In the middle of a lengthy delay during last night’s Seattle/San Francisco NFL game, former general manager Scott Pioli was asked by NBC’s Dan Patrick for his opinion on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The ex-Chiefs and Patriots front office man was given Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson — who’s been very successful — as a possible comparison:
“You’ve got one player who has a great deal of maturity, and you have another guy who everyone is concerned about with his maturity level…
(His position plays a role) because this is going to be the leader of your football team, the leader of your franchise; probably the face of your franchise. The last thing you want to do is put someone in that position with those issues that’s going to be representing your club.”
Asked point blank if he would draft Manziel, Pioli said: “Today? I would not draft him. What I would be doing is spending my time finding out and chasing the ghosts of the issues that he has.”
Pioli’s record in Kansas City can be thrashed, but his time in New England was pretty darned solid. His response shows just how careful GMs might be when it comes to drafting players with any kinds of issues in the aftermath of Aaron Hernandez’s troubles. (For the record, Hernandez was drafted by New England after Pioli had left for Kansas City.)
Interestingly, saintly Tony Dungy sorta/kinda agreed with Pioli: “I think he’s a special player. I think he makes other guys around him better. He excites his team. I like Johnny Manziel. Scott Pioli mentioned the off the field thing… that is what you have to figure out. He’s right. You don’t want the leader of your franchise, the face, to have questions off the field, but I like him as a player.”
Ex-player Rodney Harrison took a different stance: “He’s a top five pick… If you have an opportunity to draft him, he’s such a special player and he’s so rare, you have to draft him.”
We’ll likely find out next spring just which NFL franchises are A-OK with signing Johnny Football. A redshirt sophomore, Manziel is expected to bolt to the pro ranks at first chance. If he keeps his head down and his nose clean for the next half-year, it might go a long way toward erasing some NFL execs fears about him.