Will Browns cut Johnny Manziel?

Cleveland Browns v Washington RedskinsIt’s always hard for an NFL team to cut ties with a first-round selection. After all, this is essentially the front office admitting that they totally botched what should have been a sure-fire pick. But for the Cleveland Browns, the time to finally admit their mistake with Johnny Manziel could be arriving by the end of this summer.

He seemed like a future star after becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy. The Texas A&M star then put up another strong showing in his sophomore season, despite not winning the Heisman again. This was all the push Manziel needed to convince himself that he was ready for the NFL.

Johnny Football made himself eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft, eventually going to the Cleveland Browns, as they traded up to draft him 22nd overall. This should have been a great marriage, given that Manziel was an excellent college quarterback and Cleveland hasn’t had a decent signal caller for the past decade and a half. What’s more is that it seemed like a great choice for the fans of Cleveland, who’ve been looking for any kind of spark that could make the normally dismal Browns worth watching.

But so far, everything has gone terribly wrong…

johnny-manziel-browns-starterFirst off, Manziel made more headlines for his hard-partying ways and wide range of celebrity friends than he did with practice habits or work ethic. The result was an under-prepared Manziel putting up little resistance to Brian Hoyer, who walked away with the starting job unscathed. It wasn’t until Week 15 that Johnny Football was finally able to unseat Hoyer and get his chance to shine.

The result was a disaster as he completed 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards and two interceptions. What’s worse is that the Browns got skunked 30-0, ending the miserable NFL debut of Manziel. The following week he was off to another terrible start against the Carolina Panthers, only to pull his hamstring and end his rookie season.

This was only the beginning, though, because he checked into a rehab facility after the Super Bowl as a final hope for turning around his out-of-control lifestyle. It was at this point that Cleveland inked a deal with 35-year-old Josh McCown, who showed flashes of brilliance with the Bears. Given everything that Cleveland has already been through with Manziel, they seem more than ready to move on from the talented, but troubled quarterback.

McCown will enter the preseason as the starting quarterback, but there’s still a competition open. If Manziel can outplay McCown in camp, it would at least justify keeping him on the roster, despite the potential for his antics. However, assuming he shows a lack of improvement from last year, where he looked nothing like the guy who dominated college teams while at Texas A&M, then it would be easy to see Cleveland cutting him. After all, what team wants a high-profile backup around who creates a media circus wherever he goes.

Johnny Manziel to Second Round of NFL Draft?

johnny-manziel-nflTrying to predict where Johnny Manziel is going in the 2014 NFL Draft is like trying to predict which numbers will win the lottery. Every mock draft that comes out has the Texas A&M star heading to a different team, with the Houston Texans (#1 pick), Jacksonville Jaguars (#3), Cleveland Browns (#4) and Oakland Raiders (#5) often coming up in the discussion. But former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King has a different take on the matter:..

In a recent mock draft of the first round that King did, he doesn’t even have Manziel going in the first round. This is pretty shocking when you consider how mesmerized some teams like the Browns have been with Johnny Football’s duel-threat ability. So what’s the deal here? Has King bought into all of the insults that Barry Switzer hurled Manziel’s way? Is he turned off by how the Heisman Trophy winner measured just under six feet at the Combine?

Actually, King just thinks that the unpredictability that Manziel brings is enough to make head coaches and general managers worry about risking their jobs to draft him. Here’s an excerpt from King’s Yahoo post:

shaun-king-footballThe Johnny Manziel conundrum is one the more interesting evaluation dilemmas to hit NFL evaluators in a long time. I don’t have him being drafted in the first round. Not because I don’t think he has a chance to be a good player, but because I don’t think teams will be able to come to an internal consensus on him.

When a team takes a quarterback in Round 1, a lot of jobs are on the line. If that player doesn’t pan out the general manger and head coach generally aren’t there to choose a second one. Jacksonville, Cleveland and Minnesota all need QBs now, yet they all drafted one in the first round in the last three years. Only Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is left standing; the rest, including all three head coaches, are gone.

Nobody is going to take Shaun King’s mock-draft advice over Mel Kiper Jr’s. However, his reasoning for not putting Manziel does bring up a legitimate point in that Johnny Football may be too risky for one of the top five teams to bet their jobs on a running QB who’s not even six feet tall. There’s a good chance that Manziel comes out and plays like RG III did in his rookie campaign, however, there’s also the chance that he becomes the next Christian Ponder/Blaine Gabbert/Brandon Weeden.

Going back to King, he believes that Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is the “most complete NFL ready QB since Andrew Luck,” and he has the Texans grabbing Bridgewater with the top overall pick. Predictably, Auburn OT Greg Robinson goes to the Rams at number two, while South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney goes to the Jaguars at number three. King also sends Clemson WR Sammy Watson to Cleveland with the fourth pick and Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald to the Raiders at number five.

We doubt that UCF quarterback Blake Bortles falls out of the top-5 range, especially with four teams who could really use a QB sitting there. But it’s still interesting to see a mock draft that doesn’t think teams will still be desperately reaching for the next Luck.

Don’t expect Raiders to pass on a Good Quarterback

teddy-bridgewater-louisvilleOnce again, the Oakland Raiders are coming off a very disappointing season where they finished 4-12 and were nowhere near the playoff picture. And once again, they have the opportunity to land a high draft pick who could make a huge impact on the struggling franchise.

The Raiders pick fifth in the 2014 NFL Draft and their immediate focus appears to be on a quarterback. Head coach Dennis Allen indicated this by saying that QB is “a position we’ve obviously got to look at.”

The word “obviously” definitely fits here because Oakland’s returning quarterbacks, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, don’t yet seem capable of leading a team to success. Pryor initially caused a spark after beating out Matt Flynn for the starting job in training camp. He rushed for 162 yards in the first two games of the 2013 season and led Oakland to a 1-1 record. Pryor was knocked out of the third game with a concussion and never developed any passing rhythm after coming back.

Pryor’s Week 9 MCL sprain gave undrafted rookie Matt McGloin an opportunity to start. Although he proved to be a better pure pocket passer with 1,547 yards, 8 TD’s and 8 INT’s, McGloin only led the Raiders to one win in his seven appearances.

Given their options, Oakland could definitely grab a more heralded signal caller. And the 2014 Draft class has a number of strong QB prospects, with Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles leading the way.

The only problem is that there are three other teams with pressing quarterback needs themselves. The Houston Texans, Jacksvonille Jaguars and Cleveland Browns all pick ahead of Oakland and could take a QB. Houston might go quarterback or defense, while experts definitely expect Jacksonville and Cleveland to go QB.

But this certainly hasn’t stopped Oakland from spending countless hours looking at game footage of passers. After watching the tape, Manziel is one prospect who really sticks out in Allen’s mind as he said:

He’s accomplished a lot at the collegiate level he’s been a very good football player being the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy speaks for itself. I think he’s a very talented football player, he’s a multidimensional football player. He’s able to throw the ball from the pocket and do things with his feet. As we get more into the evaluation process he’ll be a fun one to look at.

Once again, though, Oakland needs to prepare for a scenario in which they don’t get Manziel or the other two top signal callers. There are plenty of other potential stars in the draft, including South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Auburn left tackle terrelle-pryor-raidersGreg Robinson. Plus, the team doesn’t sound like they’re entirely down on the returning quarterbacks. “One of those things we have to determine,” said Allen with regard to who’ll start next year. “We’re going to look at that position very closely. In my opinion we’ve got two young quarterbacks with potential.”

However, Allen played devil’s advocate by saying, “I don’t know the answer to that yet. The quarterback position is the backbone of your football team. We’ve got to make sure that when we go out there this year, we put ourselves in the best position to have success with the quarterback position.”

Assuming Oakland really feels some urgency in this draft, they might consider trading up into one of the top three positions. But is it worth sacrificing other draft picks to move up for one player when you’re a team that needs so much? Maybe so, when you consider the large amount of quarterback failures that Oakland has experienced over the past several years.

Mark Sanchez: From Disgraced Backup to Guaranteed Starter?

mark-sanchezWith all but two teams eliminated from NFL title contention this year, many players have an eye towards the offseason and free agency. New York Jets backup QB Mark Sanchez is one of these players since he’s coming off a year where he didn’t play a single snap, yet he makes $8.25 million a season. Add in the fact that he’s due a $2 million signing bonus in March, and it only fuels speculation that the Jets will part with the 27-year-old.

With New York likely sticking to their second-year QB Geno Smith, there’s little reason to keep an overpaid backup. Sanchez hurt his shoulder in a preseason game while working behind the second team offensive line. He remained injured the rest of the season, though, it was largely reported that Smith had already won the starting job in the preseason anyways.

Assuming the Jets do cut Sanchez, there’s at least one team that guaranteed they would make him a starter. An anonymous head coach told the New York Post the following regarding the five-year veteran, “We’d take Sanchez. He’d be the starter as soon as he walked in the door for us.”

When looking at Sanchez’s numbers over the four years that he started, they don’t exactly scream high-profile free agent. He’s thrown just 68 touchdowns against 69 interceptions and has a career passer rating of 71.7%. But despite the subpar numbers, Sanchez’s talent has always intrigued teams.

mark-sanchez-1He was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and quickly assumed the Jets’ reigns in his rookie season. He also started twice in the AFC Championship game, just missing out on trips to the Super Bowl both times.

Given his experience, there are multiple teams that would be interested in a player like Sanchez. The Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders all enter the offseason with huge questions under center. It’s very possible that one of these teams could have the mystery head coach with Sanchez on his wishlist.

When you put Sanchez up against some of the other free agent QB’s this year, he’s especially attractive. Michael Vick and Josh McCown lead the 2014 free agent class, while Josh Freeman, Chad Henne, Shaun Hill and Matt Schaub (likely to be cut) will all draw interest too. Top NFL draft picks that’ll warrant heavy consideration among the league include Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr.

Still, that’s only 10 total quarterbacks when you consider both free agency and top-flight draft picks. So it’s no wonder that at least one head coach is already discussing how he’d start the veteran Sanchez in a heartbeat. The QB is currently rehabbing his shoulder in Birmingham, Alabama after having surgery last October. Assuming he can get back to full strength by the summer, there’s a great chance that he could land a starting job somewhere.

Why did the Cleveland Browns fire Rob Chudzinski?

rod-chudzinskiMost new NFL head coaches are given 2-3 years before an organization makes a decision on their job status. This being said, it was extremely puzzling when the Cleveland Browns decided to fire Rob Chudzinkski after just one season.

Chudzinski had just completed the first year of a four-year contract when he received news of the firing. So why was the former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator dumped after his lone season in Cleveland? Well there’s the organization’s stated reason, and also the reasons why many insiders thought Chud was axed. Let’s look at the team’s media statement first:

We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year. Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there’s an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.

After hearing this statement and looking at the Browns’ record over the past 11 games, there are some glaringly obvious reasons why Chud was fired. They began the year with some promise after starting off 3-2. However, they won just one out of their last 11 contests, including a seven-game losing streak to close out the season.

rob-chudzinskiThere were two weeks in a row that were particularly telling of this season, where the Browns lost to Jacksonville at home, then blew a 12-point lead against New England with three minutes left. Couple this with losses to the Bears, Jets and Steelers to close out the year, and you can definitely see how this year ended on a sour note.

Beyond the losing, the front office felt that Chudzinski’s players showed a lack of accountability and effort as the season wore on. They especially felt that Brandon Weeden and Greg Little weren’t held accountable for their poor play. One prevalent thought was that as the coaching staff spent more time with the players, the worse they were getting.

Another point worth making here is how the Browns organization sees a couple of talented coaches that they like. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are rumored to be at the top of Cleveland’s list. Given Chud’s perceived shortcomings as the Browns coach, it seems like a perfect time for this team to chase another top-notch coaching prospect.

Of course, Chud didn’t leave this job without some public outcry – most notable from many of his players. D’Qwell Jackson was really critical of the move as he said, “After the Trent Richardson trade and our quarterback injuries, I thought for sure he’d get a pass. Not one year. Come on. One year? There’s no way. Chud was good for us, good for the team. He came in and did everything right, I thought.”

As Jackson referred to, the team lost Weeden to injury for an extended time period while Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury. Plus the team traded Richardson just two games into the season and never truly replaced him with a decent starting running back. But despite all of this, management apparently felt that their team was talented enough to win more than four games.

Best Bet to win Last AFC Wild Card Spot in 2013

new-york-jets-wild-cardIn most cases, NFL Wild Card teams need at least 9 or 10 wins to secure a postseason berth. However, this year is shaping up to be quite special since eight teams have a legitimate shot at grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot. And this has created quite a bit of excitment heading into the last few weeks of the season.

Looking at all of the teams that have records ranging between 6-6 and 4-7, an 8-8 record might even be good enough to grab the AFC’s sixth seed. So which of these mediocre teams could find themselves competing against the league’s elite in the postseason? Let’s take a look by ranking the eight teams that still have a realistic shot at the playoffs.

1. New York Jets (5-6) Geno Smith may be playing terrible right now, but he hasn’t killed the Jets’ playoff chances yet. This is especially the case when you consider that they have the easiest remaining schedule out of any other team. They face Miami (home), Oakland (home), Cleveland (home), Carolina (away), Cleveland (home) and Miami again (away). The two games between New York and the Dolphins could potentially decide the Wild Card. Look for the Jets to go 3-2 or 4-1 the rest of the way, with road losses to Carolina and maybe Miami.

joe-flacco2. Baltimore Ravens (6-6) – The Ravens seemingly have the best chance on this list since they boast the top record and have head-to-head wins over the Jets and Dolphins. However, it’s hard to like their remaining schedule, which includes games against Detroit (road), New England (home) and Cincinnati (away) to close out the season. Their only cupcake is Minnesota at home, which could potentially be their lone win in these four contests.

3. Tennessee Titans (5-6) – Before Baltimore won, Tennessee was sitting in the Wild Card spot since they hold all of the tiebreakers. Their schedule ranks somewhere in the middle with two easy games in Jacksonville (away) and Houston (home) to end the year. But they must win at least one of their next three contests (@Indianapolis, @Denver, Arizona) for these final two to matter.

4. San Diego (5-6) – The one saving grace for San Diego is that a couple of their toughest games are at home, as they host Cincinnati and Kansas City. They also play the Giants and Oakland at home, but must travel to Denver in a couple of weeks. San Diego stole a win in Kansas City; can they do it again at Mile High?

5. Miami Dolphins (5-6) – Most people wrote the Dolphins off after the Richie Incognito bullying scandal. But they’ve since stayed in the hunt by going 2-2. Their remaining schedule isn’t impossible, but it does include three road games. Here’s a look at how they finish out the year: @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh, New England, @Buffalo, NY Jets.

cj-spiller6. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – Based on record alone, the Bills are going to have a tough time making the postseason. However, they come out of the bye week with a healthier CJ Spiller and a somewhat favorable schedule: Atlanta, @Tampa Bay, @Jacksonville, Miami, @New England.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) – Pittsburgh lost the big matchup against Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day, and now find themselves needing to win at least 3 out of 4 to make the playoffs. The best thing that they have going in their favor is scheduling: Miami, Cincinnati, @Green Bay, Cleveland. However, Aaron Rodgers should be back for the Green Bay game.

8. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – The Browns caused some excitement earlier in the year after starting 3-3. But they’ve since cooled off, having lost 4 out of their last 5 games. They could jump back into the playoff picture with a home win over Jacksonville this weekend. But it’s entirely possible that they lose these four games to end the year: @New England, Chicago, @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh.

Whoever make the playoffs out of this list will be a big underdog in their first-round game. Of course, this could still make for some interesting spread betting and live wagering opportunities, depending upon what the playoff matchup ends up being.