The Houston Texans don't seem like they're dying to take Johnny Manziel with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. And with a super talent like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney looming out there, that's a perfectly reasonable position. It's one I've argued for myself many times — you just can't pass on the chance to grab a once-in-a-generation game changer like Clowney.
But Manziel sure isn't going to make it easy for the Texans to go elsewhere. Not for an instant.
Johnny Football serves notice of that with a Pro Day for the ages — arguably, The Greatest Pro Day of All Time. OK, it's not much of a debate. The show Johnny Manziel puts on inside Texas A&M University's indoor practice facility Thursday afternoon is clearly The Greatest Pro Day of All Time. He's redefined the event and made it into something even the most hyper-ambitious NFL marketer couldn't have dreamed up.
Who else could lure a president to make an arduous trip to watch it live and cause the best player in the NBA to treat a glorified workout as appointment television?
Manziel manages to make the star power — and all the pre-Pro Day jokes about the ridiculous build up — secondary to the performance
There's George H.W. Bush showing up fashionably late, getting driven into the workout on a golf cart with the love of his life Barbara Bush along for the ride. And there's LeBron James rising in time to catch the NFL Network's breathless live coverage after a late, fairly important game in Indianapolis the night before.
"Just finished watching my bro @JManziel2 pro day!! Don't take him if u want 2. He's a flat out STAR! Accuracy on point! #StriveForGreatness," LeBron tweeted about his friend and fellow highly-paid Nike man.
But it's not just the unprecedented Pro Day star power — or even the way Manziel manages to turn a decision to buck convention and wear a helmet and shoulder pads for his Pro Day into its own major story — that makes Johnny Football's day reign supreme. It's the way Manziel turns up the pressure on himself and delivers. Again.
For Manziel manages to make the star power — and all the pre-Pro Day jokes about the ridiculous build up — secondary to the performance. He completes 61 of 64 passes with only two balls hitting the ground. Most impressively, he bombs deep balls that are every bit as impressive as anything Blake Bortles — the so-called prototype 6-foot-4 NFL quarterback — unleashed in his own Pro Day.
"His arm strength is very much on par with Blake Bortles," NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock says on the NFL Network, in the midst of it all. "And I don't think a lot of people believed that going in."
They believe it now. After Manziel punctuates his workout with a 60-yard strike down the seam to Mike Evans, the Top 10 NFL Draft talent worthy wide receiver reduced to a footnote amongst all the Manziel Mania, there's little doubt about that arm.
"Boom!" Manziel yells after that last deep ball, running up to connect with Evans again for a flying chest bump.
"I think he's been extremely impressive," former NFL All-Pro quarterback Kurt Warner practically gushes on the NFL Network.
It's the stuff of budding legend. It's pure Johnny Football.
Did you really expect anything less? This is what Manziel does. He shows up when the lights go on. He's at his absolute best when people think there's a danger he may embarrass himself.
Just ask Nick Saban. Alabama's smug leader spent an entire offseason meticulously plotting a revenge beat down of Johnny Football and Texas A&M. Only to watch Manziel scare him to death again and drop 42 points on Bama in a seven-point loss, setting up something of a blueprint for Auburn to eventually topple college football's modern day beast.
"My main thing is I'm not scared of anything," Manziel says in a post Pro Day sit down with the NFL Network (they even filmed and aired his every move in walking to the makeshift set). "I don't play that way. Why should I be scared in an individual workout?"
The Houston Texans No. 1 NFL Draft Fear
Now the Houston Texans have reason to be afraid of passing on Johnny Manziel. When Manziel vowed that Bill O'Brien, Rick Smith and company would regret such a decision during his throwing in the San Diego surf public relations push, the talk rang sort of hollow.
Now? After 61 of 64, after deep throws on the run . . . not so much.
"His arm strength is very much on par with Blake Bortles. And I don't think a lot of people believed that going in."
If Manziel falters in his Pro Day like Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater clearly did, the Texans find themselves with even more of a cushion. They're holding another out to possibly explain going with Clowney.
That's not what happens though. Instead, Manziel makes the call to go in helmet and shoulder pads. "Isn't that how you play football?" Manziel asks, flashing a grin for the camera. Instead, Manziel delivers an emphatic reminder to O'Brien, Smith, Philadelphia Eagles coach and offensive innovator Chip Kelly, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen and the dozens of other NFL folks crammed into the sidelines, that there's real football talent to go with that star power.
The idea of passing on Johnny Manziel on May 8 suddenly isn't so easy to stomach. That doesn't mean the Texans still shouldn't do it. But the possibility of real deep regret is now very much in play.
"We were striving for perfection," Manziel tells the NFL Network and LeBron and Aaron Rodgers and all the rest who are watching him live.
He's close enough to up the pressure on the Texans to be right. There's no longer any easy performance reason to rationalize away passing on Johnny Football. You can't argue his arm is not big enough now. You can't question his ability to make pro throws.
A big-time Houston lawyer buying highway billboards to plead the Manziel cause has no effect on an NFL team. The Greatest Pro Day Ever means something. Johnny Manziel's clearly raised the stakes. No doubting that.