Skip to main content


Kevin O'Connell focused on 'the million little things' with Johnny Manziel

The allure to look beyond the 2015 season is understandable given the Browns' circumstances, but that's not how Kevin O'Connell is wired.

The way the first-year Browns quarterback coach sees it, there's too much on his and Duke Johnson Jr.'s plate heading into Cleveland's Nov. 30, Monday night game against the Ravens to waste a second on what Manziel's promotion to starting quarterback means for 2016.

"The way we handle this position and these guy prepare on the daily basis, it really is about the million little things," O'Connell said Wednesday. "You have to find the focus to attack because you never know what is going to be the play that produces a win for us. At this position right now in our offense, we are expecting a lot out of the quarterback position. For me to look big picture and for him to look big picture right now would be a mistake."

O'Connell brought it right back to the present after Wednesday's practice, the Browns' last before a five-day weekend. He wanted Manziel to focus on every repetition, every throw, every opportunity to improve from his best performance yet as an NFL quarterback Sunday at Pittsburgh.

That sort of mindset was pivotal in the early moments of Cleveland's loss to the Steelers, O'Connell said.

On his first snap of the game, Manziel dropped back, cocked his arm back and saw the ball slip out of his grip before he completed his follow-through. Fumble.

Faced with a third-and-long on the third play of his next possession, Manziel rolled out of the pocket, located Travis Benjamin and completed a long pass that went even longer because of Benjamin's run after the catch for a 61-yard gain.

"You can name the bricks that were stacked against him at that point," O'Connell said. "He finds a way to make a play and really has his best game as a pro. I was proud of the mental toughness that he showed to go along with what he did physically in that football game."

The biggest areas of improvement cited by Browns coach Mike Pettine and Manziel himself in the wake of the Steelers game were the throws and reads he made from within the pocket. Though Manziel and the Cleveland offense came up with the same amount of scoring plays -- one touchdown, one field goal -- as they did the previous game at Cincinnati, the production was far and away better against the Steelers. Manziel completed 33-of-45 passes for 372 yards and found success in all four quarters as opposed to the Bengals game, when he was completely shut down in the second half.

O'Connell said it's his job to make the position easier for Manziel, and emphasizing the easier throws from within the pocket and within the parameters of John DeFilippo's offense are a big reason why there was so much more production against the Steelers.

"If there is a completion to be had that can move the chains here, take it. If there is a sight adjustment or a hot route when teams are trying to pressure him that he can take away, he can allow his teammates to help him make plays," O'Connell said. "That will make the impactful plays like the run he had against Pittsburgh or some of the plays where he has gotten out of the pocket and really made impactful plays this season, they just carry a little bit more weight when they are the plays they come in spurts instead of six or seven, eight times in a row where we are trying to make that game-changing play in a row because you are just not going to be able to do it at this level."

The fine line comes with not coaching the special aspect of Manziel's game out of him. O'Connell said Manziel's had it his whole life and knows how a highlight-reel run like Manziel's 11-yard scramble against the Steelers can change a game and provide the quarterback with even more confidence than he carried into it.

"You watch him play early on and he has been able to do things like that," O'Connell said. "Trust me, we sit back sometimes and you rewind the tape a couple extra times when you see him make some of those plays."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content