CLEVELAND: Several signs point to the Browns dumping troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel at some point this offseason, but owner Jimmy Haslam isn’t quite ready to talk about a separation.
Breaking up is hard to do, and Haslam said he thinks the relationship can still be salvaged.
However, he acknowledged how disappointing it would be to discard someone the Browns had such high hopes for they traded up four spots to draft him 22nd overall in 2014.
“One of the reasons the Browns are in the condition they are is they’ve not drafted well,” Haslam said Thursday night during the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. “Our predecessors didn’t draft well, and we didn’t draft well. Anytime a No. 1 draft pick or any high draft pick is not successful and is not a big contributor, that’s disappointing to the organization.”
Haslam was asked whether he believes a change of scenery for Manziel would be best for the Browns and the former Heisman Trophy winner.
He responded by saying it’s a question for executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and coach Hue Jackson.
“They’ll make all those calls personnel-wise, including quarterbacks,” Haslam said backstage at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. “So I think that’s a question for them, probably for another day.”
Veteran quarterback Josh McCown encountered the same question.
“It’s hard for me to comment on that,” he said. “I want what’s best for him, and he’s a member of our team. So it’s what can we do for him to help him be the best member of the Cleveland Browns that he can in whatever role that is? So that’s what I’m for.”
Shortly after the Browns hired Jackson on Jan. 13, he did a series of radio interviews in which he repeatedly spoke as if the team would move on from Manziel and mentioned the possibility of drafting a quarterback second or 32nd overall in late April.
Jackson met with North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, a projected first-round selection, this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Wentz said the rendezvous went well.
Jackson also revealed Wednesday during interviews with Cleveland.com and 92.3 The Fan at Senior Bowl practices that he hasn’t talked to Manziel since he became coach of the Browns more than two weeks ago. McCown said he hasn’t talked to Jackson, but they have a meeting scheduled.
Regardless, Haslam said he believes the team’s relationship with Manziel can be repaired.
“Oh, yeah, I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Haslam said. “We talked to Johnny before he left [for the offseason]. I know a big deal was made that Hue hasn’t called Johnny yet. Well, we’ve got 53 players on the active [roster] and 10 more, and there were a couple of other real prominent players that he just talked to in the last day or two. So I’m sure he’ll get around to talking to him.”
But Jackson said recently a quarterback must “represent the organization well” and “carry the flag for us.” He wants “a guy that can help elevate this football team, not anybody that’s going to tear it down.”
He also made it clear if Manziel fled to Las Vegas the weekend of the Jan. 3 season finale while he was in concussion protocol it “would be a nonstarter with me.”
Meanwhile, Manziel’s off-field behavior has continued to raise eyebrows, especially because he spent more than 10 weeks last year in an inpatient rehabilitation facility specializing in alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
BustedCoverage.com recently published videos and photographs of Manziel, 23, partying Sunday at a bar in Dallas. One photo shows him drinking what appears to be a shot of alcohol.
Is Haslam concerned?
“I think Johnny made progress on the field last year. I think that’s undeniable,” he replied. “We have a certain expectation for our players and that includes Johnny, and he’s got to live up to those expectations.”
McCown said he has exchanged text messages with Manziel this offseason but wants to keep those conversations private.
Has he told Manziel it would be wise to make a good impression on Jackson and the rest of the new coaching staff?
“You ought to work hard no matter who the coach is and be on your best behavior no matter who the coach is,” McCown said. “So that’s my expectation.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.