BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- As he discussed the possibility of quarterback
Johnny Manziel being picked by Cleveland in the upcoming draft, Browns
linebacker Quentin Groves made a small sign of the cross.
A prayer that he's coming? A plea that he stays away?
Groves' intentions with his gesture weren't clear.
Like just about everything around Johnny Football, there's no definite answer.
The most polarizing player to enter the NFL in a while, Manziel, is
being closely linked to the Browns, who own the No. 4 overall pick in
next week's draft and have been seeking a franchise quarterback for more
than a decade.
Cleveland's inability to land a QB either in the draft or via free
agency or blind luck may be the single biggest reason the Browns have
only made the playoffs once since 1999 and seem to change coaches every
There are those who believe Manziel can save the Browns. Others feel
the Texas A&M quarterback's dazzling skills -- and size -- won't
translate to the pro game.
He's too small.
He's a game-changer.
He's a hard worker.
He's a head case.
Everyone has an opinion on Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner
who has been projected as being picked anywhere from the top 5 to the
bottom of the first round.
"If Johnny Manziel came through, if he beats out the other
quarterbacks that are here, it's all good," Browns Pro Bowl cornerback
Joe Haden said. "I like Johnny Manziel. I like him a whole lot."
Haden's not alone. Sports radio talk shows here are crammed with
callers screaming for the Browns to choose Manziel, one of several QBs
in this year's class expected to go in the early rounds.
Cleveland hasn't used a pick higher than No. 22 on a quarterback since taking Tim Couch first overall 15 years ago.
The Browns have done their homework on Manziel. The team recently
worked him out privately in College Station, Texas, and brought him to
Cleveland to visit their training facility and headquarters.
As they consider taking him, Browns general manager Ray Farmer and
owner Jimmy Haslam wanted to get to better know Manziel, who served a
suspension last season for violating an NCAA rule involving signing
autographs, as a person.
They've seen him on film. Nothing beats the real thing.
"I don't think I have any reservations with who Johnny is," Farmer
said. "He's a good young man. I think the interesting part about Johnny
is that, much like a lot of us, you don't get a handbook for how to
operate in certain instances.
"When you go from being a kid from Tyler, Texas, to being Johnny
Football and winning the Heisman Trophy really quickly, they don't hand
you a manual and tell you how to handle the media swarm, how to handle
the paparazzi, how to handle people coming up to you at dinners.
"He would tell you very candidly that it's probably not how he would
have written it up now that he's at the end of it or getting towards the
end of his college career, but you live and you learn."
Manziel would certainly put Cleveland back on the football map and
revitalize a flagging franchise. He'd sell tickets and move merchandise.
But is that enough?
Groves called one of his college coaches now at Texas A&M for a scouting report.
"I asked him, 'How is Johnny? Is he a football guy?'" Groves said.
"He said, 'Honestly, he's the most competitive guy you'll ever meet. He
is a guy that will come in, be the first in, last to leave. that's just
him.' I know you have the flashy lifestyle (Groves mimics Manziel's
signature finger rub), (rapper) Drake and all that stuff, and at the end
of the day the guy wins ballgames.
"He makes plays. He extends drives and wins ballgames."
Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who coached quarterback
Robert Griffin III in Washington, thinks Manziel's unorthodox style can
win in the pros.
"If you can make those plays in college, you can do it in the NFL,"
he said. "The one thing about the NFL, there's a lot of tape out there.
You've got to be able to do everything.
"Whatever you do very good, they're going to eventually be able to
shut that down and you're going to have to do something else. He's going
to be able to make plays in this league. Eventually when they try to
contain him, he's going to have to do everything he didn't always have
to do in college."
The Browns must also consider all that comes along with Manziel.
Number 2 brings a three-ring circus.
Groves, for one, believes the Browns are suited to add Manziel.
"We're a mature enough team to handle it," he said. "We've had some
individual success here and people have handled it well. Josh Gordon and
(Alex) Mack going to the Pro Bowl, Joe Thomas going to the Pro Bowl.
Joe Haden and Jordan Cameron making their first Pro Bowls, things like
that. I think we can handle it."