Prior to the NFL Draft, rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel attracted his share of supporters and critics who opined about his chances in the league.
Merril Hoge, a former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and current analyst for ESPN, offered some of the toughest criticism of all in the run up to the draft on May 8. With the Browns set to play the Steelers in the season opener Sunday and rumors of a possible Manziel package, Hoge, in a radio show appearance Wednesday morning on WDVE in Pittsburgh, made it clear he hasn’t changed his opinion one iota.
“He really had no business being drafted in the first round,” Hoge said of Manziel, the 22nd overall pick. “When I was doing the draft and I was going through and studying him, I actually got done and it’s the first time, aside from when Tim Tebow came out, there’s nothing, nothing he does that transitions to the National Football League. There’s not one skill set he had where you say ‘Gosh he’s a first-rounder.’ Really nothing.”
Hoge said Manziel’s draft-night text to Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains asking to be picked so that he could “wreck this league” came across as something a “juvenile punk” would do and that it angered many players and coaches.
As for the Manziel package?
“If you’re on the Steelers defense, you want him on that field. He has no business being on the field right now,” Hoge said.
Asked about Hoge's comments Wednesday, Browns coach Mike Pettine referenced the critic's days with the Steelers. "Where did he play again?" Pettine quipped.
“He's entitled to [his opinion]. I get that,” Pettine said. “I don't want to sit here and respond to individual reports. I don't have a relationship with him, and I don't think I've ever met him. I don't want to be in that business of responding to individual criticism.”
Pettine said he also recognizes the media landscape that exists now.
“I just know in the age that we're in of sensationalism that a lot of times that people that want to be heard have to make bold statements in order to bring attention to them,” he said. “That's something that I think is a regular occurrence in this league.”
Hoge was plenty bold as the interview went on.
“This will be the saddest, quickest ending we’ve seen in quite some time. It’ll be like a Tim Tebow,” he said. “He is exciting. They keep coming back to it, and I go that’s great but it’s not a skill set that transitions in our league.”