By: Alex Hale (@TheCLESportsGuy)
Every year there seems to be that one prospect who splits writers and scouts alike right down the middle. It doesn’t matter what they do on the field, it’s a created perception of the players character that everyone is fascinated with and won’t stop talking about whether it’s positive or negative Without question the most polarizing prospect in this year’s draft is Oklahoma’s QB Baker Mayfield. Writers and Scouts alike have drawn comparisons to Baker Mayfield’s play and some of his antics to former Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel. The question though becomes, is the comparison warranted? Both were of course electric personalities who tore up College Football with their play, but other than that, that’s where the comparisons really stop. To truly understand the differences between the two, you got to understand their backgrounds on top of their play on the field.
We all by now know the background of Johnny Manziel. His parents were very successful and were able to give anything Johnny wanted growing up. In ways, Manziel didn’t understand the consequences of certain actions growing up that when he got into college, he was reckless with his actions thinking he could do whatever he wanted. In ways his reckless off the field behavior made his collegiate accomplishments much more remarkable. By the time Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, he had this attitude that he could do no wrong, especially in a city where the Browns fanbase treated him as a savior, his lack of work ethic that was always a problem started to show not just off the field, but on the field against players who are dedicated to their craft and playing at a much higher level. Whether Manziel had the ability to scramble out of the pocket and make a big play downfield was irrelevant by then. His lack of fire, passion and work ethic that he had while he was growing up and especially while in college caught up to him in the NFL and is the sole reason why he’s not playing in the NFL and also why he’ll always be known as a Draft Bust.
Baker Mayfield comes from a very tight knit family that works hard for what they got. They also raised Baker to remember where he’s from and who he is and time after time he comes home to give back to those lives he’s touched and those who have touched him, he doesn’t forget those. Baker looked up to his older Brother Matt, who was a walk-on Baseball player at Texas A&M. Matt has been essential in his life, especially during the week after the Kansas game and the controversy surrounding it. His parents were there for Baker as well, but it was his brother who was his rock at that time. It shows that the family is united and won’t let anyone of them slip without having a hand to guide them. Unlike Manziel’s father, who all but abandoned Johnny Manziel at his worst and told writers that he expected his son to end up dead if he doesn’t seek help, Baker Mayfield at his worst moment after being arrested said the hardest thing he’s ever done was to make the phone call from jail to his parents. Here lies the biggest difference between the 2 men when it comes to their upbringing as an outsider. Manziel seemed to have a strained relationship at his worst moment with his parents and only cared for himself. At Baker’s worst moment, he was mortified to tell his parents of what he did. We can all say Baker is cocky and flamboyant just like Manziel was, but the actions in their lives show us one thing, Baker Mayfield’s actions are one of someone who is passionate about playing the game and quite honestly is like a kid on the field. Manziel was someone who liked to show you up, the actions were rubbing it in.
When it comes to my opinions of the players and their personal lives I will admit, I’m an outsider and while I’ve read numerous articles and stories, I’ve taken these articles and created my own assumption to how they’re different personalities as an evaluator.
But what most people care about is how did they play in college and are their styles in any way similar? The answer to that once again is an emphatic NO. In the case of Johnny Manziel he took over Texas A&M and made Kevin Sumlin into a superstar Head Coach. Manziel was once a highly touted recruit who at one point was being strongly recruited by Chip Kelly at Oregon. Manziel would go to A&M instead and quickly become the star of the team. Once Manziel’s star rose and he was a Heisman Trophy winner, Manziel was given much more control over the Aggies offense and the freedom to really do whatever he wanted in the offense. While most would agree from his college tape that Manziel was reckless as a QB, he somehow got the job done and made plays when it mattered most and that’s when people at Texas A&M and even some evaluators overlooked the fact that he never really ran an offensive system in college. What they missed was Manziel had one of the most talented WRs in Mike Evans and had a deep WR core that included a 5 star Freshman in Ricky Seals-Jones. Manziel big, physical targets that could bail him out when he made a bad throw and the talent of Evans alone is one that every college QB dreams of teaming with. In ways, if Manziel didn’t do well with the players around him, he shouldn’t have even considered going to the NFL. But he thrived thanks to the talent he had around him and in ways the freedom given to him in the offense to let, “Johnny be Johnny”. By the time he was selected by the Browns and was in the NFL, he was forced to run an offensive system and didn’t have the same talent he had at College Station. More importantly, the coaching staff didn’t have a system that let Johnny be Johnny. In a nutshell, Johnny Manziel is the perfect definition of what the System QB is.
Baker Mayfield on the other hand have said that Baker is just another System QB, but the reality is he’s not that at all. First off, Baker Mayfield’s rise to stardom has been the complete opposite of Johnny Manziel. Mayfield wasn’t highly regarded at all and got very light interest before he went to Texas Tech as a walk-on. Once he arrived at Texas Tech, he not only made the team as a walk-on, but won the Quarterback job as a Walk-On Freshman. In his first game he threw for 413 yards and 4 TDs against SMU. He would throw for over 2000 yards and complete around 64% of his passes. He only lost the job due to injury and lost the job to now New York Giants QB Davis Webb. He would leave Texas A&M to pursue his dream to play for Oklahoma. Again he would walk-on and have to earn his spot as the starting QB and would do it again and as we know the rest is history. Baker Mayfield unlike Manziel has had to earn his spot everywhere he’s gone and against all the odds time and time again he prevails and silences his critics. One could say it’s because of Oklahoma’s system and the lack of defenses that lead to some believing that their are inflated stats that make Mayfield a fools good QB. To debunk that myth, Oklahoma is a school that has produced a QB recently in Sam Bradford. Now some may question why I put him on here, but the reality is that if Sam Bradford isn’t a fragile QB, his play suggests that he would be a Top 10 QB if he can stay healthy. Oklahoma’s system requires a QB that can make quick decisions and make the smart throw. To compare with Manziel, Mayfield hasn’t had the same weapons at Oklahoma that Manziel had at Texas A&M. He didn’t really have the big, physical WR that can bail him out. Instead Baker Mayfield had WRs like Dede Westbrook, Sterling Shepard, and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, all smaller, quick, route running WRs that require the QB to anticipate and place the football to where their WR can get it and get loose in the open field. The only reliable big target he had was Mark Andrews, his TE. Baker never had the same freedom that Manziel had in his offense at Texas A&M, he ran the plays and always looked to execute the play and in the worst case he would try to do something himself, but he relies on his teammates and always did everything he could to bring them up. Baker Mayfield was the leader that Oklahoma needed and understood how to run the offense effectively.
The question after all of this is simple…is it fair for evaluators to say Baker Mayfield is just another Johnny Manziel? If they’re only going by the one arrest and the crotch grab incident, it’s understandable, but you’re not doing your job as an evaluator or a writer because you clearly don’t know how different these two men are. One has been given everything he ever wanted and took it for granted. The other is a man who has had to earn his spot everywhere he’s gone, nothing has ever been given, it’s always been earned. One didn’t even really run an offensive system in college, so he was doomed to fail in the NFL. At the very least the other has an understanding of how important an offensive system is and how to learn and make the most of of it. When you look at everything between these two men, there’s nothing there but false narratives. It’s nothing but lazy scouting by those who shouldn’t be speaking out without doing their homework.
To paraphrase former Vice Presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen, I end with this message to the Cleveland Browns beat reporters and any person who compared Baker Mayfield to Johnny Manziel…
I watched Johnny Manziel, I know who Johnny Manziel was, Johnny Manziel played for MY TEAM, BAKER MAYFIELD IS NO JOHNNY MANZIEL.