We wrote about the end of Johnny Manziel the college football player last December as an ode to his polarizing figure and greatness playing for Texas A&M, and we looked ahead to his future. The Johnny Football roar that was almost deafening back then has slowly dissipated to a faint whisper, and it may be by no fault of his own.
You don't hear much about Manziel these days. An equally electric quarterback has taken his spot at Texas A&M; and although no one in College Station will forget Manziel, Kenny Hill has captured Aggies fans' attention during this young college football season.
Manziel now spends Sundays on the Cleveland Browns' sideline, observing, pow-wowing with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and occasionally running trick plays. His career is spinning in neutral, and the circumstances surrounding him could make it difficult to thrust his NFL legacy into drive. A job that once looked it would be Manziel's to lose has slipped quickly out of his grasp, and whether it will return is anyone's guess.
Here are a few reasons why Manziel's career may be grounded for a long time.
Brian Hoyer is Legit
Fans got glimpses of Hoyer's ability in 2013, when he took control of the Browns offense for two full games and the first quarter of another after incumbent starter Brandon Weeden went down with an injury. We saw a nice, corner-of-the-end-zone throw to Jordan Cameron here, a bomb to Josh Gordon down the sidelines there. Hoyer looked competent, an adjective that has not been used to describe a Browns quarterback since the team's return in 1999. But then he tore his ACL in Week 5, and the Browns QB position was thrown into chaos once again.
Fully recovered in time for training camp this season, Hoyer largely underwhelmed throughout the pre-season. He won the job anyway, but the Manziel fan club was just biding their time until Johnny Football was inevitably thrust into the starting lineup. Hoyer hasn't let it happen.
Playing with wide receivers who were considered the worst in the league going into 2014, Hoyer has thrived. In four games, the Cleveland native has thrown for over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. His completion percentage is north of 60 percent, and he's remained steady under center, whether he needs to bring his team back from a 20-point deficit or protect a slim lead. Hoyer has exceeded expectations by more than a mile, emerging from a hellish opening four games, three of which came against Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, at 2-2. With a soft schedule ahead and Hoyer playing lights-out, Manziel will probably be relegated to the bench for the rest of the year.
Watch Brian Hoyer celebrate with his teammates following their historic come-from-behind victory over the Tennessee Titans
The Browns Seem Content to Use Manziel as a Decoy
Manziel was involved in the coolest play ever that didn't count, but the Browns have used their "Manziel package" sparingly. He spelled Hoyer in Weeks 2 and 3, handing the ball off a few times and lofting one incomplete pass. But he didn't appear at all in last week's comeback victory over the Tennessee Titans. Browns head coach Mike Pettine seems content to bring him in for a snap or two every couple of games, but if Hoyer continues his hot streak, even these Manziel cameos might cease altogether.
He Was Given the Opportunity to Win the Starting Job but Couldn't Seize It
Neither Browns quarterback was particularly impressive during the pre-season, proving once again that exhibition games are a meaningless predictor of future performance. Manziel had his moments: a touchdown scramble, a vintage Johnny Football "run around for 10 seconds, avoid eight defenders then throw a beautiful pass," but he couldn't string together enough consistent plays to unseat the veteran Hoyer. This was to be expected from a rookie coming out of a system where a playbook didn't exist, and perhaps sitting behind Hoyer for awhile will do wonders for Manziel's career. But right now, his window to see any NFL action is tightly closed.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock