The next stage of the Cleveland Browns' decades-old quarterback nightmare goes something like this: Johnny Manziel does enough over the final three games of the 2015 season to increase his trade value without persuading the Browns to build around him. Cleveland ships Manziel to the highest bidder this coming offseason, unwittingly launching Manziel on his way to NFL stardom in another city. From there, the Browns use a 2016 first-round draft choice for the next Tim Couch.
"Only move Manziel if you absolutely think he cannot be the guy," a longtime NFL executive said after Manziel played well enough for the Browns to claim a 24-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14.
But we continued to chat, and that same longtime exec (a former general manager) reversed course by the time we finished thinking through the Browns' situation more thoroughly. The case for trading Manziel, though risky on multiple fronts, gained momentum when I sought another perspective from a veteran defensive coach.
"If you watch all the plays, you'll convince yourself he's making strides," this coach said, "but he'll screw it all up off the field and with streetball plays like the pick against the 49ers."
The Browns could have new leadership when the time for action comes, making this situation unpredictable beyond Manziel's own potential for volatility. For those forming an early opinion, I've put together five reasons why the team should be leaning toward making a clean break from the most talented quarterback on their roster.