If Johnny Manziel feels at all indebted to undersized quarterbacks for helping pave his path to the NFL, the names could range from Doug Flutie to Drew Brees to, of course, Seattle Seahawks second-year star Russell Wilson. But Manziel might also tip his cap to Seattle coach Pete Carroll, who first saw fit to give Wilson a chance.
At a Monday Super Bowl XLVIII news conference, Carroll indicated that NFL front-office bias against smaller quarterbacks like Manziel could be holding its guard at an all-time low, in part due to Wilson's success.
"It's at least turned some heads. For the other guys that have played before him that didn't quite get the chance for that same kind of a stigma, he has opened up the doors," Carroll said. "It's exciting to see that that has happened because there are a lot of marvelous athletes (that) we're seeing right now. Johnny's a great example of an incredible athlete that might not have been considered as highly now that Russell has had the success."
Manziel is among several quarterbacks who could be drafted early in the first round by a glut of clubs in need of a quarterback, beginning with the Houston Texans, who hold the No. 1 overall pick and are getting some unique pressures to invest that pick in Manziel. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings are other clubs who could invest a top-10 pick in a quarterback, according to NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's breakdown of each team's needs.
Manziel was listed at 6-foot-1 by Texas A&M, perhaps a bit generously, and he'll be measured to within an eighth of an inch at the NFL Scouting Combine next month. The former Heisman Trophy winner has been the college game's most dynamic player the last two year's with his uncanny scrambling skills and vastly improved passing.
"It's kind of silly, really, that it has happened this way because the right thing is to get the best players out there and let them play and whatever the results show you, that's the basis of your opinion of guys," Carroll added. "Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. I'm really grateful that we figured that out a little bit with Russell. He just kept being Russell and showed us what he was all about. So, I think it has had an impact."
How much that impact speeds up Manziel's draft-day call remains to be seen, but it won't hurt to have the NFL's smallest starting quarterback on the league's biggest stage in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.