the field this season. One might just as easily wonder whether the Browns could have won one or both of the games that Manziel started this season had any other quarterback played in his place, especially after having seen undrafted rookie Connor Shaw’s performance yesterday that earned praise from both the Browns and Ravens locker rooms. Whomever that quarterback might have been, we can at least be sure that the Bengals would have been less motivated to murder him in Week 15.

As for the games in which Manziel didn’t play, one has to assume that having him around didn’t help Brian Hoyer any. It’s hard to argue with Bud Shaw for having written in the Plain Dealer yesterday that, “Hoyer couldn’t possibly have felt he had the support of the organization,” and deserved credit for holding the Browns quarterback job “as long as he did with the muffled inter-organizational drum beat for Manziel.”

“You can’t have a quarterback coach talking about a No. 1 pick like he’s one of the Beatles,” Shaw added, referring to Dowell Loggains, who said in May, “I think we can throw [Manziel] out there right now and I think he’s going to be one of the most exciting players in the NFL.”

One must also wonder how much easier Mike Pettine’s job would have been this season if not for all the noise created by Manziel; not just what might have been accomplished with more peace and quiet in general, but also specifically without the influence of Manziel on his teammates, the more impressionable of whom would naturally tend to follow the lead of their rich and most famous cohort. Might Gilbert have avoided a wasted season? How much more productive would rookie running back Terrance West have been had he not been repeatedly benched for disciplinary issues? What if Gordon had returned in All Pro form for the season’s last six games? How many more Browns would have been “on the bus” instead of needing to be kicked off of it, as veteran safety Donte Whitner put it after yesterday’s game?

“I can’t hear you, there’s too much money in my f*cking hand,” Manziel said in a drunken haze last June, foreshadowing all manner of angst and speculation about hearing problems and the Browns. The most interesting thing, though, about this statement from Johnny is how much it sounds like something a “businessman” would say who’d undertake a multimillion dollar fraud scheme against his most vulnerable customers, or engage in the relentless plundering of a dying planet’s critically fragile ecosystem, or draft an NFL quarterback based on that quarterback’s short-term ability to sell jerseys and tickets.

As easy as it is to imagine the 2014 Browns as a playoff team had they only passed on Manziel in May, it’s even harder to imagine an owner and QB who deserve each other as much as Jimmy and Johnny do. If a planetary ecosystem was going to converge on its last hope in the spectacular failure of a city’s sports teams for 50 years and counting, this is one way it could happen.

Which is also to say that the Browns closed out the season with a hell of an effort yesterday given the constraints. Congratulations to Pettine and Ray Farmer for hanging on for another year. The 2015 draft is in 122 days. We have the 12th and 19th picks (!!!). Mark your calendars for Thursday April 30 and we’ll see you at Map Room.

—————

UPDATE, January 8, 2015: Mike Shanahan negotiates his exit from Cleveland after just one season as Browns offensive coordinator. Per ESPN’s Pat McManamon:

“Shanahan felt the decision to start Manziel was forced on the coaching staff, and that the yearlong insistence to play him when he wasn’t ready wore on Shanahan …

“A source said the decision to play Manziel in the 14th game against Cincinnati was not viewed fondly by the coaches, who felt there was pressure all season from the front office to get Manziel on the field.

“Cleveland.com reported this week that the coaching staff believed some in the front office were sending texts during games to the sideline about personnel and plays.”

  • Dave Borcas

    Loggains along with Tabor should be fired. Gordon needs to be gone by draft day. Did I miss that Jimmy was found guilty in the rebate scams? And lastly it encouraging to hear Johnny call himself a jackass, at least until he shows up on TMZ.

    • bupalos

      >>> it encouraging to hear Johnny call himself a jackass

      That’s not humility. It’s branding.

    • Petefranklin

      I have to wonder if a QB coach other than Loggains could have helped fix some of Hoyers mechanical issues this year. Maybe Loggains couldn’t, maybe he didn’t care.

  • beeej

    If you would have told most Browns fans at the beginning of the season: 1. 3 teams from the AFC North would make the playoffs (Safe to assume they are the 3 non-Cleveland teams). 2. Browns would split with Pitt w/ a 1 point loss and a blowout win. 3. Browns would split with Cinci with a blowout win and blowout loss. 4. Browns lose by 2 to Balt. in the first meeting and 10 in the last meeting with the later game being played by a 3rd string rookie QB making his first NFL start, a patchwork O-line, all rookie backfield, and defense made up of practice squad castoffs because of injuries to everybody and Joe Hadden. 5. Finish the season 7-9.

    What do you think their reaction would be? I personally would have been happy. I was expecting another 4-12 season with 1 (fluke) win in the division.

    Hopefully, Jimmy learned his lesson with the Johnny pick. From now on he needs to shut up, sign checks, and let the football people make the football decisions.

  • Leftyjsf

    Three words this offseason “bring back Colt”

    • Anne Dunn

      Preach!

      • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

        Cool it, both of you.

  • zarathustra

    Let’s forget that Loggains has publicly acknowledged undermining the head coach and gm by going directly to the owner with the silly manziel text. Let us also forget that when faced with a text from an undersized developmental qb prospect claiming to wreck the league that he (and the owner) intepreted it ass backwards–rather than as a red flag about a stupid kid who obviously had no idea what it would take to succeed on Sundays they mistook the empty words for a desire to be great. And also let us forget that by sharing his thoughts publicly post-draft he fomented the qb controversy he should have been trying temper.
    Instead let’s consider that the quarterbacks coach for an nfl team whose primary effing job is to know the way the position is played in the league and coach accordingly looked at an undersized qb with happy feet who had never played under center and said the following: ” “I think we can throw [Manziel] out there right now and I think he’s going to be one of the most exciting players in the NFL.”
    To say something so ridiculously dumb disqualifies him from coaching the position. And that is only when taking the comments at face value. They became twice as damning when we consider that when faced with a rookie with an oversized ego–wreck this league–it is the job of a coach to humble said rookie for the challenges ahead.
    Now going back to draft day, if Loggains doesn’t interfere with the process maybe they draft Bridgewater. If that happens we are having a much different coversation right now and feeling a whole lot better going into the offseason.
    Loggains must be fired.

    • bupalos

      With Bridgey I’m not even sure we would be going into the offseason right now. The parts of his season that were uneven were almost entirely due to offensive line woes in Minny. If that Detroit game doesn’t happen (where the Lions were taking every other snap for him and he looked spooked the next couple games) I think he’s clearly rookie of the year.

      I couldn’t agree more on Loggains. He needs to be gone. Not as punishment for what he’s done or how patently stupid he seems, but for the implications of his Manziel fandom going forward. There could be nothing worse for Manziel’s prospects than leaving one of his fans in a position of authority.

      • zarathustra

        Agree with all of this. Let’s consider the teddy drafted by browns counter-factual. We know that he works his ass off, so much so that the coaches are less reticent to bench hoyer. He starts at least the last four and wins at least two and possibly three of those. We still probably miss the playoffs, but we are eager to draft o lineman and pass rushers instead of pathetically speculating on all the dumb ways we could give up to much trading up for mariotta or talking ourselves into jake locker as a viable stop-gap (until when? TBD–probably a third round career back up ala chips or chuck frye).

        • zarathustra

          Dear god….I didn’t truly realize how depressing it all is until I typed that.

  • Jordan Zirm

    Ah, for shame. If only the Browns hadn’t drafted this juvenile delinquent then the playoffs would have be ours! And Justin Gilbert would have tried harder! And Josh Gordon would have turned into a model citizen! And Terrance West would have given more effort in practice instead of day dreaming about the night ahead with Johnny! And Brian Hoyer would have had his named etched in stone as the greatest quarterback we’d ever seen!

    What’s funny about all of this is, when Brian Hoyer was playing like an above average quarterback and the Browns were running the ball well, there wasn’t a word about Manziel. Maybe from insane Browns fans who were in love with Johnny from the start, but not from anyone who is worth a damn. But when Hoyer morphed back into the career backup that he has always been, he forced the Browns hand, and here we are.

    Look, Manziel seems like he doesn’t get it. I was behind the kid for a while because I liked his swagger and his attitude on the field and I watched him improve his play from inside the pocket a year after his Heisman season. But if the dude can’t stop living the good life and focus on football instead, then so be it. But to somehow lay the Browns demise at the feet of a god damn rookie backup quarterback, as if Josh Gordon hadn’t already shown behavior issues, or as if Justin Gilbert isn’t his own man capable of making his own decisions, and to blame Manziel for Hoyer crumbling into a pile of dust, is ludicrous. This team went downhill because Hoyer, who had been playing with his head above water all season, regressed to the mean and the running game went to shit because of Alex Mack’s absence. One more scoring drive against Indy and we aren’t having this conversation. One. But I guess Manziel’s hovering presence on the sidelines wouldn’t let Hoyer connect on a pass to a wide open Gabriel. Damn you Johnny Football!

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      You’re taking an unrealistic (and unhumanistic) view of how much influence teammates can have on one another, especially the richest and most famous ones. Donte Whitner is obviously on my side here. Do you think he’s wrong, too? You’re basically saying that there’s no such thing as “leadership” in a locker room. I’d call that far more ludicrous than any idea that I present here.

      And I don’t even know where to start with the idea that the Manziel hype (“interorganizational drum beat”) wouldn’t have negatively affected Hoyer. You want to pretend that Hoyer “crumbled into a pile of dust” on his own, as if it had nothing to do with Mack’s injury, Gordon’s return, key injuries to the defense, or the fact that the Browns came up against two very tough fronts in the Bills and Texans. Why wouldn’t any QB have struggled in this position? If you want to pretend that the additional stress of the Manziel noise would have no impact here, I suppose it’s your right, but it seems like you’re really struggling to believe something here.

      • Jordan Zirm

        I’m not suggesting his presence didn’t have a negative effect, nor did I ever say “leadership” isn’t a thing in the locker room. Of course it is. But Manziel was a backup quarterback, so I’m not sure what influence he had here aside from from a few apparently impressionable rookies.

        But the idea that Manziel was the downfall of Hoyer is an excuse I am not going to buy for even a second. Hoyer is a quarterback that needs everything to perfect to be mildly successful. A running game, perfect offensive line protection, a stout defense that gets him the ball with good field position. He succeeded when he had these things, and then when injuries and adversity hit, as they do every single year to every single team in the NFL, he showed who he was. If you can’t handle someone fighting for your job, then you shouldn’t be in the NFL.

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

          1. Manziel wasn’t just a rookie, he was the biggest name in Cleveland behind LeBron, and one of the most famous and “marketable” players in the NFL, for better or worse.

          2. “Someone fighting for your job” is one thing. The “batshit Johnny Football hype/noise machine” is something completely different, and something that no successful quarterback in NFL history has really ever had to deal with. You also forget that Hoyer was throwing to receivers who would hardly start for any other team in the league, but the point isn’t that he’s a great quarterback, it’s that anyone in his position would have done better without the additional (and needless) stress that Manziel brought. It’s not really arguable.

          • Jordan Zirm

            I agree but I also think we are imagining that this Johnny Manziel hype machine was as loud within the Browns organization as it was on the outside, which I don’t believe is anywhere near close to accurate. Perhaps that’s where we differ.

            I think we like to imagine that everyone, players, coaches, were just waiting for the demise of Hoyer so they could start Manziel, when I’m pretty sure Hoyer had a ton of support (and I’m basing this on quotes from Pettine, Joe Thomas, Hawkins, etc.) from the guys on the team. We create the narratives we want, but Pettine and Farmer don’t strike me as guys who are gonna bend to outside perception.

            But what do I know. I also enjoy doing the money sign.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            “Outside perception” is one thing. An owner who goes through head coaches/GMs like toilet paper and who ordered the drafting of Johnny in the first place is another. What Shaw writes about the “interorganizational drum beat” for Manziel is something really easy to believe in.

          • Jordan Zirm

            Well, I don’t believe anything Shaw writes because none of these local beat writers have any access or knowledge of what the Browns do. And secondly, I don’t believe Haslam strolled in to the WAR room on draft night, demanded Manziel be taken, and Farmer and Pettine were just like “sir yes sir!” I think Farmer genuinely likes the kid.

          • bupalos

            It is really hard to figure out how it happened that the Browns decided to spend out the 100K for the report that said draft Bridgewater, then drafted someone else. I’m not sure it’s Haslam strolling in, but it’s kind of hard to figure out the moving parts here without Haslam as deus ex machina.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            “Shanahan felt the decision to start Manziel was forced on the coaching staff, and that the yearlong insistence to play him when he wasn’t ready wore on Shanahan …

            “A source said the decision to play Manziel in the 14th game against Cincinnati was not viewed fondly by the coaches, who felt there was pressure all season from the front office to get Manziel on the field.

            “Cleveland.com reported this week that the coaching staff believed some in the front office were sending texts during games to the sideline about personnel and plays.”

            http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/12136623/offensive-coordinator-kyle-shanahan-leaving-cleveland-browns

          • bupalos

            >>>it’s that anyone in his position would have done better without the additional (and needless) stress that Manziel brought. It’s not really arguable.>>>

            While it’s impossible to disagree with this as a general principle and out of context, it still does seem to me like just the opposite happened. At least if we allow that pressure on Hoyer from Manziel was variable during the year, it seems like in both micro and macro instances Hoyer did his best when that pressure was the highest and his worst when it was the lowest. He also did his best when contract pressure was the lowest and his worst when contract pressure was the highest.

  • whosevelt

    Nothing you say is wrong, but it’s pretty facile. Oh, look, Manziel is a loser and Haslam is a crook! They deserve each other!

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      No, they deserve each other because they both can’t hear you because they have too much f*cking money in their hands. If that’s facile too I suppose it’s still worth pointing out.

  • bupalos

    >>>“I can’t hear you, there’s too much money in my f*cking hand,” Manziel said in a drunken haze last June, foreshadowing all manner of angst and speculation about hearing problems and the Browns.>>>

    As my Venezuelan translator used to say (on practically any occassion of even marginal positive significance,) OW – STANDIN.

    While I still hold out fair hopes for The Swanrider in football terms, it’s hard not to notice how he and the Rebate King go hand in hand. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Brian Sipe

    I am mortified they are bringing back Johnny. Forget about his partying, and not being a team guy. He SUCKS! You would look so much better to your team and fans to just cut him.
    I am gutted they are not bringing Hoyer back. Not because I think he is Tom Brady, but because we are wasting time going out and bringing in another stop gap in the meantime. Why not keep a guy here who knows the players and system while we groom the future guy whoever that will be.

    • beeej

      But but but if we bring in another 2-3 QBs it increases our odds of 1 of them working out (tongue in cheek).

  • Brian Sipe

    The undermined Hoyer from day one this year. Manziel is the only backup I have ever heard of in my life who got his own media day. When we were 6-3 Farmer made the proclamation that “Manziel is under contract next year, the other QB is not”. They were completely passive aggressive with Brian. With any support at all we win 8 or 9 games this year.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      I don’t know how anyone could legitimately argue otherwise.

  • Justin

    Manziel is a joke and so is Haslam, but the ecosystem has nothing to do with Haslam sucking. Talk about a money making scheme….

  • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

    “Shanahan felt the decision to start Manziel was forced on the coaching staff, and that the yearlong insistence to play him when he wasn’t ready wore on Shanahan …

    “A source said the decision to play Manziel in the 14th game against Cincinnati was not viewed fondly by the coaches, who felt there was pressure all season from the front office to get Manziel on the field.

    “Cleveland.com reported this week that the coaching staff believed some in the front office were sending texts during games to the sideline about personnel and plays.”

    http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/12136623/offensive-coordinator-kyle-shanahan-leaving-cleveland-browns

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