With the NFL draft seven days away and Johnny Manziel fever spiking across the country, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King spoke with five NFL experts to evaluate the NFL future of the draft’s most polarizing player.
It’s a fun, insightful read. While the Manziel reaction was mostly mixed — Doug Flutie liked him, Rich Gannon thinks he’s a mid-first-round pick, Kevin Gilbride sees upside, David Cutcliffe says “he’s the kind of guy you want to get your hands on” — former Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren wasn’t wowed at all when he watched Manziel’s Texas A&M game tape.
“I’m not that impressed with his throwing; too playground, too freelancey. But the way he plays, some of the things he does … he’s Favre-esque.”
Though the first two descriptions — too playground, too freelancey — sound like digs at Manziel, how can they be when Holmgren mentions Favre in the next sentence? Holmgren won a Super Bowl with Favre under center. In two years, Favre will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. How is Favre-esque a bad thing?
Turns out Holmgren was speaking about the early part of Favre’s career, when he’d try to force too many passes.
“Brett [Favre] has an epiphany [...] We were 9-7 and 9-7 in our first two years together. I said, ‘We’re going have to tone down some stuff.’ He said, ‘Mike, that’s just the way I play.’ I said, ‘O.K. But do you want to go to the Super Bowl or do you want to be 9-7.’ To his credit, he worked with me, knocked down the interceptions … Oh, God, I aged many years in that relationship. Someone’s going to have to do that with Johnny.”
To be fair, Favre was too playground and too freelancey for his entire career. It’s what made him so great and so maddening. Holmgren sees other problems too, including poor footwork and bad timing. He tells King that Manziel was more impressive at his Pro Day, but that’s not quite the same thing as doing it during a game.
“He’s most effective moving, scrambling; he gets a little lucky, but a lot of those throws are throws that most guys can make. When he really has to throw acruately, I don’t think he throws well enough. [...] Physically, he’s not exactly what I want. He’s not tall enough. That doesn’t mean he can’t it — Russell Wilson made it. But Russell also stepped into a perfect storm.”