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Manziel Puts On A Show For The Pros

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Whether you liked Johnny Manziel as a prospect coming into his Pro Day or disliked him, did you see anything that would change your mind one way or the other? Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.
Whether you liked Johnny Manziel as a prospect coming into his Pro Day or disliked him, did you see anything that would change your mind one way or the other? Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

You have to give Johnny Manziel credit for one thing.

The kid sure knows how to put on a show.

Pro Days are entirely contrived events to begin with. A prospect creates a controlled environment, on his turf, with his teammates, working out according to an agenda he's scripted. Pro Days have all the spontaneity of a dance recital, the improvisation of the State of the Union. Any college kid would love it if he could launch his career the same way. He'd invite his prospective employer to campus, have the job interview conducted in his dorm room, surrounded by his buddies. It's the ultimate homefield advantage, and Manziel made sure he controlled everything the coaches and GMs would see from him on Thursday.

He kicked things off by addressing his guests from the middle of a makeshift huddle, thanking the gathered NFL decision-makers surrounding him for findng their way to College Station.

He chose to wear a helmet and shoulder pads because, hey, isn't that what guys wear when playing football on Sundays?

Then he went through a series of throwing drills to demonstrate to the eight NFL coaches in attendance that there's nothing in their playbooks he can't handle.

Only one throw hit the floor. It was the lone misstep in a perfectly choreographed outing.

Except that none of it was authentic. Not the welcome gaggle (a transparent attempt to establish his humility), not the pads (a blatant sleight of hand to avoid looking like the slight sub-6-foot quarterback he is.) Taking the snaps under center . . . that was new. I guess that box can be checked -- Johnny Manziel can walk up to the line, casually wipe his hands on a towel hanging from the center's waist, and take a snap with no ticking clock and no threat of a pass rush. Check.

In a way, it was vintage Manziel -- a purposeful projection of the quarterback he wants to convince everyone he is -- and at the same time the anti-Manziel. The guy became a college football icon because of what he did off-script. You don't want to see Robin Williams deliver lines; you want to see him improvise. That's when the magic and madness happens. And we got none of that Manziel on Thursday. We couldn't. Pro Days are not the venue for a genuine football performance.

Instead, it was a determined effort to control the message -- right down to the Nike product line launch. And we came away knowing nothing that we didn't know coming in. Can he roll to his right and throw accurately downfield? Yes. Does he have the velocity to deliver short and intermediate throws on time and on target? Yes. We knew that already.

We learned nothing that would address the biggest concern on the minds of any coach who is considering taking Manziel -- especially the guys from the Texans, Jaguars, Raiders and Vikings, all of whom might be considering him in the top 8. How will Manziel survive under NFL pressure? 

Not the pressure of game situations. The Johnny Football Show is big time; we saw that throughout his two years of college football folklore. Former presidents don't drop by to watch just anybody throw a football around a practice facility. 

I'm talking about the pressure he'll face from an NFL defense. The pressure of being pursued by defenders as fast as he is, who are considerably bigger and stronger than he is. Will he stay in the pocket? Can he take a hit? Air didn't lay a hand on him on Thursday. Having a coach wave a broom at you like the windmill on a mini-golf course is not the same as pressure. You may crush the ball on the driving range, but that has no bearing on what you're going to do standing at the first tee in the Masters.

And that's the key takeaway from Thursday's show.

Johnny Manziel looked great showing you exactly what he wanted you to see. And he couldn't show you anything you really needed to see to make up your mind about him.