It makes sense that Roger Staubach would be partial to mobile, gun-slingin' quarterbacks because that's how he approached the game both as a Heisman Trophy winner at the Naval Academy and a future Hall of Famer with the Cowboys. It helps explain why he thinks Tony Romo can win a championship, and it also sheds some light on why he's so high on Johnny Manziel's NFL future.
"I love watching him play," Staubach told Yahoo.com's Frank Schwab. "There's just something about him. He's exciting to watch. You don't have to be 6-5. Drew Brees proved that, and we see it with Russell Wilson. It really about instincts and arm strength. Size, it's being shown, is not imperative if you have those qualities. ..
"If you take the 32 NFL quarterbacks in just shorts, throwing to targets, you won't be able to say 'This guy is better than this guy,' Staubach continued. "They've got to have that feel, and can make the right play. It's that ability to understand what's happening and make those eight or nine plays that make a difference in a game. Figuring out if a guy has that inside of him is the challenge for NFL scouts."
From the perspective of mid-September, NFL personnel folks seem to be mixed on Manziel's NFL potential. He's undersized and doesn't have the strongest arm. Then there are the off-field issues. Still, the Texas A&M quarterback has a knack for playing his best when facing the country's top programs.
Prior to the Texas A&M-Alabama game earlier this month, one AFC assistant director of college scouting told MMQB.com's Greg Bedard that he was initially turned off by Manziel's offseason troubles, but (and there always seems to be a but with Manziel) "[W]hen you separate it and you think about it -- I did some stupid stuff when I was his age -- he's just being a kid. He just happens to play for a high-profile team at the most high-profile position. He just makes plays. He has that knack, that natural feel to just make plays. I'm impressed with the guy. He doesn't flinch, he's not intimidated. There's no moment that seems too big for him.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban agrees.
“I think Johnny's a unique player," Saban told Bedard. "Many people have said about these guys, like [Robert Griffin III], that they're not really NFL-style quarterbacks. But yet they're all doing pretty well in the NFL. I think when somebody's as instinctive as [Manziel] is, and as fast as he is, and as athletic as he is, and he's developing into a pretty good passer -- I mean last year he really developed as a passer -- I do think he has an NFL future.”
We'll have to wait a year -- and maybe two if Manziel returns to Texas A&M in 2014 -- to see if that NFL future will look anything like the success he's enjoyed in college.