Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Johnny Football is all about football.
That was the mantra three years ago, with Manziel focused solely and exclusively on football in the months preceding the draft. He was so obsessed with football and only football that a day trip to Nike headquarters in Oregon prompted a “Hey, I thought you were only focusing on football?” reaction.
Manziel was so obsessed with football that he wouldn’t even do radio interviews aimed at talking about (wait for it) football. He carefully crafted an image regarding a player who “gets it” and who has left childish ways behind and who was ready to be a productive NFL player and who, once he was drafted, immediately reverted to the immature, party-loving, not-hard-working player he had been.
After an offseason featuring money phones and inflatable swans and rolled-up dollar bills and a regular season that included stories of a non-franchise-quarterback’s work ethic, Manziel spent more than 10 weeks in rehab. The Browns stood by him as he made the changes necessary to get his life on track.
During the 2015 season, the wheels came off, with Manziel again embraced to his hardy partying ways, a trend that continued through the end of the campaign, prompting his father to muse that the end literally could be coming and sparking a firing by not one but two agents.
The problems continued, from a domestic violence incident to a wrecked car to a trashed rental home to a spindly build that looked like anything but a quarterback’s physique. He finally disappeared from view when he returned to Texas A&M, and now he’s back, openly campaigning for an NFL job a week before he’ll be selling autographs and selfies in conjunction with the Super Bowl in Houston.
If he’s not merely looking to stir up interest in next week’s money grab, Manziel will need to do a lot more than delete his Twitter account in order to get back to the NFL. He’ll need to win the trust of a team, and at this point who would trust him?
A fanboy trip to the AFC Championship hardly suggests the kind of transformation he’ll need in order to secure a spot on the most important aspect of any team’s depth chart. Every quarterback has a key role on an NFL team. Beyond the starter, the No. 2 and No. 3 players are there to support the No. 1 guy and help prepare the rest of the team, offensively and defensively.
It’s not a position for a charity case or redemption story. With multiple past instances of Manziel mimicking Eddie Haskell, there’s no reason to believe that he truly has changed or that he’ll remain changed.
If from a talent standpoint Manziel were potentially the next Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Russell Wilson, things would be different. Manziel isn’t.
Even if fully and completely engaged, he’s a limited NFL player with a limited NFL game who has squandered his opportunities and who simply doesn’t deserve another one at the expense of some other quarterback who has checked all the right boxes and done all the right things and who, above all else, can be trusted not to create a host of distractions in new and innovative ways.