Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Get ready Cleveland, Johnny Football is coming to town

browns draft manzielAre you ready for some (Johnny) football, Cleveland?

It’s been almost 24 hours and we’re still wrapping our head around the fact that the Cleveland Browns walked out of the first round of the NFL Draft with not only the top cornerback, Justin Gilbert, and one of the top quarterbacks, Johnny Manziel, but a second No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. It was a performance by general manager Ray Farmer that was befitting the setting of Radio City Music Hall. (And one that, given a 100 chances, former general manager Mike Lombardi could never pull off.)

In Gilbert, the Browns are getting a player that Mike Mayock describes as “the prototype cornerback in today’s NFL,” one who is reportedly “explosively quick and a natural interceptor with very good hand-eye coordination, leaping ability and overall ball skills.”

The one big knock against Gilbert is that he may not be as tough against the run as you would like – especially considering that the Browns play in the AFC North. But that may not be as big of an issue because head coach Mike Pettine’s defense doesn’t rely on its cornerbacks to be the first line of defense in the running game.

“In our system, we are not (using) a lot of a hard corner very often, where the corner is primary in run support so when a ball is going around the perimeter, the corner is the first line of defense. That’s very rare in our system,” Pettine said. “Our premium, when we look at and list the attributes of and say, ‘Here’s what we we’re looking for in a corner,’ the press-man coverage ability, the ability to eliminate a wide receiver and allow us to play 10 against 10 and do that with two guys and play nine against nine, that is a much higher premium than to be more of an outside-linebacker type. Since it’s further down the list, he was clearly our top corner because he fits our scheme. He might not have been the top corner for some other teams schematically that are more Cover 2.”

The best part is that, while Gilbert has the talent to be a No. 1 cornerback, he gets to be the Browns No. 2 because they have Joe Haden on the other side. (And he gets Buster Skrine out of the starting lineup.)

As for Gilbert, he seems ready for whatever the Browns have planned for him.

“Yeah, he told me it was going to be a lot of man,” Gilbert said at his introductory news conference. “They were looking for a guy who can play press and run with the receivers down field and make plays on the ball. I think I’m a perfect fit here.”

As for Manziel … well, whatever happens it promises to never be a dull moment while he is in Orange and Brown. While we enjoyed watching Manziel while he was at Texas A&M, we’re still not sure we are ready to for 16 games of him.

But he’s a Brown, so let’s roll!

“We definitely liked his ability to perform and make plays,” Farmer said. “We liked a guy that brought all the things when we talk about Play Like a Brown. He was passionate, he was relentless, he played fearless, he was competitive and we added a guy to our roster we thought could help us win.”

As for Pettine, he is enamored with that special quality that Manziel seems to possess on the field.

“What I evaluated with all the quarterbacks that we visited was the ‘it’ factor, the personality. I thought (Manziel) is at an extreme level,” Pettine said. “It’s to the point where it’s really created ‘Johnny Football.’ The fact that he is all those things to an amazing degree – he’s ultra-competitive, he’s ultra-passionate; that he’s a guy that he just finds a way.”

Say what you will about Manziel – and make no mistake about it, there is going to be plenty said and written about him in the upcoming months – the dude knows how to get the job done on the field and light up the stadium.

The only negative part about the Manziel pick is that the hoople heads have been out in full force saying the Browns should now trade quarter back Brian Hoyer. (Oddly enough, those are probably the same people who wanted Hoyer to start last year for no reason other than he grew up in Cleveland.)

Anyone on the trade Hoyer train apparently hasn’t been paying attention, as the Browns have not had a single quarterback start all 16 games in a season since Tim Couch in 2001. It reminds us of last year, when there was talk that the Browns “must” trade Phil Taylor because they signed Desmond Bryant, or that they “must” trade Jabaal Sheard because they drafted Barkevious Mingo.

Since when did depth at the most important position become a problem?

Just as importantly, the Manziel pick was not made with Week 1 in Pittsburgh this fall in mind – this pick was made with the next 10 to 12 years in mind. Manziel doesn’t need to start Week 1 for the selection to be considered a success; so let’s just take a step back for a minute and let this thing play out.

It was only the first round, but Farmer definitely won the day. Now it is up to Pettine and the players to start winning when it really counts.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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