How much of a horror show was Johnny Manziel’s overhyped starting debut with the Browns? Pretty bad, to be sure — 54 net passing yards and zero points in a blowout loss to the Bengals. Still, I came up with three Hall of Famers who had a worse one, rating-wise, and various other legends and No. 1 overall picks who struggled mightily as well. That puts Manziel in the middle of this group:
HOW JOHNNY MANZIEL’S FIRST NFL START STACKS UP
|1983||John Elway, Broncos||Steelers||8||1||14||0||1||0.0||W, 14-10|
|2005||Alex Smith, 49ers||Colts||23||9||74||0||4||8.5||L, 28-3|
|1970||Terry Bradshaw, Steelers||Oilers||16||4||70||0||1||19.3||L, 19-7|
|1967||Bob Griese, Dolphins||Chiefs||22||11||101||0||2||25.0||L, 24-0|
|2014||Johnny Manziel, Browns||Bengals||18||10||80||0||2||27.3||L, 30-0|
|2009||Matt Stafford, Lions||Saints||37||16||205||0||3||27.4||L, 45-27|
|1989||Troy Aikman, Cowboys||Saints||35||17||180||0||2||40.2||L, 28-0|
|2004||Eli Manning, Giants||Falcons||37||17||162||1||2||45.1||L, 14-10|
|1979||Joe Montana, 49ers||Cardinals||12||5||36||0||0||49.3||L, 13-10|
|2012||Andrew Luck, Colts||Bears||45||23||309||1||3||52.9||L, 41-21|
|1998||Peyton Manning, Colts||Dolphins||37||21||302||1||3||58.6||L, 24-15|
If you’re wondering how on earth Elway won that game — all the other QBs lost — the answer is: He sat out the second half with a bruised right elbow, and backup Steve DeBerg rallied the Broncos to victory.
As for Bradshaw, his first start wasn’t exactly well received by the Pittsburgh media. This how the Post-Gazette covered it. “I couldn’t hit the side of a building today,” Terry said. “I know I was late throwing the ball a number of times, which gave [the Oilers] a chance to cover up, but they were coming at me strong.”
But do the math. Elway, Bradshaw and Griese had worse days than Manziel did, and they went on to appear in a combined 12 Super Bowls, winning eight. I’m not in any way predicting similar success for Johnny Football. Just sayin’. First impressions can be deceiving.