I remember all the buzz and hype around Johnny “Football” Manziel on the first day of the 2014 NFL Draft. The speculation was nuts. Some even anticipated Johnny would remain in Texas, replacing veteran quarterback Tony Romo for the Dallas Cowboys. He ultimately ended up with the Cleveland Browns.
Once it was determined Manziel was headed to Cleveland, that was the end of any genuine belief he would have a fantastic rookie year — at least on my part. I didn’t see the Browns as being able to fix the various problems that held the franchise back for decades with this one signing. In retrospect, it’s safe to say signing Johnny Manziel was more of a move to pacify fans than it was to shift the Browns in a productive direction.
Here we are two seasons later, and Johnny Manziel is in “no man’s land.” Since being booted by the Browns in early March, Johnny has yet to attract a team willing to overlook his bad behavior, bad publicity, and upcoming criminal trial to take him under its collective wing. Making matters worse for Manziel? He failed time and again to demonstrate during gameplay and practice that he’s a player worth investing in.
The cold hard truth is this: Not every college player is cut out for professional football. The type of play that made Johnny Manziel so exciting to watch when he was at Texas A&M was stifled by the host of professional plays he’d have to learn for the Browns — while being aware of the various plays run by opposing NFL teams.
Instead of rising to the next level, Manziel reacted by running off to Las Vegas. I often wonder if he spent those precious weeks studying his heart out rather than partying how much different his life would be right now.
Johnny Manziel was committed to the fun perks of being a professional football player but has since shown a lack of commitment to the work required. Perhaps it’s because he failed to realize he wasn’t going to be a much-hyped NFL rookie forever.
Every year, thousands of young college football players dream of the opportunity to turn pro. Hundreds are given the chance, but only a precious few ever get drafted. Quarterbacks coming directly from college occupy rare slots in the first round draft process. Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts is something of a miracle.
Manziel was weighed, measured, and found wanting; he soon after found himself waived. Now his fame is a fading star as the NFL hype machine moves on without him. Last year’s NFL Draft darling was Marcus Mariota (although a case could be made he was joint-hyped beside Jameis Winston). This year, the first round hype was centered on quarterback Jared Goff, who was snagged by the newly re-minted Los Angeles Rams.
As sports reporters eagerly follow the new class of players on the field, there’s little inclination or interest to wonder when Johnny Manziel will return to play — and it’s looking less likely to be the case.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Johnny Manziel has until May 5 to turn himself in, having been indicted in Dallas on a misdemeanor assault charge. With that hanging over his head, the New York Post wrote that Johnny Manziel spent the second anniversary of being drafted into the NFL all alone in an Ohio bar. That came after the lowest of lows: Being voluntarily photographed at a Justin Bieber concert.
Although this sad turn of events is due to Manziel’s own actions, one is almost tempted to feel sorry for him. No one, not even my skeptical self, could have predicted that’s where Johnny Manziel would be only two years after joining the NFL.
But there he is — and it’s precisely where we should leave him.
An opportunity squandered is hard to watch, but perhaps we shouldn’t be watching at all. Until such time as Johnny Manziel commits to abandoning his self-sabotaging behavior, it’s probably best to close the book and move on.
“Until” is my attempt at being an optimist. We may never see Johnny Manziel play in the NFL again, and it’s hard to argue that it would be a terrible loss for anyone but Johnny himself at this point.
[Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images]