Earlier today, we posted an item based on a quote from Johnny Manziel that had been pushed to Twitter by Andrew Perloff of The Dan Patrick Show, during Dan’s interview of Manziel. Some took issue with this, claiming that the comments were “taken out of context,” twisted to support a predetermined narrative.
This is a claim that emerges from time to time in the sports world, a second cousin once removed of the”fake news” shout, from those who prefer to ignore the words that came from someone’s mouth. Manziel’s words weren’t “taken out of context”; it was an isolated quote that has the same meaning in context as it has out of context.
The meaning, inescapably, is this: Manziel thinks that the Browns should have known that he wasn’t going to study film, that he wasn’t going to work hard, and that he was simply going to wing it. To understand the problems with these remarks, it’s important to consider the broader context that emerged in early 2014.
Manziel worked very hard before the 2014 draft to create the impression that he’s a hard worker. He specifically refrained from the Super Bowl-week car wash, during which he would have made tens of thousands of dollars promoting products at Radio Row, because he supposedly was fully focused on football. He routinely declined interviews prior to the draft for that same reason. His trip to the Nike facility in Oregon raised eyebrows because it represented a rare break from the full-football focus.
Four years later, Manziel essentially wants to adjust the “fool me once, shame on you” adage to “fool me once, shame on me.” He fooled the Browns, and now — in that one isolated but fully accurate portion of his interview — he blamed the Browns for getting fooled.
“If Cleveland did any of their homework they would have known I wasn’t a guy who came in every day and watched film,” Manziel said. “I wasn’t a guy who really knew the X’s and O’s of football.”
How is the phrase “if Cleveland did any of their homework” anything other than a slap at Cleveland for not figuring out that Manziel was lying to them? Does anyone think that Manziel, when meeting with the Browns (or anyone else) in the pre-draft process said, “I’m not a guy who came in every day and watched film” and “I’m not a guy who really knows the X’s and O’s of football”? He surely said the opposite, which definitely means he was saying what he needed to say in order to get drafted as high as possible.
The broader context of Manziel’s comments includes the contention that he had no one in Cleveland to help him understand what it takes to be a successful pro quarterback. First, why did he need someone to take him by the hand and show him that he needs to study film and work hard to master a playbook? Isn’t that fairly obvious? Second, through his agent and other contacts in and around the NFL, Manziel could have been (and supposedly was) doing everything he could from January until May to figure out what he needs to do in order to be successful in the NFL. Third, Manziel said later in the interview that, when Josh McCown joined the Browns in 2015, McCown showed Manziel how it’s done. So why did Manziel, who also had a new offensive coordinator in 2015, still flame out of the NFL after what was only his second season?
While most of the interview revealed a guy who now seems to be much more self-aware and mature than he ever was during his NFL career, any explanation for his failure in Cleveland other than “I chose partying over football” suggests that he truly hasn’t come to terms with why his career fell apart before it could get started. It’s not the Browns’ fault that things didn’t work out; it’s his fault. If he had chosen football over partying, he’d possibly still be the quarterback in Cleveland — and the Browns likely would have won many more than four games over the last three seasons combined.
I’m rooting for Manziel to stay sober, I’m rooting for him to tear up the Spring League, and I’m rooting for him to get back to the NFL. His success would provide a clear example of redemption and hope for millions of Americans struggling with addiction. Any effort, however, to put blame on anyone other than himself for everything that went wrong during his NFL career makes me wonder whether he truly has overcome these issues, and whether he’s truly ready to embark on a successful football career.