The outlook doesn’t look promising for the Cleveland Browns. They venture into Pittsburgh to play the Steelers on Sunday afternoon. The chances are very good that Johnny Manziel will be the starting quarterback once more. Josh McCown is still nursing bruised ribs, and the status of his availability is cloudy and secretive. If Manziel gets the start, his confidence may be lacking. He feels that he’s too short.
After Manziel said that he can’t see downfield because of his height, head coach Mike Pettine and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo didn’t buy it. They agreed that his stature shouldn’t be an issue. As reported by ESPN, both coaches looked past his height.
“There are other quarterbacks of his stature that have been successful,” Pettine said.
DeFilippo was asked about the issue and chimed in with an answer along the same lines. Manziels height is not the problem.
“There’s other quarterbacks in this league that are his size and are having some success.”
Manziel hasn’t grown a foot or shrank since being picked in the draft. But since his performance against the Bengals, the Browns seem to be concerned about his presence in the pocket. Instead of making the fast read, Manziel likes to ad-lib and use his mobility. That’s akin to the kiss of death for an NFL quarterback. This has the Browns’ staff looking at his stature and how to help him improve.
“I am continuing to gain confidence in playing in this system and playing in this offense,” Manziel said, via Pro Football Talk. “It takes a lot of time getting used to seeing these coverages, knowing where people are going to be and exploiting that. I am not going to be able to sit there like some of these taller quarterbacks in the league and just be able to see everything happen as it plays in.”
The point of reference for Manziel’s comments may have been in reference to his game against Cincinnati. The Bengals’ defensive ends are huge. Their arms wave around like condors coming in for the kill. But that’s becoming the norm in the NFL. Running around outside the pocket can get a quarterback in serious trouble.
“I think I did some good things,” Manziel said. “And I think there were some things that were there that I didn’t see or I just missed a little bit.”
Manziel stands five feet 11 inches. Most teams desire a signal caller in the six feet range or taller. The size preferential is to have the quarterback taller than or equal to the defensive players. That will make spotting throwing lanes easier and avoiding the waving arms of defenders on the line.
Manziel said he is adapting as a quarterback as he adjusts to playing in a more structured system. His college success was based on his elusiveness and ability to make plays on the move. Manziel rarely drops back, plants his foot, and makes the read. He’s usually scrambling and trying to make something happen on the run. That style was fine while playing against undisciplined college kids. In the NFL, defensive schemes are more complex and players savvier.
With their win over the Browns, the Bengals may have given the rest of the league a blueprint to control Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football kept the Browns close in the first half by using the rollout style he’s always used. Getting him out of the pocket enabled him to look downfield and adlib. Once the Bengals adjusted to the rollouts and contained Manziel in the pocket, he had to depend on his ability to make reads and check downs.
There are other quarterbacks that roll out and scramble. But they have embraced the NFL brand of pocket leadership before leaning on their mobility. Once Manziel finds that balance, the height issues will disappear.
[Photo by Andrew Weber / Getty Images]