Birds pass on Johnny Football

ASSOCIATED PRESS Johnny Manziel , with commissioner Roger Goodell after going to Browns at No. 22.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Johnny Manziel , with commissioner Roger Goodell after going to Browns at No. 22.
Posted: May 09, 2014

NEW YORK - Johnny Manziel once reneged on a verbal commitment to Chip Kelly.

Kelly returned the favor last night.

Kelly, who coached Oregon when Manziel backed out and went to Texas A & M and has long gushed over Manziel's abilities, declined to pick Manziel with the 22nd pick.

The Eagles traded the pick for the Browns' 26th overall pick and a third-rounder. The Browns ended Manziel's misery.

The Eagles picked Louisville pass-rushing linebacker/defensive end Marcus Smith at No. 26. Or Jon Harris, again.

They hope not.

Kelly wasn't the only decision-maker who passed on Manziel. So did 20 others; a referendum on Manziel's size issues; his passing mechanics issues; his issues' issues.

As the two Texas teams passed on him, his dream of home-state stardom eroded. The Texans hardly could pass on a talent like Jadeveon Clowney at No. 1, but by the time Jerry Jones dissed his little buddy by drafting guard/tackle Zack Martin at 16, Johnny Football's striped shirt became prison garb.

He was jailed, sitting backstage at Radio City Music Hall, as talking heads from the NFL's two flagship networks provided the soundtrack for his shame. He was a little boy denied his wishes, unable to compute how the world finally told him, "No."

He must have been seething, making a list of teams that will regret passing on him, no?

"There's no list. Or bitterness. Or grudge," Manziel said.

Not even against Chip, or Jones?

"It could have been a possibility," Manziel said of Kelly. As for Jones:

"I don't know if the world could have handled that, honestly," Manziel said.

At least he didn't lose his sense of humor.

As cruel fate would have it, Manziel's table was situated at the backstage-area exit. Every single player picked had to pass Manziel's table, pause there, then step into the spotlight.

A spotlight that Manziel owned for 2 full years. Whether electrifying college football with two runs at the Heisman Trophy or mortifying sports ninnies with petulant tricks and tweets, Johnny Football built a legend.

Last night, in the first round of the NFL draft, it was diminished.

Meanwhile, South Carolina defensive end Clowney stood a half-head taller than his NFL draft peers, appropriately, since he clearly is the class of the class.

He couldn't wrap that dreadlocked melon around the fact that he had joined Andrew Luck, Mario Williams and the Manning boys as the first player taken in the NFL draft.

"It's a lot of pressure," Clowney said, then made it a few atmospheres more oppressive.

"Hopefully, I'll be in the Hall of Fame one day," he said.

That might have been true before the Outback Bowl in January 2013, in which Clowney's ferocious hit in the Michigan backfield popped a running back's helmet off.

Since then, Clowney withstood a season of injury, illness and constant double teams and triple teams, which limited him to three sacks.

He also endured the fallout from the statements by notorious foot-in-mouth South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who revealed that Clowney doesn't practice hard.

He practices hard enough for Houston.

The rest of the evening was all about Johnny.

The Rams screamed to everyone who would listen that they would not take a quarterback in the first round, and proved it at No. 2 and No. 13.

The Jaguars chose big-framed, big-time project Blake Bortles third, over Manziel, which set up Bortles to play in his home state; he played high school and college ball in central Florida, 2 hours from Jacksonville.

Then Cleveland traded back from No. 4, ultimately, to No. 8 . . . to not draft Manziel. The Browns took cornerback Justin Gilbert.

Manziel's options were dwindling.

Tennessee passed at 11, standing pat with Jake Locker. Next spot: Dallas, where Tony Romo already occupies the spot of Overrated Prima Donna.

Sorry, Johnny.

The Ravens and Jets had no need, and so Manziel's wait entered a third hour.

Of course, Green Bay had no need for quarterback help at No. 21 - it has the best one already - so it fell to Chippah.

Who passed.

The Manziel crash overshadowed the more interesting facets of the evening.

Four offensive tackles went in the first 19 picks, just one fewer than last year's tackle-heavy first round.

In a draft deep with receivers, the league brass kept its heads and generally picked players who matter on every down. All of those tackles as well as four linebackers went before the fourth receiver. That happened to be little Brandin Cooks, who was a possible speed replacement for the Eagles, who cut DeSean Jackson.

The Eagles felt no need to replace Jackson's speed last night.

And no need to acquire the NFL's lastest three-ring quarterback circus.

They were not alone.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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