After watching Russell Wilson help lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl XLVIII victory, Johnny Manziel knew his path to NFL success might have just become a bit easier.
Wilson was too short to fit the mold of a traditional NFL quarterback, but he did just about everything else required of the position, and possessed bigtime athletic ability that allowed him to overcome any perceived deficiencies.
"I think he has kicked the door wide open," is how Manziel put it in an interview with the Houston Chronicle before the NFL Scouting Combine.
Indeed Manziel was a first-round pick in last year's draft, and nearly two years after Wilson led the Seahawks to that Super Bowl win, Manziel and the Cleveland Browns will face Wilson and the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
Manziel and Wilson are different in as many ways as they are similar, but Wilson's success still affected the way the Browns and other teams viewed an athletic-but-undersized quarterback.
"I think anytime that you're looking to take someone that doesn't fall within quote-unquote, 'industry standards,' you're going to look around and see if there are other people," Browns coach Mike Pettine said on a conference call with Seattle-area media. "You're always going to look for the similarities and see if it can be done."
Manziel hasn't spent his career trying to emulate Wilson exactly, but he also realizes being like Wilson would be a pretty good goal considering how well the Seahawks quarterback is playing these days.
"I've watched him," Manziel said on a conference call. "I wouldn't say I've studied him intensely. Anytime a 3 or 4 o'clock game out here comes on and Russell and the Seahawks are playing, it's definitely fun to watch him. He's had a lot of success. You definitely want to emulate him in those ways. I think he's a great leader, I think he extends the plays for that offense and really makes it go. A guy that's playing at a very high level right now, just as good as anybody in the league, in my opinion."
Of course while the physical similarities are obvious, Wilson and Manziel's career paths have been quite different. While Wilson won the starting job before the start of his rookie season and has never looked back, while also enjoying a controversy-free career, Manziel has been in and out of the Browns' starting lineup more for off-field issues than because of his play on it. Manziel is back in the starting lineup, having returned to that role last week in a win over the 49ers, and he hopes his rocky past is behind him.
"I definitely don't try to disrespect the game or anything like that," he said. "I just have a little bit of a different style, I hope I'm not disrespecting the game. Have I made it hard on myself and embarrassed myself, and probably the NFL in the process with some of the things that I've done over the past couple years? Sure. The only thing I can do now moving forward is make sure that I'm not making those mistakes and hold myself to a higher standard that I'm trying to do moving forward."
And with Manziel back in charge of the offense, the Browns played one of their best games of the season, gaining 481 yards in a 24-10 victory, with Manziel completing 67.7 percent of his passes and throwing for 270 yards.
"He's done a lot of really good things in the offense," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He had a fantastic game against San Francisco. He looks very comfortable playing in their style. It's a wide open style, a lot of play actions and movements and things like that. The things that you watched him do as a college player, you can see in the offense. His ability to create and move really well, he finds receivers well out of the pocket. He does a nice job in the pocket too. He'll hang in there, stand in there, fire it down the field too. I think he gives them a really diverse offense that we recognize with the mobility at the quarterback spot is very difficult to handle."
Wilson may have kicked the door open, but Manziel knows he has work to do to fully take advantage of his opportunity and to make the Wilson comparisons more apt.
"It's not about what I say right now, it's about what I do," he said. "Coming in here every day ready to work and ask questions, ask the right questions, take good notes, keep your head down."
The Seahawks and Cleveland Browns have met 17 times in the regular season, with the Seahawks winning 11 games and the Browns winning 6 games. Before their 18th matchup this Sunday at CenturyLink Field, take a throwback look at moments from every game dating as far back as 1977.