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Touching All the Bases

A couple of reasons why the Patriots are bringing Johnny Manziel in for a visit

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I think we can all agree that Bill Belichick digs football more than just a little bit, right? Probably doesn't regret the career choice.

It's not just the Sundays, either. He's made it his life's work -- and succeeded at that work, that calling, arguably better than anyone who has ever risen to a similar position in NFL history -- because he loves all of it. The competition and preparation, the history and strategy and evolution, the players and coaches and Sabols of different generations.

All of it.

Except for the Jets.

I think that very fundamental observation regarding Belichick serves as a partial explanation for the football mystery of the day: Why is he bringing in Johnny Manziel, the charismatic and unconventional Heisman-winning Texas A&M quarterback, in for one of the Patriots' 30 allotted pre-draft visits?

I don't think he can resist. Belichick loves football so much that he's fascinated by the outliers. His coach's curiosity kicks in and he can't help but do some up-close window shopping on an uncommon and polarizing prospect like Manziel. Belichick has an appreciation for the unconventional, especially at quarterback.

Sometimes he even has a roster spot. Belichick has been something of a patron saint to the Island of Misfit Quarterbacks.

He brought in Doug Flutie to be the drop-kicking backup in his final NFL season, 2006. He took Tim Tebow, who may well have had square wheels, to dinner in the North End -- accompanied by a football, which Tebow tossed to himself on the street afterward -- before the 2010 NFL Draft, an apparent interest which may have baited Belichick once-and-current understudy Josh McDaniels, then on his own with the Broncos, to lunge for him with the 25th overall pick.

After the earnest but irreparably scatter-armed Tebow performed a football miracle or two there before the law of averages caught up with him, he got a brief look from the Patriots.

bishopmichaelfinn42.JPGBelichick even kept a fast, strong-armed, clueless kid named Michael Bishop around for a year in 2000 among their four quarterbacks, including that certain sixth-round pick, No. 199 overall -- Tom Brady.

Of course, there's probably much more to it than Belichick just wanted to get a first-hand look at an intriguing player without all the ancillary nonsense of the Manzielapalooza Pro Day.

There are a couple of degrees of due diligence at play. There's the Advance Scouting Theory, one espoused by a couple of the more respected football writers in the city, which posits that Belichick wants to pick Manziel's brain (as well as that of fellow Foxborough visitor Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville) to build a file on him in case he ends up with a division rival.

And then there's the actual possibility that the Patriots have a decision to make. It would be a shock if Manziel (or Bridgewater) fell to the Patriots at No. 29 in the first round. But the time is coming when they will have to begin the search in earnest for Tom Brady's successor -- it certainly is not Ryan Mallett. If in this allegedly quarterback-rich draft a prospect that they perceive as excellent value begins sliding down the board in an Aaron Rodgers/Brady Quinn holy-#*@*-this-green-room-is-lonely scenario, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Patriots could target him.

If Manziel isn't chosen when the Vikings botch make their pick at No. 8, he could slide. I'm not sure he'd get past the Jets at 15 or the home-state Cowboys at 18 (Jerry Jones must see him as a potentially great wingman at the Coke Poke Bar 'N' Grill).

Manziel's talent is obvious. How it will translate to the NFL is not, and then there's the matter of his maturity. Some of the controversy from his college career, such as Autographgate, was absurd and overblown. But there are enough red flags regarding his maturity that it will give some teams a reason to pass on him beyond whatever concerns they might have about his football measurables.

It reeks of envy in a lot of instances to give a kid a hard time about having a good time in college. But there's also the harsh reality of the NFL: Unless you are Favre-level gifted, you'd better become an adult a hurry, or the party will end before Don Meredith has even finished the first verse.

I tend agree with Ron Jaworski's words regarding Manziel:

"I'm still of the mind that he presents too big of a risk to select with your Round 1 pick."

But wouldn't it be something if the Patriots, currently situated at the back of the first round but giving Manziel a look-see just the same, are one of the franchises that actually has to make that decision?

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