Yeah, I cringed as I wrote that headline too. Not necessarily because of Johnny Manziel, but more so the broad subject matter. It pains me to entertain draft speculation in early February, only days after the Super Bowl. But if it relates to the first overall pick and the most polarizing quarterback set to be on the board, we have to listen. And then we can choose to either laugh or applaud gracefully.

In a few short weeks once the calendar flips to March, the draft will still be in the distance, but the yearly speculation exercise won’t feel so bad. Pro Days will be ongoing, many anonymous scouts will be saying many erroneous things, and Nolan Nawrocki will be on a college campus somewhere being completely gutless. But right now Manziel will still grab our attention in the early going, and the latest appetizer yesterday was a rumor that he could be targeted by the Houston Texans at first overall.

It’s a loose and vague one of course, as they all are at this stage. But it’s a reminder that we may be entering a brave new world where Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the assumed, no doubter first overall pick.

Here’s the sizzling rumor, which comes to us by way of Russ Lande through his “GM for a day” series, which is of the highest quality:

While the Texans have only $6,100,000 in cap space, cutting Matt Schaub is no done deal: they will wait until they feel 100-percent confident in one of the quarterbacks available with the first overall pick. According to trusted sources, the Texans are initially leaning towards taking either Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel with the top pick. Although Manziel would obviously be the choice of owner Bob McNair, O’Brien is not sold that Manziel possesses the work ethic and intangibles necessary to be the face of a franchise.

Somehow and some way, the Texans will surely take a quarterback, and it’s just a matter of which quarterback. Between Bridgewater, Manziel, and Blake Bortles, this is a strong class up front, but the former Texas A&M frat boy is the greatest wildcard. And risk isn’t exactly ideal for a franchise aiming to climb out of its quarterback hole dug by Matt Schaub and his pick six spree.

I won’t dive into the intangibles Lande hints at and new head coach Bill O’Brien is apparently concerned about, because that’s a fancy-word way of saying “he drinks a lot”. But I’ll direct you to what I wrote about a month ago when Manziel officially declared for the draft (this pretty stupid play is referenced):

There are a handful of similar plays that you’ll see repeated on an endless loop from now until early May, and they have the same common elements. Manziel makes an incredible and unbelievably athletic play to escape a rush, the sort that parallels or even exceeds anything we’ve seen from the current batch of NFL quarterbacks who come to mind when you hear the tag “mobile quarterback”. Then he heaves a desperation prayer jump ball which should be intercepted, and his plea to the football gods above is answered.

That won’t fly in the NFL, but he’s no Tebow in the sense that his arm and throwing mechanics are infinitely better, as if his college career is indeed over he finishes his two seasons with a completion percentage of 68.9, and 9.1 yards per attempt to go along with his absurd 2,169 rushing yards. Manziel’s decision making can be developed, but that natural athleticism can’t be, which is why a team will take the leap and make him a first-round pick.

I’m still really early in my tape study and draft homework, a process that will kick up several gears once I get back from a week drinking things in Cuba. So I reserve the right for my perception to change.

But as of right now, that’s who I believe Manziel is: a quarterback whose ceiling is high, as is his potential purely because of athleticism that can’t be taught, but his decision making is often lacking. That makes him a risk at first overall, but under the right quarterback whisperer said risk is minimized.

Isn’t that why the Texans hired O’Brien?

More notes, reading, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

The Peyton Manning character assassination

Yesterday I tried to define what exactly a legacy is, since that’s the thing to do right now with Peyton Manning. Ultimately the conclusion any reasonable-thinking person should come to is that, while both Manning and his entire team played poorly Sunday night, something as grand as a player’s legacy can’t sway dramatically after one game. Football is inherently a small sample size with its 16-game seasons, and one-game playoffs. So with a term like “legacy” that’s intended to cover an entire career, why do we insist on making it even smaller?

With Manning, it gets worse. As Chase Stuart writes in his excellent piece, for whatever reason over the years his losses on a grand stage have stuck out far more than his accomplishments on the same stage, even though other quarterbacks on his level have experienced similarly monumental face plants.

When Tom Brady leads the greatest scoring offense in NFL history to 14 points against a defense that allowed 22 points per game during the regular season, it does not become part of his narrative. When Joe Montana leads the 49ers to just three points in back-to-back playoff losses to the Giants, those games are pushed to the footnotes section of his biography. When the favored Colts were shut out by the Browns in the 1964 NFL title game, that goose egg did not become indelibly intertwined with the legacy of Johnny Unitas. Our memory of Otto Graham‘s 1953 season is that it was one of the greatest quarterback seasons in football history, even if he went 2/15 for 20 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in a losing effort in the NFL title game. We remember Sammy Baugh as one of the greatest players ever, forgetting that he was the face of an embarrassing 73-0 loss to the Bears in the 1940 championship game. For most quarterbacks, ugly playoff performances are quirks of history; for Manning, they become bullet points in a character assassination.

There are so many reasons why Richard Sherman is the best

There’s never really a good time to call Richard Sherman “needle dick”. But right about now the anonymous keyboard douchebags of the Internet are about to meet a force they’ve never encountered: Sherman with a championship, and a lot of free time on his hands.

It seems the kind soul who initiated the contact here has since deleted her account, as is the way of the keyboard warrior. But let the record show the first shot said this:

Seattle beat Denver, but you contributed nothing and got carted off with an injury. Karma’s a NASTY bitch, needle Dick! :P

This man is a lunatic

Golden Tate is also the best

I remember a few years back when I used to also write about a sport us Canadian folk care about, the Boston Bruins went ham with their Stanley Cup party, cracking out a giant and expensive bottle of champagne. It was at that moment I learned what Ace of Spades is, and that any man who brings it to a party might just be the best.

So take a bow, Golden Tate

Not the best, and definitely the worst: Trent Richardson

Sadly, with a disaster of a Super Bowl now in the books, it’s time to start embracing the offseason. Right about now is when we catch our breath for a little bit before the Combine begins, which unbelievably is already upon us and is exactly two weeks away. Then that quickly bleeds into the free agency insanity in mid March, followed closely by intense draft scrutinizing in all of April and early May, and then oh look, August is here again.

The down time in the NFL calendar is something that hardly exists, and bring it. But right now immediately after the Super Bowl there’s a slight lull, which gives us time to pause and reflect. When granted this time, Rotoworld’s Pat Daugherty put together a list of the 2013 season’s most disappointing players from a fantasy perspective (and usually by extension, a reality perspective), and there’s only one name that can lead a list of that nature: Trent Richardson.

Richardson’s failure was so staggering, so comprehensive, that it’s hard to know where to begin. There isn’t a fantasy owner alive who doesn’t know the gory details, so instead of an avalanche of ugly numbers, we’ll begin with a comparison. Richardson is a first-round pick twice over. Andre Ellington was the No. 187 selection of last April’s draft. Ellington led the league with 5.52 yards per carry. That was nearly double what T-Rich averaged as a Colt, 2.91. Now you could consider this an arbitrary observation. T-Rich and Ellington are two very different players. But if that’s arbitrary, T-Rich’s numbers are capricious. He averaged 25.5 rushing yards per game over Indy’s final nine contests. He rushed for more than 40 yards four times in 14 games. His season high was 64. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry exactly once. In the playoffs? Richardson had as many lost fumbles (one) as yards (one). We’ll explore the “why” of Richardson’s 2013 in a future What Went Wrong?, but the “where” is unambiguously clear: In a gutter all by itself.


A man cutting into his knee does not scare NaVorro Bowman

I’ll freely admit that I wouldn’t be calm and cool enough to take a haha funny picture moments before major reconstructive knee surgery. But I am not NaVorro Bowman, a hulking slice of man who fears nothing.

The surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews (because of course it was), and now Bowman faces the long and unpredictable road to recovery after tearing his ACL and MCL in the NFC Championship game. Yes, you’ll point to the likes of Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III in recent years who suffered similar injuries late in the season or playoffs, and were on the field the following September. In Peterson’s case he was far more than just on the field as he nearly broke the all-time single-season rushing record. Griffin? Yeah, he was pretty much just on the field.

Bowman has that recent precedent in his favor, but this is the part when I remind any 49ers fans to proceed with caution here. An ACL recovery is still a delicate thing, and no two are ever the same.