It’s become fashionable to chastise the long-irrelevant Browns for the manner in which they’ve handled their sudden burst of relevance. And since I have zero sense of fashion, allow me to look at this a different way.
The Browns have blocked the national media from Johnny Manziel’s first minicamp, explaining that they don’t want a repeat of Tebowmania. The better comparison could be not Tebow but Robert Griffin III.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has seen this movie before. Continuously for two years with his eyes held wide open, Clockwork Orange-style. Kyle and his father, Mike, saw RG3 become the most powerful man in D.C. not residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with owner Daniel Snyder embracing — and perhaps fueling — the idea that it was Griffin’s team.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam seems to be determined to avoid, or at least to minimize, a repeat of that phenomenon. While keeping the national media out will do nothing to decrease national media interest in the Browns and Manziel, the effort provides tangible proof that the Browns are trying to not let Manziel become bigger than the team.
That may not be enough to ensure that Manziel and Shanahan will be able to coexist. Manziel’s penchant for improvisation doesn’t mesh with Shanahan’s preference that quarterback play be virtually robotic.
“During the course of a regular game, Kyle Shanahan wants you to run the offense exactly how he wants it, down to the amount of hitches you take to go through your progressions,” former Shanahan pupil Rex Grossman said back in 2011.
Manziel may comply during the early portions of a play, but once things start to collapse he may decide to do his own thing, which may drive Shanahan crazy.
Which leads back to the question of whether the coaching staff and the front office really wanted Manziel in the first place. By all appearances, it was a pick that was at least indirectly influenced by Haslam and/or the homeless guy in Cleveland. If so, the challenge for Haslam will be to ensure that Manziel never figures that out — and that he never abuses the power he already possesses in Cleveland, regardless of what the team now does to try to contain it.