You don’t buy a Ferrari only to keep it parked in the garage. You don’t order a rib eye steak only to slather it in ketchup. And you certainly don’t draft a potential franchise quarterback only to stifle his star power.
Yet, for reasons unknown, that’s precisely what the Cleveland Browns are trying to accomplish with Johnny Manziel.
Just three days after his team resembled its “Draft Day” iteration, trading up in the first round to select the ballyhooed Texas A&M signal-caller with the No. 22 overall pick, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam threw cold water on “Manzania.”
Manziel was told to act “like a backup quarterback,” Haslam claimed. Cleveland “isn’t Hollywood,” Haslam insisted. Brian Hoyer is the team’s starter, Haslam boasted.
What little energy had been infused into the Browns’ long-tortured fanbase dissipated. And when it was reported that the team will limit media access — to prevent “Johnny Football Mania,” according to a spokesman — you could practically feel the deflation reverberating from Ohio.
These are the same fans who have suffered through eleven-straight playoff-less seasons and rooted for so many quarterbacks — some monumental busts — that it’s become a running joke.
Make no mistake, though, there’s nothing funny about it.
The devoted fanatics that inhabit the Dawg Pound, selling out home games year after agonizing year, deserve better from Haslam, whose actions border on sheer hypocrisy. Was it not mania when Haslam’s truck-stop company was raided by the FBI and IRS? Should there be less media coverage of the fraud emanating from Pilot Flying J headquarters?
It seems Haslam had no problem selling 2,500 new season tickets or freshly-minted Manziel jerseys, which flew off shelves in record time. Despite receiving immediate returns, however, he’s inexplicably opting to devalue the most important move in his tenure, one that could change the culture of the organization for years to come.
The Browns can’t pretend they didn’t know what they were getting in Manziel — a 21-year-old whose interests including hanging with Drake, dating models, and partying. They also can’t pretend that Manziel’s accomplishments on the field, where it actually matters, don’t outweigh his innocuous hobbies.
School records? Check. Bowl wins? Check. Heisman Trophy? Check.
But fans are supposed to conveniently ignore all of that and rally around Brian Hoyer?
I don’t think so …
I get that Haslam and new head coach Mike Pettine, a no-nonsense kind of guy, don’t want to create any unnecessary distractions. After all, Pettine, the former Jets defensive coordinator, witnessed first-hand how Tim Tebow impacted Gang Green’s disastrous 2012 season.
However, Manziel is not Tebow. And Pettine, hopefully, learned from Rex Ryan that high-profile quarterbacks don’t belong on special teams or silly Wildcat packages.
No, high-profile quarterbacks like Manziel belong front and center, smiling for the camera, and generating positive buzz for an organization that’s gone so long without any.
It’s utterly foolish for Haslam to defy this logic, especially when it was his call to “pull the trigger” on the trade — at the request of Manziel, no less. You’d think a billionaire would know what to do with Ferraris and rib eyes, because, even in football terms, it’s all relative.
Too bad there’s no such thing as a backup owner.