Setting aside for now the reality that Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel apparently suffers from a health condition for which he needs support, understanding, and assistance, the Browns have a problem for which they only have themselves to blame.
Despite Manziel’s high-stakes Eddie Haskell routine from a year ago, when he supposedly ensconced himself in football and shunned partying, the record already was clear: Johnny Football was a ticking time bomb.
Sure, it didn’t get as much attention as it should have among a media fascinated by the possibility that Manziel would become the next Tim Tebow, driving ratings and generating clicks and selling whatever remaining newspapers and magazines there are. But the Browns were making a much larger investment in JFF. And the Browns have only themselves to blame for JFFing it all up.
While most of the blame goes to owner Jimmy Haslam guy and/or the homeless man whose “draft Manziel” recommendation confirmed Haslam’s belief that Browns fans wanted Johnny Football to become Johnny Cleveland, people like G.M. Ray Farmer have an obligation to protect the owner from himself. And if people like Farmer can’t get through to an owner who was smitten by the potential upside of a guy with a colossal downside, then someone other than Farmer should be the person in position to get through to an owner who is poised to make a decision that could undermine the best interests of the team.
If no such person exists, the owner needs to sell the team to someone who doesn’t need such a person in the team’s employment.
The evidence of the potential for a substance-abuse problem was hiding in plain sight months before the Browns traded up from No. 26 to No. 22 to pick Manziel, courtesy of ESPN The Magazine. Manziel’s own father said that Johnny drinks to deal with stress. Manziel’s parents and his college coach required Manziel to visit with an alcohol counselor after an alcohol-related arrest. Paul Manziel also expressed concern about a temper that made the father reluctant to engage in one of the ultimate father-son activities.
“I don’t enjoy playing golf with him because I don’t want to see that temper,” Paul Manziel told Wright Thompson at the time. “I honestly do not. I cringe when he wants to play golf. . . . I don’t know where the anger comes from. I don’t think he knows. If it comes from his drinking, or if he’s mad at himself for not being a better person when he fails, when he fails God and his mom and me. If it makes him angry that he’s got demons in him. You can only speculate because you can’t go in there.”
The Browns needed to go in there. Or they shouldn’t have allowed Manziel to come into their organization. The father’s words alone should have been enough to prompt Farmer to commission a full-scale, no-stone-unturned effort to get to the bottom of the Johnny Manziel anger rabbit hole. And the Browns should have removed his name from the draft board absent a full and complete explanation that made it clear to the Browns that Manziel’s demons would not destroy his NFL career before it even started.
The Browns failed. And they’ll continue to fail unless Haslam finds the right people to protect Haslam from himself.