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Johnny Football Finally Shut Up and Earned A G-Check 

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It’s a strange analogy, but quarterbacks are like flowers in that no one knows exactly when and how they will blossom or to what extent.

Watching QBs develop can be a thing of beauty or a painful experience. The hype surrounding No.1 picks and former Heisman Trophy winners with two stadiums full of college football accolades, often fosters unfair expectations.

Fans and franchise management and coaching staffs rarely allow a highly-touted QB to develop. Instead, they totally abandon reality, which is that the QB position is the most demanding and complex position on the field and certain quarterbacks grasp the nuances and intricacies of the coveted position quicker than others.


Some of the hype machine hotshots eventually enjoy pro success and rise to the top of the food chain as they always have. Others never achieve at the level they did in their amateur years, but are still good enough to compete at a high level in the NFL. Then you have your rare all-out busts. 


For each player, one of these three scenarios will play out. Some dudes can’t handle being mediocre and eventually fall off. 

See, everybody can’t be “The Man.” Some guys can be extremely successful just being one of the boys.

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Johnny “Football” Manziel is finally learning this as his second NFL season with the woeful Cleveland Browns franchise gets underway.

Manziel had his finest outing as a pro on Sunday in leading Cleveland to a 28-14 victory over Tennessee. Manziel was an efficient 8-of-15 for 172 yards and a 133.9 QB rating with a pair of TDs and no picks.


Manziel outdueled last weeks rookie QB darling Marcus Mariota and his rating was the highest for a Browns QB since Derek Anderson’s 140.3 in 2007

Success is a four letter word for QBs, because there’s really no such thing. A QB is only as good as his last pass and always one bad injury or dreadful season away from never playing again. The popularity of a QB switches quicker than Samuel L. Jackson’s various movie roles. One day he’s the greatest thing since Randal Cunningham and the next game fans are cursing you “Ryan Leaf” and want you out of the league.

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Mariota and No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston basically swapped performances from Wk 1. Winston was hideous in his opening game and rebounded to lead the Tampa Bay Bucs to a much-needed victory over a solid New Orleans team with a Hall of Fame QB. The 2014 Heisman slinger completed 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards and was not intercepted. 

Mariota looked like the better of the two QBs in his opening day, four-TD execution of Winston’s Bucs, but as often happens in the roller coaster, emotionally-erratic world of NFL quarterbacking, it was Johnny Football, who was the shining young stud QB leading his team to emphatic victory on Sunday.

Manziel completed his first four passes, for 100 yards. On those drives he had the same rating Mariota ended the season opener with: a perfect 158.3.



Starting in place of the injured Josh McCown, Manziel’s final completion, the game-clinching TD strike to Travis Benjamin was in the words of Browns coach Mike Pettine, “vintage Manziel.”


“When a play breaks down that is what he brings,” the HC said. 

Despite all of the lofty expectations and cruel criticism, when you break it down logically, this kid is only in his second-year and has played in a total of just seven NFL games. The hoopla and distorted social media perception of Manziel has dominated his brief tenure as a QB. Cleveland did the right thing in bringing him along slowly despite the demands of desperate and delusional fans who wanted Johnny Football to come in and save the day.

He hadn’t even really gotten a chance to start learning the game, NFL culture and most importantly how you act as a pro.

It seems as if Manziel has been humbled by his NFL experiences which have been anything less than Schmoney Dance -worthy. In recent interviews, he’s not the cocky, young, crude phenom turned rock star that he used to be. He seems to understand that him becoming a huge NFL star is no longer a given. Reality has set in and it’s time for Manziel to mature, study his x’s and o’s and handle business in Cleveland.


There were many folks who doubted Manziel’s ability to blossom into a top gridiron shotta, despite his freakish athleticism, record-breaking, body-shaking, breath-taking football ability and exploits over the years, he had developed an equally eye-opening reputation as a selfish, egotistical and undersized firecracker. 

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Guys such as ESPN’s Skip Bayless gave Manziel no shot to beat Tennessee this week.

Manziel’s brash banter, antagonistic on-field demeanor and charisma has also contributed to making him one of the most hated, captivating, and discussed social-media darlings in recent memory.

He’s always been great at acting the part of a superstar (less the Tom Brady height and looks). The last time Manziel took the FirstEnergy Stadium field in Week 15 of last season, a white SUV dropped him off in an alternate entrance to avoid awaiting media, and merchandise businesses had No. 2 jerseys on deck like the Inspectah — waiting to be sold. 


The hype was Jordanesque but the result was a flopper. Manziel produced the worst starting-quarterback debut since Rusty Smith in 2010. His fans made excuses about how terrible the team was and his detractors basically conceded his career to mush. 


On Sunday, however, It WAS his fault that the Browns notched their first “W” of the season. Victory was sweet for the embattled QB and he didn’t feel a need to direct praise his way. For the first time, maybe ever, he deflected the props elsewhere. 

Yeah, it’s sweet,” said Manziel. “I’ve come a long way from that point …So to be sitting here today and just have an ultimate turnaround from what it was in the first two starts I had last year, personally it feels awesome. I think I’m getting better, still missed some things that I’m going to be hard on myself about tomorrow on film. but all around I’m proud of the guys, proud of the effort we had today. I think the defense, you can’t speak enough about them and what they do.” 

Manziel’s first pass of the game was a 60-yard bomb to Benjamin to put the Browns on the board in a quick 40 seconds. He hit Benjamin again late in the fourth quarter on a 50-yard strike. “Air Manziel” was in full effect. 

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Manziel was money but he still obviously has a ways to grind if he wants to be the legend he is in his own mind. He forced throws and got a bit too fancy with his leg work at times, but he displayed the arm strength and ghetto-park elusiveness that has a legion of football fans hoping he becomes Aaron Rodgers and not Tim Tebow.

They can all use Sundays breakthrough game as one to grow on. After looking like a loud chirping bird lost in the celebrity clouds, Manziel is starting to execute the unprecedented football feats that people have grown accustomed too. Hes already changing the culture in Cleveland and having a statistical impact on the situation.



He’s a skid-stopper.

The Browns (1-1) snapped a six-game losing skid dating to last season.


He’s instant offense. 

ESPN Stats and Information reported Manziels two touchdown drives marked the first time the Browns had scored 14 points in the first quarter of a home game since Week 12 of the 2010 season. The stats folks also reported that Manziel was the first Browns quarterback to pass for 100 yards in the first quarter in the last two seasons.

Along with Benjamin, Manziel led the Browns to a 21-0 halftime lead; the first time the Browns had a 21-point halftime lead since 1994, when Bill Belichick was the coach.



One thing is for sure; he doesn’t have a loser’s mentality and that’s a great start for the doo doo Browns.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The Deputy Editor and Senior Writer is in his 23rd year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, magazines and national TV.

His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.