In the early weeks of this summer, the Cleveland media and NFL fans have each been caught up in the aura of “Johnny Football”. The diminutive rookie quarterback has entered the NFL with more hype than most past Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks have. For all the national attention Manziel and the Cleveland Browns are getting; the focus to date has been more for what he has been doing off the field than on it.
Controversy and Manziel is not a new phenomenon. Before assuming the starting quarterback position as a freshman with Texas A&M, Manziel had to deal with a 2012 arrest resulting from a fight at a Texas bar. Once that matter was settled, Manziel would go on to have a historic 2012 season; one that would result in him becoming the first freshman quarterback to ever with the Heisman Trophy. Manziel’s sophomore season was excellent by most standards, but did not live up to the standard he set the year before. Not directly related, his off the field activities were once again not short of controversy. Manziel would find himself benched for the first half of Texas A&M’s opening game based on his involvement in signing autographs for money. While Manziel claimed to not know there was money involved, the NCAA and Texas A&M believed there was enough evidence to warrant the benching. While some felt the punishment was not substantial enough, there was clearly no definitive proof that Manziel knowingly signed autographs for pay.
Upon his arrival in the NFL, Manziel has drawn tremendous media attention; some of which was positive as the moribund Cleveland Browns franchise gained constant sports news coverage since selecting their new quarterback with the 22nd pick in the May NFL draft; far lower than many draft experts projected. Since being drafted; despite saying all the right things to the media about understanding his need to earn his keep in the league, his off the field antics have drawn criticism. It seemed that a week has not passed where Manziel was making headlines for his night life antics. Whether it is a Las Vegas pool party with NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski to his seemingly never-ending drinking out of champagne bottles at night clubs, Manziel has acted off the field more like “Johnny Football” as opposed to the Johnny Manziel that he has been portraying on the practice field. His actions of late has also drawn some criticism from former NFL players; including Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, who stated Manziel’s partying ways will shorten what could be a promising career.
Now granted, all of this extra curricular activity is happening during the off-season and there is a good chance that once training camp begins, the talented Manziel will be fully committed to earning the confidence and trust of his teammates and coaching staff. As for all his partying over the past 6 weeks, the fact is Manziel is a newly minted millionaire who is of legal drinking age; giving him every right to act as a young adult might. For the attention Manziel has gotten, nearly all of it has been a result of those closely monitoring and reporting on his whereabouts using social media to capture his every move than of Manziel seeking the attention for himself.
When all is said and done, the proverbial “Book of Manziel” will be written to include chapters pertaining to his off-field behavior; it’s inevitabe. As it has been such a prominent part of his recent past, ignoring such behavior would be improper. Heavy scrutiny in modern sports is just the nature of society today; where everyone with a smartphone feels the responsibility to report everything he/she sees in today’s social media driven age. What will ultimately matter most is now many pages of these career chronicles are devoted to his on-field exploits and how much his talents turn around the fortunes of a Browns franchise desperately seeking NFL relevance. The fan base in Cleveland has passed the point of desperation when it comes to craving a winner. So long as Manziel lives up to the promise his talents have long suggested, all the activities of late will be quickly forgotten.
Scott Duhaime is a New England Sports fan and former resident, transplanted to Ohio. Despite his new address, his passion for sports hasn’t diminished, but rather broadened to now cover the Cleveland sports scene. Scott’s sports commitment is best evidenced by his creation and continued contributions to Banner Day Boston and Banner Day Boston Radio .
Fox Sports: Emmitt Smith – Manziel will have short NFL career is he continues lifestyle
CBS Sports: PHOTO: Johnny Manziel and Rob Gronkowski Party in Las Vegas
TMZ: Johnny Manziel — Poundin’ Champagne … During U.S. World Cup game
ESPN: Johnny Manziel pleads guilty to single charge from 2012 arrest