I’ve made it clear before and I will say it again: I kinda like Johnny Manziel.
I know, I know, I’m deeply ashamed, but what can I say? Call me a sucker for bad boys, but I like the players who shake up the status quo a little bit. I loved it when he started using the “money” gestures during his Texas A&M days and I appriciated how outspoken he was about the unfairness of the NCAA system. I liked that he had a little bit of swagger and I was excited to see how he was going to translate that to the National Football League.
We all know how that turned out.
Alcohol, parties, models, violence, probably drugs, and many bad choices have led Manziel down the path of unemployment and a one-way ticket to football purgatory. He became a headline grabber for all the wrong reasons. His former girlfriend has a restraining order against him. For much of 2016, he looked sickly and ill. He became a lesson you tell the high schoolers who are aspiring to be college or pro athletes: “See Johnny? Don’t be like Johnny”.
Near the end of 2016, athletes and advisors began reaching out to him, most notably Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Quality human beings instead of groupies began to offer him advice, council, and probably a few reality checks along the way. On January 20th, Manziel sent a letter to ESPN, saying that he was sober, wanted to make a comeback in the NFL, and that being clean felt great. He wrote “I refuse to let my entire life of sports from the age of 4 be squandered by partying. I just got sick of it. One day I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror and realized I could really help people in the position I’m in. I love sports, I love football and when you take something away from yourself you realize it the hard way. The happiness from doing it sober has been ASTRONOMICAL. Beyond my wildest imagination and once that continued other good things started happening in my life and it just clicked.” (thank you EPSN.com for the quote!) He also noted how he wants just one team to take a chance of him, to invite him to workout – anything, really. Later on in the day, it was discovered that an independent football league offered Manziel an invite to play, an offer that was extended to other players, such as Ray Rice and Vince Young. The “Spring League”, as it is being called, is not affiliated with the NFL, but you can bet that NFL scouts will be there.
The only problem I have with all of this is that we have heard this from Manziel before. We thought he turned things around when he entered rehab back in 2015 after his rookie campaign ended. We thought we would see a change after he was released by the Cleveland Browns in 2016. I have heard this song and dance from him for years and frankly, I’m tired of it. Would I like to see him create a comeback story worthy of an ESPN 30 For 30? Darn tootin’ I would! But first, I want to make sure Johnny Manziel is the healthiest, happiest, soberest man he can possibly be. I want him to be serious this time. I want to believe that he can do this.
And what team would want to take on that kind of risk? It would be a publicity nightmare for sure – who thinks the savage world of sports media would be kind to any team that even gave Manziel a workout? Could he even still play? And if he can play, will it be the level of play we saw at Texas A&M or will it be more similar to what we saw with the Cleveland Browns? There are so many questions that will more than likely go unanswered.
If (and it’s a big “if”) Manziel is able to somehow come back into the game of football, he would have to be with a team with a zero tolerance policy for stupidity. For example, he needs a team like the Arizona Cardinals, who cut Michael Floyd one day after he was arrested for Extreme DUI. They’ve taken in risky players (Tyrann Mathieu, anyone?) and forced them to prove that they can be playmakers without being distractions. I’m not saying the Cardinals are the only team who would be structured enough for Manziel or should even take a chance on him, but he would have to have an environment like theirs. He would have to be a team where the coaches, management, AND players keep him accountable. Also, he’d probably need a babysitter. Like, maybe a nun or something.
I’d love to see Johnny Football back to doing Johnny Football things. But more than that, I want to see Johnny Manziel healthy and sober. I want to see him commit to being a better man. I want him to make me proud, and I want him to want to make people proud. I want him to prove himself off the field before he even thinks about proving himself on the field.
I want Johnny Manziel to have that 3o For 30 – worthy comeback, but first, he needs to prove that he can be a better human. Being a good human is far better and far more important than being a good football player. And being a good, sober human being is the best thing Johnny Manziel can possibly be.