Johnny Football has a fan in Broadway Joe.
The comparisons between Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath of the New York Jets are only natural. Both were supreme talents in college and offered respective franchises a potential game-changer under center. And both grabbed attention off the field for a love of life, very often after hours. That's part of the concern for talent evaluators when they look at Manziel, whose partying and poor choices have grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In the eyes of Namath, the concerns about Manziel's lifestyle are unfounded. Namath was certainly known for his off-the-field escapades, including dating a string of models and Hollywood starlets as well as frequenting all the hot spots in New York. So while he has had the experiences with the off-the-field side of the game, he doesn't see any red flags with Manziel's character concerns.
“This is an era where things get blown out of proportion. He isn't doing anything that other players his age – older or younger – aren't doing,” Namath told Yahoo Sports.
“Things are multiplied 10-fold at least, 20-fold at least. He documents going out to dinner and someone takes a picture and boom – you've got a headline. I trust Johnny Manziel's integrity and I don't even know him. I trust him walking that line and he's learned along the way. We didn't hear any negatives about him this season, no drinking and driving. So I think he's learned. I think he's moved beyond.
"I think we all like our relaxation. I think everyone in this league needs their down time. It is about being smart about it. Knowing when and how to relax. Not taking chances. Has he learned that? I don't know, but he sure seems to be staying out of trouble now.”
Namath sees the pitfalls that exist today. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook make any indiscretion, no matter how private, the chance to be a public shame in mere minutes. And with entire websites dedicated to these slips, no matter is sure to be private for long.
“I wouldn't call it a trap for these players, it is what it is. They have to conduct themselves with an awareness – an awareness perhaps I and players from earlier years didn't have to worry about,” Namath said.
“It was much easier in yesteryear, your face wasn't all over the TV how many times a day, no matter what you did. We are more visual, we are out there more these days. I'm glad I didn't have all these cameras, all the attention that these guys get these days. You almost can't be human any more.”
As for on the field, there is no denying that Manziel was a dynamic force for the Aggies the past two years. But his style might not be able to acclimate to the NFL, some scouts say.
Manziel has run for over 2,100 yards over the past two seasons. But unlike the recent generation of athletic quarterbacks, he isn't the biggest or strongest so there are concerns that his style may not be sustainable. Whether he can handle the pounding of NFL bodies throwing hits at him is a legitimate concern for teams judging his potential.
When Namath was a senior at Alabama, a knee injury cut into his mobility. Before that injury, he was a true dual-threat quarterback but the knee injury and subsequent surgery greatly hampered him.
Whether Manziel can adjust his free-flow style will determine his draft stock.
“We've seen a lot of Johnny. I never did do the things Johnny did, never had to in a sense. I'd like to think I'm that elusive but he's very special. If he lasts remains to be seen. You get knocked down in the pocket and you can tear ligaments. That's all it takes,” Namath said.
“But for me, you'd like to see Johnny Manziel on your team. How can any team possibly pass on that man? How can you not take him unless you think he won't last in the NFL? I think you still might have to.”
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Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo Sports. He can be followed for news and random tweetings on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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