Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel partied (and lied) his way out of the starting job in Cleveland over the balance of the season, but former NFL coach Jon Gruden doesn’t believe it should mean the end of Manziel’s time with the Browns.
“If he wants to be a great quarterback and realize his potential, let this be the day he gets awakened,” Gruden told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com on Saturday. Gruden will call Monday night’s Ravens-Browns game for ESPN.
Some would say that Manziel should have been awakened by now, after a disastrous end to his rookie season and a 10-week offseason stay in rehab. Gruden is hopeful that this time will be the time that Manziel realizes he needs to grow up.
“He’s a young kid,” Gruden said of Manziel, who is still 22. “He should still be at Texas A&M. Sometimes you have to remember that.”
Gruden specifically remembers another young quarterback with a penchant for partying. His number was retired by the Packers two nights ago.
“We traded for a guy when I first got to Green Bay that Atlanta said was a little bit of a hell raiser and it turned out OK for us,” Gruden said of Brett Favre. “You know what I mean?”
Ultimately, Favre could be the best guy to get through to Manziel. Like Manziel, Favre spent time in rehab early in his career. Favre overcame an addiction to painkillers, which forced him to find a way to play for years without pharmaceutical intervention.
If Gruden really wants to help Manziel, Gruden should connect Manziel and Favre. And Manziel would be wise to listen to anything Favre has to say.
“He’s a polarizing guy,” said Gruden regarding Manziel. “You love him. You don’t like him. Everybody has their own feeling, but deep down, I know there’s a good person in there, a lot of talent, and somebody is going to tap into it. I believe that.”
Listening to what Gruden has to say, it’s hard not to wonder whether Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will try to hire Gruden to do what he did with Manziel earlier this year on a full-time basis, as the head coach of the team.
“We went straight at it,” Gruden said regarding his time spent working with Manziel. “We were right out in the open. One day I think we played golf. We talked about some deep and philosophical things. It was very unusual for me, but I care about him. I care about his family. I want to see him realize his potential.”
To realize that potential, Manziel has to overcome his demons once and for all, mature into a guy who obsesses over the details of being an NFL quarterback, and find a way to gain — and to retain — the trust of an NFL team. If he does the first two, the last one will follow.