Cleveland’s rookie Johnny Manziel would do himself a lot of good to pay attention to the QBs from 2006. If Manziel is smart, he’ll take particular notice of Charlie Whitehurst. Who? Charlie Whitehurst from Clemson University. Who? Clipboard Jesus, as he was known in San Diego.
The 2006 draft featured some outstanding talent, many of whom you would recognize today as 1st stringers in the NFL, including QB Jay Cutler. http://www.nfl.com/draft/history/fulldraft?season=2006 But Cutler got lucky. For Chicago, his powerful arm out-weighed his lack of self-care that cost him his career in Denver. He has since turned that around. Manziel could get lucky like Cutler, but I doubt it. His last few months have shown he’s on a path similar to Matt Leinart and Vince Young. Remember them? Heisman trophy winning USC quarterback Matt Leinart and outstanding Texas QB Vince Young? They were two of 2006’s most promising stars. Both young men led their schools to national titles (though Leinart’s has since been stripped by the NCAA); their success seemed eminent. Indeed, both showed promise in their first year in the NFL, but it faded quickly. They were college hot shots who did not enter the NFL with humility and focus on football, and both ultimately failed.
Then there’s Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst has been one of the most consistent, reliable, and respected #2 back-ups in the NFL. Even in salary, Whitehurst is currently #2 of the QBs from the 2006 draft in both contract value and guaranteed money. http://www.spotrac.com/rankings/nfl/contract-value/quarterback/limit-50/
So what can Johnny Manziel learn from Charlie Whitehurst? For one, humility. No one really knows who Whitehurst is, but that does not affect his work. (This is true for many in the NFL.) Another, teamwork. To own the #2 spot the way Whitehurst has is remarkable. The work ethic and commitment to team success it takes to learn how to step into a key role at a moments’ notice is important to recognize. For some players being #2 has been their way to learn the game in order to one day become a starter (i.e. Aaron Rodgers to Brett Favre in Green Bay), but for Charlie, it has been his way of contributing to the success of his team. I wonder if Johnny realizes he is playing for a team.
In an interview on Mike & Mike on ESPN radio this week, NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe’s comments on Manziel resonated with me. http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=11343386 Sharpe said that Johnny needs to show more respect for his leaders. Manziel’s been asked multiple times to “tone it down”, and what does he do? He goes to Vegas and posts on social media. Then he was late for a team meeting (which per my mother is one of the most disrespectful acts). On 8/18, Manziel “flipped off” his Washington opponents…during a pre-season game…for teasing him from the sidelines. Can you imagine Johnny at the office? Yikes.
Is Manziel skilled? Yes. Talented? Yes. Mature? Not seeing it. Leader? Not seeing it. Will he succeed in the NFL? Not if he stays on this path. I’m not saying that Johnny is destined to be, or should plan to be, a #2 QB for life. I am saying that he should embrace his current #2 spot and learn a little humility to pair with his confidence. There are a lot worse places to be than #2. If he stays on this path of seeking personal stardom, he will fall into the pool with Vince Young and Matt Leinart, in the stands (and perhaps a commercial). Meanwhile, Charlie Whitehurst will probably still be in uniform on the sideline with a clipboard…and a big NFL paycheck.
** Disclaimer: I am a Clemson alum. However, this opinion is formed from data.