1500 ESPN SportsWire

Zulgad: Let's hope Vikings don't catch Johnny Football fever this week

by Judd Zulgad, 1500ESPN.com Updated 18 months ago | 7874 reads

Here's hoping that NFL executives are able to show far more sanity than many of us in the media.

If that's not the case, Johnny Manziel will be the top pick of the Houston Texans in May and it won't even be close. At least that's the impression you came away with Thursday after watching the quarterback go through his Pro Day before 75 officials from 30 teams at Texas A&M. (The Bears and Browns did not attend.)

The latest mock draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper that had Manziel going to the Vikings at No. 8? Get ready for that to be adjusted.

Kiper's employer and the NFL Network were just two of the entities that provided breathless reports about how Manziel completed 61 of 64 passes to six receivers.

How did Manziel handle the pressure from rushing linemen or how successful was he in pump-faking against the safeties?

C'mon, don't be a killjoy.

The only other living and breathing humans on the field on a Pro Day are the wide receivers, a few coaches, as well as team personnel and media members.

Actual guys playing defense? Now, you're just nitpicking. There was the pass Manziel threw as a coach pursued him with a broom in hand if you want to talk about operating under pressure.

Of course, there was the fact that Manziel took the additional step of wearing a helmet and shoulder pads as he threw passes against air. Somehow this was a big deal and you can expect it be all the rage on Pro Days going forward.

"You play the game in shoulder pads on Sundays. Why not come out and do it?" Manziel said. "For me, it was a no-brainer."

The hype over Manziel's Pro Day would have been sad if it wasn't so comical. A few weeks back there was great concern, as well as coverage, after Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater struggled during his workout. You would have thought the kid threw five picks in the BCS title game.

New Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was one of seven head coaches in attendance Thursday at College Station. Norv Turner, the team's new offensive coordinator, also was there, as were eight general managers.

The Vikings' Rick Spielman was among the GMs in attendance and, according to NFL.com, the Minnesota contingent will have dinner with Manziel on Thursday night. They'll have a more formal meeting with him Friday.

Manziel seemed to do all the right things on the field and give all the correct answers afterward. The latter only proves that he's smart enough to know that on a day in which he will be in the spotlight he needs to be on his best behavior.

Zimmer, according to a tweet from Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, shrugged when asked about Manziel's day and described it as a "different workout," and a "sideshow." (I already like this guy. Zimmer that is, not Manziel.)

Nonetheless, there undoubtedly will be a few, or many, who now will clamor for the Vikings to trade up to get Manziel.

But that's where one would hope teams are smarter than the rest of us. Unfortunately, this isn't always going to be the case, even though it should be.

It used to be the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis each February that left the media and fans attempting to break down workouts and interviews that really had nothing to do with football.

But then many top quarterbacks quick working out at the Combine, so they could throw to their buddies under a Pro Day format structured just for them. So now it's these workouts that have so many of us forming an opinion based on how the air played against a prospect's passes.

Is Manziel really as polished as he appeared on Thursday? Has he really fixed any flaws that showed up in his game last season? Can we believe that he's matured into a leader, as well a guy who can be the face of a franchise, less than a year after his off-the-field ways became a major story line? Is there any hope he can stay healthy in the NFL and not alter his style of play?

That last question might be the most important one.

Many want to compare Manziel (5-11¾, 209 pounds) to former Vikings great Fran Tarkenton, who was listed at 6-feet, 190 pounds.

My weekday radio partner, Phil Mackey, has commented that the NFL should have footage available on the Internet so the youth of today could go back and watch Tarkenton and draw their own comparisons.

If such film was available, the younger generation would find that Tarkenton proved to be a success because he did use his feet to avoid defenders and bought himself time while looking for receivers. But what they also would realize is the game was far slower and defenders were smaller, not to mention less athletic, than today's version.

The Tarkenton that played in the 1960s and '70s avoided injury, for the most part, despite his scrambling ways. Can Manziel do the same? Maybe, but it's going to be far more difficult.

That's why Manziel's work on his Pro Day should be a very small piece of the puzzle that goes into making the decision about his future as an NFL quarterback.

Turner, for one, seems to understand that's the case.

"I think coaches and scouts want to see a quarterback physically throw the ball," Turner told the Cleveland.com website. "You get to watch game tape and see how he plays. This guy is an amazing player, and then you see his physical skills. It just helps to see a guy in person . . .

"Here's the deal: You only get so many opportunities to evaluate a player, and to not use every single one of them makes no sense to me. We're going to exhaust every opportunity to evaluate a player. You get an opportunity to meet with a guy, and who knows what will come out of that? It might be something good . . . If you're allowed to do these things, it makes sense to do them."

You just can't put too much stock into them. Not in this case at least.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
More from the 1500 ESPN SportsWire » Buxton's debut foreshadowed his year, but don't write him off, GM says » Twins fans who responded on our Facebook want Hunter back next year » Zulgad: Unanswered questions mean outlook on Wild is much different » Kyle Rudolph exercising patience as Vikings work out protection woes » Touch 'Em All podcast: Should Torii be back with the Twins next year?