How Johnny Manziel will fare in the NFL is one of the more polarizing debates in the world of sports right now and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon has weighed in, saying he is uncertain that Manziel’s skill set will translate to the next level. In an interview with SiriusXM’s NFL Radio program, he praised Johnny Football’s accomplishments at the collegiate level, but also criticized his game and said he will need to make some changes in order to have a lasting career.
He is one of the most amazing athletes to ever play college football, according to Moon, but he takes a lot of risks and gets away with a lot of things that he will not be able to in the NFL, playing against the best in the world. He added that what makes him undecided about Manziel’s chance at success in the NFL is that his ability to play from the pocket is unknown at this point, and changing his game to become a pass-first quarterback will be a necessity. “All of a sudden he will become a pocket passer,” Moon continued, “and can he do that on a consistent basis? That is something we would have to see him do more of, so we don’t know that he can right now.”
Love him or hate him, Manziel may have already replaced Tim Tebow as the most scrutinized amateur athlete ever. Even when the Heisman Trophy winner is being picked apart, he is usually being lauded at the same time. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden said he would love to have Manziel as a coach and he reminds him of Brett Favre. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath said you would have to be nuts to pass on Manziel. Yet, others have not been so kind. Former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer called Manziel arrogant and embarrassing, but also said he is one of the best college football players he has ever seen. Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and current ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski said he would not draft Manziel in the first three rounds because he has studied hours of game film on Manziel and came away unimpressed.
Moon may be accurate in suggesting that the 6’0″, 207-pound playmaker will have to tailor his game for the NFL. In his freshman year, Manziel was able to skirt defenders like he was almost invisible, rushing for 1,405 yards. Defenses adjusted in his sophomore season and he posted a more earthly 759 yards, but once the word was out about Johnny Football, his production on the ground was cut in half. And the word is certain to be out in the pro game, i.e. Michael Vick—another elite level scrambler whose slight frame has been unable to resist enough dings to keep him on the field. So, Moon may have sounded a bit harsh when he said that Manziel will not be able to play the game in the NFL like he did in college if he wants to be available for his team, but his point is more than valid.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat