It is a little early, but it will be interesting to see how Johnny Manziel is treated by the media and fans in relation to Robert Griffin III. They are on similar arcs: former Heisman Trophy winners acquired by franchises in dire need of star power at the quarterback position.
Right now, Griffin has to be scratching his head at the ebb and flow of his third season with the Washington Redskins. Two weeks after being dragged into a wood-chipper by unimpressive first-year coach Jay Gruden—signaling to all listening that RGIII was in his last days in D.C.—the team has been turned back over to him. There are even reverberations flowing out of the Nation’s Capital that he will be back next season.
This development comes after he performed in the first half similarly to the Griffin of two years ago who was the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Griffin before his knee was badly scrambled in a playoff loss to Seattle. Gruden tried two inferior talents at Griffin’s spot, Kurt Cousins and Colt McCoy, and together they did not amount to one Griffin of two years ago.
But the fans booed him—Redskins fans booed him and the media skewered Griffin about his work ethic and practice habits and deemed his “fall” one of the more spectacular in NFL history. Turns out, he fell, but he got back up.
If Griffin is scratching his head, Manziel must me shaking his. After a performance that ranked as high-schoolish in his first NFL start last Sunday, the best thing that can be said about it is that he survived.
He threw for less than 100 yards, had two interceptions in scoring territory and did not lead his team to a single point.
Good for him that his coach did not embarrass him further by outlining his errors, as Gruden did Griffin. Still, Manziel seemed overwhelmed and out of place, something that was not surprising to some but shocking to others who believed he has the goods.
He still might, but the goods must still be in the grocery cart. He clearly has farther to go than many rookies in becoming a factor at the most important position in sports.
Will the fans turn on him as they did so quickly on Griffin? Will his coach, who elevated him to starter, keep him there as he grows into the position? Will he blossom into a true quarterback under a coach who showed obvious disdain for him for weeks?
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Robert, man,” Gruden said, “and for what he goes through at the quarterback position, what he has already accomplished as a young quarterback and what he is going to accomplish in the future. How we coach them in here is how we coach him, but we can’t let the outside world affect what we do in here. And the whole idea of coach/player relationship is to get better every day and work on our game, work on what I do, work on what I can do to make him better, and that’s the bottom line. That’s all we can do. That’s all we want to do.”
Did not seem that way when almost daily he was targeting Griffin instead of himself for the team’s miserable record.
Meanwhile, Manziel, who is playing under offensive minded Kyle Shanahan, the same Kyle Shanahan who coached Griffin for two years, has a leash, but how long will it extend? Griffin had a terrific rookie season, was injured much of the second and earned little patience from Gruden.
How long before Manziel is booed to the bench by fans, roughed up by the coach and projected to be somewhere else next season? If what he did in his first start is an indicator, it will not be long.