Johnny Manziel's well-orchestrated publicity campaign to become the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft is impressive.
Like most things with Manziel, it's relentless, bold, largely light-hearted and shrewd (no Johnny Football doesn't go shirtless in those dramatic photos showing him throwing in the San Diego surf). Manziel is doing a lot of talking — and the only thing more compelling than the former Texas A&M University star's guts-out play is his supreme self confidence.
It all makes for great theater. And means absolutely nothing.
For while Manziel talks — and vows that the Houston Texans will regret it for all eternity if they don't use that priceless No. 1 pick on him (or something like that) — the one person whose voice matters most stays mute. New Texans coach Bill O'Brien is already in full old school Bill Belichick bunker mode, hunkered down with his plans.
O'Brien talks about QBs like Bobby Knight used to talk about gym rats. He clearly wants a guy obsessed with spending time in the film room.
O'Brien is not sharing what he's thinking. And you can take any reports that claim otherwise — including the narrative that he's already questioning Johnny Manziel's work ethic — as the ridiculousness that they are.
The new coach hasn't said anything of significance since his introductory press conference at Reliant Stadium — the one with the marching band he probably hated.
What O'Brien did say about quarterbacks then — and in a national radio interview with Jim Rome later — indicates that a young quarterback already on the Texans roster is hardly dead in the race to be the team's No. 1 starter.
"In every position we want a good team guy," O'Brien said on intro day. "We want a guy that is a hard worker — physically tough and mentally tough. Smart guy, it doesn't matter what position it is. To me, it's a guy who understands the team concept and understands that it's not about individual stats or individual performances.
"It's about what's best for the team and being a good teammate, so whether it's quarterback or defensive end or linebacker or wide receiver, that's what we'll always look for here at Houston."
O'Brien talks about quarterbacks like Bobby Knight used to talk about gym rats. He clearly wants a guy who is obsessed with spending time in the film room, a guy who will pour over every detail to get a little bit better. Day after day after day.
There's no question current Texans quarterback Case Keenum has that drive. This is a guy who moved into an apartment on Kirby Drive so he could be minutes away from the Texans' Reliant Stadium complex.
Keenum Over Manziel?
It'd be easy to see Keenum and O'Brien bonding over a common devotion to crazy work hours. This is partly what made O'Brien and Tom Brady such a good, record-breaking fit during their time together in New England. Well that and Brady's now blinding talent.
There are plenty of eager doubters who question Keenum's talent of course. Unimaginative critics will always look at the former University of Houston record breaker as nothing more than an undrafted scrub. They fixate on Keenum's 0-8 record as a starter (forgetting he was a first-time starter playing for the worst team in the NFL) and the yardage he lost on sacks rather than the 1,760 yards he threw for, the 30 points he put up against Belichick's Patriots or the three touchdowns he dropped on the Colts in the first half of a Sunday Night Football showcase.
The Keenum Dismissers insist that he's already reached every bit of his potential, that there's nothing else there.
Don't be so sure.
"I'm going to be a million times better," Keenum insisted a few weeks ago at a Houston sports collectables show.
This isn't Johnny Manziel's the Texans Will Regret It Vow. That's not Case Keenum's way. He doesn't make proclamations about others. He only promises to raise his own game.
It'd be easy to see Keenum and O'Brien bonding over a common devotion to crazy hours.
Manziel's style is clearly more exciting. It makes for better copy and much more gotcha sound bites. I've long professed my own appreciation for Johnny Football's swashbuckling ways. But which do you think plays better with Bill O'Brien?
You can be certain that O'Brien will give Case Keenum a longer look than the Houston media. The coach will be pouring over the film, watching Keenum work and talking to the man to see what's really there. Especially with a supernova talent like South Carolina pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney sitting there as another potential No. 1 pick choice.
Case Keenum — who happened to turn 26 this Monday — is not the sexy choice. Forget that Johnny Football moniker. Manziel's the new age Joe Namath — minus the fur coats. But Keenum seems to fit the pattern of quarterbacks O'Brien's molded in the past. Matt McGloin didn't have a lot of pedigree or belief when O'Brien walked into the Penn State mess. Heck, McGloin was a former walk-on.
O'Brien turned into a future NFL starter. And it's impossible to forget that Tom Brady was once the ultimate underdog — a discounted sixth round draft pick — before becoming the Golden Boy QB. Now by the time O'Brien started coaching Brady, the quarterback was already an established Super Bowl hero.
But the relentless work ethic of a sixth round pick lives on in Brady. And it sure fit with O'Brien — through touchdown binges and sidelines screaming matches.
Sorry, Johnny Manziel hype mongers. Case Keenum sounds like a perfect Bill O'Brien quarterback. Believe it or not.