The Cleveland Browns fired their coach, Mike Pettine, on Black Saturday, although his fate might have been decided on a day well before Black Saturday. That day would have been on NFL draft day. Yeah, the day the Brownies felt the guy to select was Johnny Manziel.
I’ll admit that, like a lot of fans – probably the majority of them – I was smitten with the skill and confidence that was “Johnny Football” and hoped he would thrive (despite those who claimed his height would be his shortfall). I kept thinking of Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, even Eddie LeBaron, for those who go back that far.
Unfortunately, his problem wasn’t from top to bottom but from side to side, i.e. the lack of gray matter between his ears. Sure, the guy had his butt kissed while at Texas A&M but what big-time (winning) college QB doesn’t? Everywhere he went, he was deified. So much so that when he tried to take an English course on campus, he had to drop it when his classmates’ requests for autographs and photos became too much. That semester, he took all of his classes online. Talk about adulation.
He got selected in the 28nd round – in the Major League Baseball Draft. As far as football, he went 22nd overall and was anointed – by the fans – immediately as the savior of the Cleveland franchise. Much like LeBron James. Pretty big shoes to fill – for a guy whose feet turned out to be way too small (despite the size) for the challenge.
Why didn’t he make it? Unlike many “instant rock stars,” Manziel didn’t grow up deprived of material goods; rather, he was somewhat used to them. He felt that since he was a rock star, he was entitled to party like one. Early on, “20-year old boys being 20-year old boys” was the mantra of his – call them exactly what they were/are – enablers. He had/has a well-publicized drinking problem which, when you’re a public figure in today’s world, unfortunately, becomes everybody’s business. As did a “private argument” with his girlfriend (which may or may not have involved drinking and “a couple swings” by Manziel). Many 20-somethings have such issues, but those involving NFL quarterbacks never remain “private.”
During the season, there were incidents of Manziel acting in a manner not becoming of a starting NFL QB (which Manziel swears he wants to be). Yet, if he really desires to have his name linked with the great QBs in the NFL, he ought to observe the vast, intense amount of work Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers and Drew Brees put into their craft. The latest incident in Manziel’s career is that he wore a disguise and used an alias while partying in Las Vegas – although, naturally, Johnny Football claims it’s not true.
Other than those on the inside, no one really knew whether Pettine and Manziel were ever on the same page, or even whether the former coach wanted Manziel to be his on-field leader. One thing for sure is, had Manziel taken his occupation, i.e. NFL quarterback, not serial liar, more seriously, Pettine might still have a job. While the coach’s firing should not be laid only at the (undisciplined, immature) QB’s feet, his feelings for Johnny Football might parallel the lyrics to the song, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right:
“I ain’t saying you treated me unkind. You coulda done better but I don’t mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time.”
And now I’m out of a job.