It was not too long ago Johnny Manziel was sitting in the Fort Worth Club, just before accepting the Davey O’Brien Award as college football’s best quarterback.
He was assuring a handful of us there that, if Russell Wilson could be a successful NFL quarterback, so could he.
The morning after Wilson readdressed one of the dumbest play calls in the history of the NFL that directly prevented him from winning a second consecutive Super Bowl, the inevitable disaster that was Manziel’s rookie season finished when he became an Amy Winehouse song.
For those unfamiliar with the British rocker, the song for which she is so well known is called Rehab. The title says everything you need to know. It was released in 2006. The supremely talented, drug-abusing Grammy-award winning artist died in 2011 of alcohol poisoning.
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News on Monday that Manziel voluntarily entered a treatment facility does not mean he will meet the same tragic fate as Winehouse, or that his problems rival or are equal to her well-documented abuses. But now the standard has been set — he has admitted he needs help, and he has a problem.
Ultimately this train wreck is on Mr. John Football, but he had help — enablers and bystanders who did more than just watch this thing go down the NFL’s long Boulevard of Broken Dreams (that’s from Green Day, not Winehouse).
I’m not just talking about the laughable series of hot young women and sycophantic fools looking to help Johnny blow his money. I’m looking at Kevin Sumlin and Eric Hyman, and so many other adults, too.
Yes, I know both the head coach of Texas A&M and its athletic director tried to corral Johnny, but as is often the case, the best interests of Texas A&M trumped the needs of the kid. We know that in his time at A&M he was suspended, he had a run-in with the law, and he was given a stern talkin’ to by Sumlin and Hyman.
Ultimately, however, nothing any of the adults did mattered. Only they know how hard the Maroon-and-White grownups tried to reach this kid, but we all know that this was clearly another case of the tail wagging the dog.
The fans, myself and so many others in the media celebrated Johnny as being a crazy kid just having the type of fun we all wish we had been able to pull off when we were in school. All of the signs were there that he was an overly enabled arrogant brat, but...my God was he fun to watch. On the field. At the bars. In Vegas. In Austin. With girls. With rap stars. Even in the NFL Draft green room just sitting there waiting to be picked.
This guy had been a problem so big that even his dad conceded in a piece to ESPN The Magazine a couple of years ago that the proverbial light at the end of his son’s tunnel was not the sun, but an 18-wheeler. That his son was out of control.
Manziel has a penchant for being able to say the right thing — for verbally taking responsibility and sounding like a guy who gets it. Forty-eight hours later, he is back to the same behavior that got him in trouble. There are no less than 10 documented instances of issues with the Browns during his rookie season — from being late, nonchalant to ignorantly arrogant.
Now, if it wasn’t before, the fun is officially over. Now we are just voyeurs watching another case of high-profile jock tragedy porn. Rehab is not a joke, and for so many it’s a struggle that never ends.
How severe Manziel’s problem is only he knows, and perhaps his is not an addiction or dependency issue but a case of maturity and grasping some of the things we eventually all have to accept — there are just some things you can’t do when you have a job. And professional football is a job, hence the word “professional.”
If he thought people were watching him before Monday, anyone with a phone within a 30-mile radius of Manziel will be waiting to capture him holding a Shiner. Entering rehab usually leads to another dreaded “R-E” word: Relapse.
How Manziel reached this point, and specifically whether he had help or enablers, no longer matters. This is where he is: 22 years old with one horrible rookie NFL season behind him, and in a treatment facility to address...something. He still has a contract, he still has talent, and he still has a chance. But this will not last forever.
Personally, I thought Manziel would bust purely because of his size, insistence on improvisation and unproven ability to throw the ball accurately. That’s a bad trio for an NFL QB.
He is young enough that this does not have to be his life, and if he truly wants to be another Russell Wilson, he will read the following tweet that Wilson sent out Monday morning: “At 26 years old I won’t allow 1 play or 1 moment to define my career. I will keep evolving.”
Manziel would be wise to do the same.
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Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog
Since becoming the first freshman recipient of the Heisman Trophy at the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who just finished his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns, has made his share of unflattering headlines on the way to Monday’s entrance into a rehabilitation facility.
A timeline of memorable moments:
Jan. 4, 2013: Manziel caps his record-setting freshman season by racking up a Cotton Bowl-record 516 total yards (287 passing, 229 rushing) and accounting for four touchdowns in a 41-13 rout of Oklahoma at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Jan. 5, 2013: Manziel posts a photo on Instagram holding a handful of cash at an Oklahoma casino, accompanied by the caption “casino ballin.” He follows up with a tweet saying: “Nothing illegal about being 18+ in a casino and winning money...KEEP HATING!”
Jan. 6, 2013: TMZ posts a photo of Manziel, 20, in a Dallas nightclub holding a bottle of champagne while clenching a sparkler between his teeth. The picture was taken after A&M’s bowl victory over Oklahoma and TMZ reports that the club owner acknowledged Manziel’s parents were in attendance at the club, making consumption of alcohol by a 20-year-old legal under Texas law. The owner also said he did not see Manziel drinking in his club.
Jan.-Feb., 2013: Manziel posts multiple photos on his social media accounts documenting his travels to the Super Bowl (with his father), the NBA All-Star Game and Mardi Gras (with players from other SEC schools). Photos also surface of him onstage at a Drake concert.
Feb. 18, 2013: During a news conference in Fort Worth while being honored as the 2012 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award winner, Manziel tells reporters that his spring semester schedule at A&M consists exclusively of online classes, which has allowed him to travel extensively and avoid an on-campus spotlight that “turned into a little more of a big deal than I thought” after winning the Heisman. Manziel also dropped his first hint about plans to enter the 2014 NFL Draft as an underclassman, saying: “Regardless of how long I’m at A&M,...I’m going to enjoy the time that I do have and go out and try to win every game.”
June 27, 2013: Manziel is spotted at a fraternity party in Austin. A fellow party-goer poured beer on him before Manziel departed.
Aug. 4, 2013: The NCAA begins an investigation into allegations that Manziel profited from the sale of autographed memorabilia. Eventually, the NCAA and Texas A&M mutually announce that Manziel will be suspended for the first half of the Aggies’ 2013 season opener against Rice. Manziel enters the game in the second half and plays for the remainder of the season.
Dec. 31, 2013: Manziel leads A&M to 52-48 comeback victory over Duke in the Peach Bowl, his final college game. In two seasons, he finishes with school career records for passing yards (4,114), TD passes (37), total offense (4,873 yards) and completion percentage (69.9 pct.).
Jan. 8, 2014: Manziel, 21, files the paperwork to enter the 2014 NFL Draft as an underclassman.
May 8, 2014: Although ESPN cameras spend more time on him than any other prospective draftee, Manziel remains unselected through the first 21 picks of the draft. During the wait, Manziel texts then-Cleveland Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains that they should select him so they can “wreck this league.” Cleveland makes him the No. 22 overall pick, five spots after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones bypasses Manziel to select offensive lineman Zack Martin. Manziel does his “cashing out” hand sign as he crosses the stage following his selection.
May 26, 2014: Manziel surfaces in multiple online photos posted from a pool party in Las Vegas with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
June 7, 2014: Photos surface on social media of Manziel drinking from a bottle of champagne while riding an inflatable swan during a pool party in connection with the X Games in Austin.
June 15, 2014: An online video surfaces of Manziel attending Drake’s “Houston Appreciation Weekend.” In the video, Manziel is seen holding a stack of money and pretending it is a telephone.
June 27, 2014: Manziel tells reporters at the NFL’s Rookie Symposium that he is “not going to change for anybody. I am going to enjoy my time off.”
July 26, 2014: Browns coaches, owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager Ray Farmer meet with Manziel on the eve of training camp to discuss his off-field behavior.
Aug. 11, 2014: Manziel and other Browns rookies are fined for being late to a team meeting.
Aug. 18, 2014: During a preseason game against Washington, Manziel is caught on television making an obscene hand gesture at the Redskins’ bench. He is fined $12,500.
Aug. 20, 2014: The Browns name veteran Brian Hoyer as their starter, not Manziel. Manziel concedes that he is not yet prepared to be the starter.
Sept. 14, 2014: Manziel takes three snaps and throws one incompletion in his regular-season debut against New Orleans.
Nov. 22, 2014: Manziel, a friend and a fan are involved in a scuffle in a downtown Cleveland apartment building shortly before a scheduled team flight to Atlanta. Records show the fight took place at 2:36 a.m.
Nov. 30, 2014: Manziel directs an 80-yard touchdown against Buffalo, scoring on a 10-yard run. He does his “cashing out” hand sign after scoring.
Dec. 9, 2014: Manziel is selected to start against Cincinnati. Coach Mike Pettine said Manziel “has worked very hard to earn this opportunity.”
Dec. 14, 2014: In his lone start of his rookie season, Manziel completes 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards and throws two interceptions. He is sacked three times. Cincinnati defeats Cleveland 30-0.
Dec. 21, 2014: Manziel pulls a hamstring during a game against Carolina and trainers subsequently shut him down for the remainder of the season.
Dec. 23, 2014: After learning his season is over, Manziel tells reporters: “It’s been a year of growing up for me. It’s a job now. I have to take it a lot more seriously than maybe I did at first.”
Dec. 27, 2014: Manziel fails to show up for treatment and the Browns’ scheduled walk-through after reportedly attending a party the night before. He joins the team in Baltimore but does not appear on the sideline during the game.
Dec. 29, 2014: Manziel denies reports about a Friday party before the team’s regular-season finale against Baltimore. In his final regular-season interview with reporters in Cleveland, Manziel says: “It’s about action. It’s about being accountable and doing what I’m gonna say instead of looking like a jackass.”
Dec. 30, 2014: Manziel posts an online video from South Beach wishing LeBron James a happy birthday.
Jan. 9, 2015: Online photos surface of Manziel in Aspen, Colo. Browns receiver Josh Gordon also made the road trip.
Jan. 10, 2015: Cleveland shakes up its offensive coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is granted his release and Loggains is fired as the team’s quarterbacks coach.
Jan. 22, 2015: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, during an appearance at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards, calls out Manziel and says it is time for the quarterback to grow up. Haslam says: “Johnny has to show on and off the field he can be a professional. Johnny knows that and the organization has told him that...It is up to him to prove he can do that.”
Jan. 28, 2015: Manziel enters rehab facility.