Johnny Manziel’s former teammates believe he was forced into action too soon in Cleveland.
All-Pro offensive lineman Joe Thomas and former Alouettes receiver Andrew Hawkins have started a podcast called The ThomaHawk Show. In the latest edition, Thomas and Hawkins were candid about what led to the Browns undoing in 2014 after the season started off in a promising way.
“The problem with the Mike Pettine experience in Cleveland as a head coach was Johnny Manziel. He was drafted in the first round. He was the heir apparent as the quarterback and people in the front office wanted to sell tickets and they wanted Johnny Manziel playing,” Thomas said.
Cleveland traded up in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft to select the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, moving up four spots from 26 to 22 for a third-round pick.
“And everybody that was on the football side of things that saw him practice, that saw him prepare – or lack of prepare – saw him in the meeting room, realized he just wasn’t ready, he wasn’t mature enough, he wouldn’t be able to handle it. But the first moment that [Brian] Hoyer slips up, now you’ve got those very powerful people in the front office saying, ‘You gotta play this guy, you gotta play this guy’ and it went on for a couple weeks and finally it got to the point where they won the argument and we had to play Johnny,” Thomas said.
“And as soon as that happened it was like everybody on the football side just gave up because they knew what the results were going to be like.”
Cleveland finished the season 7-9 and out of the playoffs.
“They knew that while the whole run around and throw the ball up in the air works in college, that’s not something that works in the NFL. You have to have that baseline amount of preparation to be able to go out there and proficiently operate offensively to give your team a chance to win and if you don’t do that it’s just not gonna happen.” Thomas explained.
Manziel went 0-2 as a starter in his rookie season, completing 18 of 35 passes for 175 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing nine times for 29 times and one touchdown.
“I don’t think Johnny was ready to play. I think Johnny would say that. If we had Johnny on the show right now I think Johnny would tell us that it was a bad look for him to be thrown into that situation. It probably helped his trajectory in the opposite direction because we were rolling,” Hawkins said.
“We were 7-4 in 2014, but it’s decisions like that that get you fired because it’s hard to get to 7-4 in this league. It’s hard to get 7-4 in this division and especially with the history that we have with the Browns.”
Full podcast (Johnny Manziel talk at 18:40):