O'Brien's probably not buying what Manziel's selling

O'Brien's probably not buying what Manziel's selling
February 22, 2014, 3:15 pm
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Friday was a big Johnny Football day at the NFL Combine. 

His effort to convince the Texans to spend the No. 1 overall pick on him in May’s draft continued unabated. 

He’s seen the light. Johnny Manziel is no longer Johnny Football. That was just a phase. Someone told him to use the word “hone” a lot. He did so five times in his Combine press conference.

We know by now that Manziel’s communicated with Cam Newton and Tom Brady and he’s being tutored by Kevin O’Connell. O’Connell was a third-round pick of the Patriots in 2008 -- the year Brady was lost to a blown ACL. He is tutoring Manziel in the ways and means of Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, who was a Patriots assistant while O'Connell was spending all of 2008 and training camp of 2009 with the Pats before being cut just before the start of the '09 regular season. 

Lotta advisors there for JFF.

But if Manziel really wants to be the No. 1 overall pick, you know what he needs? Someone who’ll tell him that the more you dare/challenge/finger-wag at a guy like O’Brien -- which in my view is what Manziel’s sales pitch has done -- the more likely O’Brien will ask where the (bleep) you get off challenging him when you haven’t peed a drop in the NFL. And the more likely O’Brien will view you as a salesman/brand advancer who covets the trappings that accompany being the No. 1 overall pick as much as you want to play football for the team that happens to hold that selection.

Bill O’Brien -- like a lot of us from Massachusetts -- is a born cynic. You approach us with a smile and a pitch, we get a little edgy and need to figure out your angle. Even if you have none.

You say you have a chip on your shoulder and tell us that we’ll live to regret an action -- as Manziel has done to O’Brien -- then you almost ensure that action will be taken.

Born in Dorchester, schooled at St. John’s Prep, college at Brown, five years a coach with the Patriots -- who organizationally loathe self-promotion -- it is part of O’Brien’s professional DNA to regard Johnny Manziel as the antithesis of what you want in an employee.

I’m sure if they were both 21, they’d have a great time together. But I’m dubious that O’Brien wants his head coaching fortunes attached to Manziel, especially coaching in Texas where all things JFF are going to be covered breathlessly.

But Manziel is a celebrity quarterback. The final one of Bill Parcells’ 11 Quarterbacking Commandments is, “Don’t be a celebrity quarterback.”

Is Tom Brady a celebrity quarterback? Yes. But the quarterbacking has never been compromised by the celebrity because the quarterbacking came first and the celebrity aspect of it has been strictly managed. Same with Peyton Manning.

And while Manziel keeps on lobbying, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles has a different set of intangibles that may speak to O’Brien.

Bortles will be throwing at the Combine, unlike Manziel, who -- despite his proclamation of “extreme” competitiveness -- begged off and will throw at his Pro Day.

He’s smart, has great size -- 6-foot-5, compared to Manziel’s 5-11 7/8 -- played under George O’Leary at UCF (O’Leary and O’Brien coached together at Georgia Tech) and is extremely unassuming.

As for the concrete, Bortles chewed a hole in Penn State’s defense, throwing for three touchdowns and 288 yards in a 34-31 win over O’Brien’s Nittany Lions last September.

Knowing what I know of Bill O’Brien -- and I know him OK, though I wouldn’t say we're close -- my belief is he’d find Bortles more palatable than Manziel. 

There’s a truism in writing, public speaking and sales that Manziel and Camp Johnny needs to come to grips with if they want the Texans to take them.

Know your audience.