The NFL season may have ended yesterday with the New England Patriots winning Super Bowl XLIX over the Seattle Seahawks, but NFL news has not. Football fans learned today that Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Johnny Manziel has entered a rehab facility for an undisclosed reason.
Since draft day in 2014, Manziel’s image has been the opposite of Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. Without listing his many questionable off-season activities, we might just say that he makes Joe Namath look like a monk in retrospect. Sports celebrities, players, and teammates have suggested that Manziel doesn’t take the game or his obligations to his team seriously.
There is no doubt that Manziel desires and expects to be the Browns’ starting quarterback in the future; but he won’t get there without a lot of hard work. Although he previously promised to change, his actions were proof that he hadn’t altered his lifestyle.
Manziel’s win of the Heisman Trophy, and his on-field ability at Texas A&M gave him the nickname ‘Johnny Football.’ Everyone who watched him play at the collegiate level witnessed an unusually talented player; but talent alone doesn’t make a successful NFL quarterback. He received a chance to play, starting two games for the Browns in December; he lost both; did not complete a touchdown pass; and threw two interceptions. The day before the final game of the season, the Browns were packing for a trip to Baltimore to play the Ravens; Manziel was late for the walkthrough. Two members of Cleveland’s security unit were dispatched to his apartment. They described what they found as a team member who had obviously been out doing some ‘heavy partying’ the night before. One of the security offers described Manziel as ‘drunk on his a**.’ On the day of the final game of the season he showed up late for physical therapy on his injured hamstring and was fined by the team.
A friend told the media that Manziel realizes he needs to improve his relationships with family, friends, and teammates. When Browns’ management was informed of his intention to enter a treatment facility, they accepted and praised his decision. They said that they supported their players as men first and football players second.
Manziel is expected to remain in the facility for a few weeks, depending on his evaluation by the doctors. He will likely be at the Browns’ training facility in April.
Sadly, gone are the days when the vast majority of players acted like they belonged in the privileged life they were given. It has become a ‘look at what I’ve done’ on and off the field. Few players act like Jerry Rice, touted as the greatest player to ever play in the NFL, and simply hand the ball to a referee after they score a touchdown. Today they want to be noticed, and given credit for what was actually accomplished by all eleven player’s efforts. And all too often we hear about a player arrested for drug use, or punching his fiancée.
Will this be Manziel’s last year in the NFL? It’s totally up to him. Changes in the NFL restrict the amount of time teams can afford to wait until their investments mature and learn how to play in the NFL. Quarterbacks have the most difficult time; they must learn every play and the position and responsibility of each player during that play. And they must be leaders. Each year the possibility exists that he will have a new corps of receivers thanks to free agency and the draft. Those who succeed lead and inspire their teams; and only teams win Super Bowls.
By James Turnage