Commentary | Love Johnny Manziel or hate him, he is a good fit for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

adell@bradenton.comApril 11, 2014 

TAMPA

Be honest. Johnny Football makes your heart skip a few beats.

He was in town for a second sit down with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and admit it: You want Johnny Manziel wearing pewter next season.

At the moment, the Bucs have the seventh pick in next month's NFL Draft. Depending on what day it is, you don't know if Manziel will be available.

So if you are a Bucs fan, you continue to hope the former Texas A&M quarterback keeps getting verbally thrashed by his critics.

It might be upsetting that Hall of Famer Roger Staubach endorsed Johnny Football this week. Staubach said he would take Manziel with the first pick in the draft.

Fran Tarkenton, another Hall of Famer known for running in days when quarterbacks were not known for running, also endorsed Manziel.

When Manziel critics speak out, they slam him hard. Former QBs Phil Simms and Ron Jaworski, neither known for foot speed, have degraded him unmercifully.

But if you are a Bucs fan, that keeps hope alive.

"Get ready because the circus is coming to town," Simms said recently when asked about Manziel.

Well guess what: The Bucs were a circus last year with Josh Freeman, Greg Schiano and MRSA, making One Buc Place look as if the bubonic plague had resurfaced.

This offseason, Mike Williams made the Bucs look like circus act II. Before him, there was Aqib Talib, and you can throw in Kellen Winslow Jr. and Raheem Morris.

Simms questions what Manziel will be like when he loses his speed as if he is 21 going on 31. The Giants Hall of Fame quarterback says he is bothered by Johnny Football's size and arm.

Ok, Phil, we get the point. You don't like him.

But wouldn't you rather take the word of Naval Academy grad Staubach.

"Today in the league, the quarterbacks can fly; we weren't allowed to do that. I think Manziel is going to be a valuable player in the NFL," Staubach said.

Staubach, who turned himself into a multi-millionaire after his playing days, might have an affinity for smart guys, which apparently Manziel is. It was reported Wednesday that he totaled the highest score among NFL quarterbacks on the Wonderlic test, used by league teams to determine each player's problem-solving skills.

Manziel's excursion to Buc Land followed visits by Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo and Garrett Gilbert from SMU.

The player of interest could be Garoppolo, who has met with the Bucs twice.

He has some draft gurus saying he is the most ready out of this year's quarterback crop, but the Bucs might be interested because they are hoping he will be available when they exercise their second pick.

Anti-Manziel zealots say he and Bucs head coach Lovie Smith mix as well as water and oil, that Lovie is too conservative to have this guy running his offense.

But Smith seems to have changed since he was fired in Chicago because of subpar productivity at the quarterback position. He was at Manziel's pro day and there have two reported meetings between the Manziel and the Bucs.

"There are a lot of quarterbacks doing very well in the league that aren't your prototypical quarterback," said Smith, who has reiterated on numerous occasions that he wants a quarterback who can extend plays with his legs.

Pre-draft visits can be tricky smoke screens, history has proven.

Manziel visited Jacksonville prior to Tampa Bay, and many see the Jaguars taking him with the third pick, leaving the Bucs to select his favorite target at Texas A&M, Mike Evans.

The Bucs have the sixth pick in the second round (38th overall), and there is a good chance Garoppolo will be available.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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