Johnny Manziel Wasn’t The Top QB Target By Browns Coaching Staff In 2014 Draft

By now, most football fans know the relationship between the Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel ended ugly. What some fans might not know is that Johnny Manziel was not the quarterback the Cleveland Browns originally wanted. Considering the sales job the team did after the 2014 draft, in which they traded up in order to take a quarterback earlier in the first round, some are calling a new story being told by Browns’ former head coach Mike Pettine.

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According to Pettine, Manziel was a fair distance down the list of prospects the Browns were looking at when the 2014 NFL Draft opened. The former Cleveland coach sat down and talked to ESPN on the eve of this year’s draft, and explained Manziel was basically the team’s fourth choice. So how did the former Texas A&M quarterback, who came into the league with some morality questions, become the pick? The answer to the question, as are many questions surrounding Johnny Manziel, seems a bit muddled.

“The two guys we felt good about were [Derek] Carr and [Jimmy] Garoppolo. Just projecting the guys we thought would be there, we all thought [Teddy] Bridgewater would be gone.”

Pettine told ESPN on Tuesday morning. Despite the Browns having laid out their targets quite clearly, Johnny Manziel was still the team’s choice, despite both Carr and Garoppolo still being on the board. The team traded up from 26 to 22 in order to get the quarterback the team felt was going to be a franchise player. It appears Pettine never believed Manziel would be the franchise quarterback the Browns were hoping for. Because of this reason, the former head coach cites drafting Johnny Manziel as one of his biggest regrets in his short stint in Cleveland.

The main reason why Manziel’s selection still confuses those looking in from the outside is because no one seems quite willing to take responsibility for taking yet another quarterback bust in the NFL draft. There was a time when former GM Ray Farmer was willing to point the finger squarely at himself. In more recent interviews, he’s claimed the selection of Johnny Manziel was a result of “group think.”

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Pettine is clear that Manziel wasn’t someone the Browns came up with out of the blue. Cleveland had him on their board, their former coach says, they just weren’t sure he had enough of the tools needed to succeed in the NFL, especially with his size. The former Cleveland coach points out that Manziel, who is only six-feet tall, needed to do almost everything perfectly. That included his behavior off the field. We all know Manziel’s behavior off the field was hardly perfect, whether it was partying a bit too much or being accused of assaulting his girlfriend.

The Cleveland Browns ended up having all they could stand of Johnny Manziel earlier this year and now Pettine’s old team will have to wonder what could have been. One of the players Cleveland almost took, Derek Carr is becoming a pretty decent NFL quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. He’s also managed to completely steer clear of legal problems in a way Johnny Manziel hasn’t been able to master. The other quarterback the team was supposedly taking a harder look at than Manziel, Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo, hasn’t seen much action yet. That will change at the beginning of the 2016 regular season. Now that Tom Brady’s suspension has been reinstated, he’ll have to sit out the first four games of the upcoming season.

So far, we don’t know whether Garoppolo would have been the better choice, but he has also managed to stay out of trouble. If he does well at all in the four game audition, the Cleveland Browns will likely be kicking themselves for drafting Johnny Manziel back in 2014.

[Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]