I tried to be fair to Bart Hubbuch. I didn’t get into a flame war with him on Twitter. I didn’t call him out when he engaged in a “block party” with Browns fans. I know how nasty and defensive Cleveland fans can be. Part of recognizing our place in the wider universe is recognizing just how many faults we truly have. This time though, Bart Hubbuch revealed that even if he has some points about the Browns making mistakes in handling Johnny Manziel “mania,” he’s got some massive faults of his own on this issue and he’s really coming off like a baby. So, let me address some of what he said in his critical column of the Browns at the New York Post yesterday.
Let’s start right from the beginning. Here’s Hubbuch’s opening.
The Browns think they can control Johnny Football mania, which pretty much explains why this franchise is the NFL’s longest-running joke.
Cheap shot No. 1. Yes, the franchise is a long-running NFL joke, but any amount of research shows that the punchlines haven’t had much of anything to do with Ray Farmer, Alec Scheiner or the Browns media folks since Zak Gilbert took over. Maybe Gilbert and his crew will fail to handle Johnny Manziel effectively, but they haven’t fallen on their faces just yet and they aren’t holding the bag for Holmgren’s Colt McCoy concussion fiasco, for example. The debacle that was covered by Grantland? This had nothing to do with this current cast.
Never mind that The Post, like every other media outlet, was going to Cleveland with the expectation of writing a positive story — something that doesn’t happen too often for a sad-sack franchise with just two winning seasons since its return to the city in 1999.
And what kind of joke would the Browns be if they went against what they thought was the right way to handle a player coming into the league at the expense of really early and premature “good” press? They’d be a monstrous joke. They’d be selling their souls not to be the best football team, but for the best headlines. Maybe they’re being silly by cutting off media this weekend, but their motives are actually pretty sound. Hubbuch just wants their motives to align with his — a writer for the New York post — who is looking for page views and newspaper sales in New York.
The team’s stance ranks high on the hypocrisy meter, too. The Browns were more than happy to sell 2,500 new season tickets and a boatload of new Manziel jerseys (even LeBron bought one), yet at the same time they’re trying to act like the former Heisman Trophy winner is just another player on their roster.
It’s a balancing act. The Browns didn’t draft Johnny Manziel at the top of the first round for a reason. They obviously didn’t think he was the next Andrew Luck or RG3 who was clear and away ready to step under center right away. So, yes, they’re balancing between drafting a really high-profile player with potential to be a starter at some point vs. his popularity today based on what he did at another stage of his life. Hubbuch makes it sound like they couldn’t draft Manziel fast enough simply to sell jerseys and tickets. They passed on him twice if you think about it. Just ask Sammy Watkins and Justin Gilbert.
Next in reference to Jimmy Haslam’s statements about Manziel acting like a backup, Hubbuch takes cheap shot No. 2.
Yep, Manziel needs to just shut up and do his job, apparently. And be like the oh-so-professional Haslam, whose truck-stop chain is currently an indictment mill for the feds for defrauding their corporate customers out of millions of dollars.
I don’t think there’s any other website or outlet who has discussed, critically, the issues of Jimmy Haslam’s Pilot/Flying J than WFNY. The outstanding legal issues have real negative potential for the team and the fans if and when they come down. But, in this situation they couldn’t be any less relevant except that Bart Hubbuch is mad and wants to get a dig in. It’s fine if you want to make the case that the Browns are mishandling the Johnny Manziel media situation, but you don’t strengthen your case this way. I mean, why not drop some line about Staph infections and Kellen Winslow Jr. while you’re at it? Hey, did you hear the Cuyahoga River caught on fire 60 years ago? Stick to the point.
If the Browns weren’t interested in the “Hollywood” part of the Manziel package, they shouldn’t have drafted him. They can tilt at windmills all they want, but there’s no separating the two.
As I said before, it’s a balancing act. The Browns can only control what they can control and Johnny Manziel is going to be high profile all season long whether he’s starting or sitting on the bench. In the end though the Browns seem to understand that they don’t want to live their football lives for cheap pops. The only way to be relevant in the NFL is to win and win consistently.
Hours after signing his new, $40-million contract, Browns cornerback Joe Haden may have said it best. “When you’re on the field everybody’s going to see what’s going on. It’s not like anybody’s given free spots. You have to earn it. You have to win it.”
It’s a fun side-effect of this year’s draft that Johnny Manziel gives the team some more attention and jersey sales, but none of the stories penned here about Manziel ever had anything to do with marketability; they had to do with the fact that the Browns haven’t had a legit starting quarterback since Bernie Kosar; they had to do with the fact that this kid with only two years of college experience showed a fire, competitiveness and play-making ability that defied his “two-inches too short” stature.
Bart Hubbuch has Cleveland ties, having covered the team in the early 1990s for the Akron Beacon-Journal. Conversely, Hubbuch is the big man on campus at the New York Post who just can’t believe a media market like Cleveland had the gall to say no to him. And maybe he’s right that the Browns are “tilting at windmills” but the way he went about making his case and complaining publicly on Twitter (again) doesn’t help him make that point at all.