Johnny Manziel continues to draw attention for the wrong reasons.
This time, the headlines were generated by an incident over the weekend in Texas in which the quarterback reportedly threw a water bottle at a fan who was harassing him for an autograph and heckling him at a hotel pool at the Byron Nelson golf tournament.
The episode was not, by accounts, a particularly big deal. No charges were filed and there reportedly were no indications that Manziel was intoxicated. If the descriptions of the incident are accurate, Manziel was provoked by a young man who was rude and persistent.
But as Manziel attempts to keep his NFL career from unraveling any further after a highly disappointing rookie season and an offseason stay at a treatment facility, there is room to wonder — and perhaps lament — why he simply cannot seem to find a way to avoid such predicaments.
Manziel can’t have just a poor preseason outing. He has to take things a step further and direct an obscene gesture at the opponent’s sideline.
He can’t manage to get away from an unpleasant interaction with an aggressive fan without throwing a water bottle and getting back in the news in an unflattering manner.
Perhaps it is a function of his outsized Johnny Football persona. When your on-field celebration is rubbing your fingers together in a money sign, there is nothing subtle about your approach and there is no way to avoid the spotlight. The successes are going to be big. But so, too, are the failures.
It isn’t all Manziel’s fault. He isn’t always entirely to blame. In this latest case, it certainly appears that there was plenty of fault to be shared.
But there is a down side to wealth and fame, and those who deal with those things well understand that fully and learn to manage it. They learn how to act like an adult and how to carry themselves as professionals.
It’s time for Manziel to learn that.
He is back with the Cleveland Browns, participating in offseason practices as a reserve behind new starter Josh McCown.
The Browns no longer can count on Manziel to be a cornerstone of their future. They no longer can believe with much conviction that he will become the player they envisioned when they used a first-round draft pick on him last year. There is far more evidence at this point to suggest that Manziel will be an NFL bust than there is to indicate he will be an NFL standout.
But it would be wrong to draw firm conclusions just yet. This story still needs to play out. Manziel is 22 years old. He has started all of two NFL games. It’s not like he’s behind Aaron Rodgers on the depth chart. McCown never has been the long-term solution at quarterback for any NFL team. The chances are that he won’t be that for the Browns. If Manziel can figure things out, on and off the field, there is still a job waiting to be won by him.
If he can be the quarterback that the Browns drafted him to be, relatively harmless off-field incidents like the one this past weekend will be immediately forgiven and soon forgotten. But for now, the pattern has become all too familiar with Johnny Manziel, and he inspires far too little confidence that things are about to change.
… AND TEN
The 10 quarterback situations league-wide worth watching closely as the summer progresses:
1. Patriots: With Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game DeflateGate suspension scheduled to be heard by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell beginning June 23, it is likely the Patriots will have a decision by Goodell by the time they report to training camp. But if Goodell doesn’t modify the penalty and the NFL Players Association takes the case to court, there’s no telling how long it will take for things to play out and the Patriots might not know for much of camp whether Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo will be starting the NFL’s season-opening game.
2. Browns: The Browns are saying that McCown is the clear leader to be their season-opening starter and McCown is saying it’s good not to have the distraction of a quarterback competition being held in training camp. Of course, it would be far better if the team’s declared starter had a career passer rating higher than 70.5.
3. Jets: New offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has said that Geno Smith is the starter for now. His boss, first-year Coach Todd Bowles, has said that while Smith will begin training camp as the starter, there will be a competition. The question is whether it’s too soon to give up on Smith as a prospective franchise quarterback of the future. If the Jets are in win-now mode and believe that Brady’s suspension creates a window of opportunity for others in the AFC East, Ryan Fitzpatrick actually was a relatively competent quarterback last season in Houston, with a passer rating of 95.3.
4. Bills: Matt Cassel? EJ Manuel? Tyrod Taylor? A far-from-ideal quarterback situation has followed Coach Rex Ryan from the Jets to the Bills. He can try to win with defense and a run-first offense focused on tailback LeSean McCoy. But it would be difficult to envision the Bills being a factor in the AFC playoff race without competent quarterback play being added to that mix.
5. Texans: Brian Hoyer played well enough for most of last season to keep Cleveland in contention and Manziel on the Browns’ bench. But he didn’t play well enough to keep the starting job all season or convince the Browns to re-sign him. Now he’s in Houston to vie with a former Brady understudy in New England, Ryan Mallett, for the Texans’ starting job. The Texans nearly reached the playoffs last season, mostly on the strength of J.J. Watt’s remarkable all-around play. If they can find a way to have a more settled quarterback situation this season, that might help them to challenge Indianapolis in the AFC South.
6. Redskins: The Redskins exercised their fifth-year option in the contract of quarterback Robert Griffin III for the 2016 season. But that option is guaranteed only for injury, not performance. So Griffin is on what amounts to a one-year arrangement to try to demonstrate that he can come close enough to recapturing his rookie-year dominance to justify retaining him for a $16.155 million salary in 2016.
7. Bears: The Bears retained Jay Cutler after changing coaches, from Marc Trestman to John Fox. But that might have been more attributable to Cutler’s cumbersome contract making him virtually untradeable than to a strong belief that he’s the right quarterback for the franchise. The dynamic between Fox, new offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Cutler is worth monitoring closely.
8. Eagles: Coach Chip Kelly’s offseason mad-scientist routine included trading for a quarterback, Sam Bradford, coming off a twice-torn anterior cruciate ligament, then holding on to Bradford despite speculation that the Eagles might re-trade him in a bid for Kelly to be reunited with Marcus Mariota. Now Kelly is left with Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow. Maybe Kelly should make the craziness complete and hand the starting job to Tebow.
9. Cardinals: If Carson Palmer makes a successful return from last season’s knee injury, the Cardinals are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If he doesn’t, even a coach as superb as Bruce Arians cannot compensate.
10. 49ers: Colin Kaepernick’s passer rating dropped to 86.4 last season in his third year as the team’s starter. The franchise parted ways with the coach, Jim Harbaugh, who made the team relevant again. Will Kaepernick benefit from the cessation of all the Harbaugh-focused drama that engulfed the 49ers last season? Or will he and the team continue to fall from prominence with Jim Tomsula in charge?
For previous weeks’ First and 10s, click here.