John Elway knows a little something about playing quarterback successfully in the NFL, and his evaluation of a quarterback entering the league is naturally respected. While discussing former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Friday, Elway was complimentary and patronizing all at once, referring to Manziel as a “great little player.”
The Hall of Fame quarterback and current Denver Broncos executive immediately backpedaled from his Freudian slip, explaining to an amused contingent of media, “I don’t say ‘little,’ I shouldn’t say ‘little.’ I’m sorry.” While his use of the word little was unintentional, it is revealing nonetheless, as many pundits have questioned whether the diminutive Manziel can compete and survive in the NFL.
Manziel, who measured 5-foot-11¾ inches at the NFL draft combine, has become a polarizing topic of conversation amongst personnel evaluators and the league in general as the NFL Draft approaches. Most agree that his playmaking skills and other intangibles project the quarterback as a top pick, while others are hung up on his height, or lack thereof. Despite the fact that smaller quarterbacks have enjoyed success in the league, most notably Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, whom have both recently won Super Bowls; there are still many who reject the notion of a non-prototypical signal caller out of hand.
You can count Elway among those who disagree with this sentiment. The two-time Super Bowl champion spoke positively of Manziel, perhaps recognizing some of the qualities that made him a great player:
“He’s a guy that he’s fun to watch on film,” Elway said. “He’s a great competitor, and I think that’s what his strength is, the fact he’s a great, great competitor. At that position, you have to have that. That’s what makes him tick. Obviously he has tremendous talent, he can move around and still make all the throws. But I think his No. 1 quality is his competitive nature.”
Other former and current NFL quarterbacks have also weighed in on the subject of Manziel and his chances of achieving success in the league. Brett Favre, who was certainly not shy about scrambling around in an effort to make a big play, has suggested Johnny Football reminds him of a younger version of himself.
The comparison to Favre is an interesting one. While Favre did play fast and loose, he was remarkably durable, establishing the NFL ironman record at 297 consecutive regular-season starts. The primary concern for Manziel will be his ability to stay on the field while maintaining his aggressive style of play.
John Elway is certainly in his corner, but it remains to be seen where Manziel will land in the draft. He is widely projected to be a top pick, but will concerns about his height and maturity scare some teams off?