Last season while writing a story for the Houston Chronicle about the Texans' focus on character, I talked with general manager Rick Smith about what that means to him.
Quickly, I learned that the perception that the Texans value character above all else was one that Smith disagreed with. To him, a player's character is important as it relates to what he does on the field.
The Texans take plenty of chances on players with questionable off-the-field pasts. Sometimes those chances work better than others. But would they gamble with the most important position on the field, with what might be the most important draft pick in franchise history?
They will if they think he can win. That's the only question that matters.
What the Texans have done so far at the position hasn't worked. The even-keeled David Carr and Matt Schaub never made off-the-field headlines the Texans didn't want. Instead, those quarterbacks made plenty of cringeworth on-the-field headlines. At their best, their play was as bland as their quotes and more dependent on everything around them than you want a quarterback to be. At worst it cost the Texans big.
Which brings us to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who will enter the NFL draft according to sources. An electric personality is not a reason to draft someone, but it doesn't hurt. More importantly, Manziel's ability to improvise, his success at scrambling out of problems (6.3 yards per carry during his time at Texas A&M) even against the fast and physical defenses he faced, and his increasing comfort at passing from the pocket could make him a successful NFL quarterback.
I'd have concerns about his size, especially since Texans coach Bill O'Brien likes big quarterbacks, his durability and whether he would resort to his legs too often. Improvisation isn't always necessary. That's a lesson Texans quarterback Case Keenum learned the hard way.
But I wouldn't have concerns about the celebrity lifestyle he's embraced.
He's already shown the ability to be an elite player despite the partying with models and Texas fraternities. The NFL spotlight won't be bigger than the one that's on him now, though the league's media rules will force him to be a more public face than he's allowed to be in college.
Save for egregious criminal offenses, the only kinds of character concerns that scare the Texans away are ones that will impact someone's play. So far Manziel has shown that his antics haven't.