Johnny Manziel's partying, lack of professionalism jeopardize his career

Dan Wetzel
·Columnist

Mike Pettine wore the look of someone tired of being played the fool. Tired that his shot at being an NFL head coach had been cursed by the decision to gamble on Johnny Manziel when Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr were on the board.

Tired of the endless circus of Johnny Drama – the unprepared games, the offseason rehab, the social media pictures of Johnny drinking on an inflatable swan, of Johnny drawing bubbles on a bottle, of Johnny being Johnny.

Johnny Manziel started 3 games this season, throwing 5 TD passes and 2 INTs. (Getty)
Johnny Manziel started 3 games this season, throwing 5 TD passes and 2 INTs. (Getty)

Tired that after all of that he'd still gifted Manziel the opportunity of a lifetime: six games as the starter of the Cleveland Browns to prove to this franchise, or any franchise, that he was mature and professional enough to maximize some of that innate ability and be a player in this league.

And then Johnny hit the clubs in College Station during an off weekend earlier this month due to a Thursday night game. Then he hit the clubs in Austin during the recent bye week. And then when pictures and video emerged he went with some lame excuse like they might be old … not that they were old, just that hey, who knows they might be?

And then Pettine and the Browns, tired of being tired, demoted Manziel to third-string quarterback,  putting the Heisman winner's career at risk. Because Johnny Manziel made Mike Pettine look like an idiot and no one wants to look like an idiot, especially for a borderline talent.

"Everyone in this organization wants what is best for Johnny just like we do for every player in our locker room," Pettine said in a statement, announcing that Josh McCown will return as starter for the rest of this lost season.

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"I'm especially disappointed in his actions and behavior because he has been working very hard," Pettine said. "The improvements from last year to this year have been tremendous but he still has to consistently demonstrate that he has gained a good understanding of what it takes to be successful at the quarterback position on this level. It goes well beyond the field. We are going to continue to support him in every way possible, but at this point, we've decided it's best to go with Josh as the starter going forward."

Make no mistake, Pettine announced the decision but Manziel made it with his actions.

Pettine had no other option. The locker room wasn't going to respect a coach who expected a young quarterback to take the job seriously only to jet to Texas at first chance. And Pettine was never going to let his time in Cleveland, however long it still has, to be known for never standing up to Manziel.

Pettine is the son of a legendary Pennsylvania high school coach, the sport is in his blood in an old-school way. He probably allowed the potential of Manziel to change him enough. Tuesday was about getting back to his roots.

"It's all part of the frustration, the disappointment," Pettine said early Tuesday after the latest round of Manziel party photos popped up on the Internet. "When the behavior repeats it's certainly a cause for concern … disappointing, very. I can't stand here and say it's not, whatever word we want to use, disappointing, frustrating."

Manziel spent time last offseason as an inpatient at an unspecified rehab facility and it's quite possible he needs to return to treatment. Only he knows for sure, but without it he may find employment in football impossible.

What's clear is that for every step forward he has apparently made, he couldn't resist the allure of an active nightlife even when it was apparent that these off-weekends should have been used to concentrate fully on proving he can be an NFL starting quarterback.

What Manziel is photographed and videotaped doing is nothing out of the ordinary for a 20-something. It isn't close to the police report about an incident with his girlfriend that resulted in no criminal charges or NFL sanctions.

Manziel, though, isn't an ordinary person. He is a young man given multiple chances at a lifelong dream.

This was supposed to be Johnny's time.

Not the time of his life.

An adult recognizes that. A professional knows when it's time to work, not hang out. An NFL quarterback realizes how precious every snap is.

Mike Pettine (Getty)
Mike Pettine (Getty)

Pettine, after all the bad days, had given him the rest of the season to show what he could do, and Johnny instead just did what he wanted to do … party when he needed to stay in Berea and grind tape.

Manziel knew this too, of course. He knew he shouldn't be partying at all and he knew that perception can be reality.

"I let him know that I'm not going to do anything that's going to be a distraction to this team or be an embarrassment to the organization," said Manziel according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com before one of the off-weekends. "I'm going to get a chance to go and relax like everybody else in this locker room is. I don't think they're going to have to worry about me this week."

Only they did have to worry. Not just one week but two. Not just last season, but this one and, presumably, every other in the future. The reality is he didn't need to relax. He needed to double down.

The entire thing is disappointing to everyone who enjoys watching Manziel play. He isn't great, but that may not be the bar here. The Browns surely dread not taking Bridgewater or Carr, but for everyone else who is tired of dull, drab, pedestrian quarterback play, Manziel at least provided color via unpredictable scrambling.

Now he needs to find a way to avoid getting his career sacked because he'll have to find someone willing to accept an on-field project with self-destructive tendencies who just spit in the face of the one guy who may have believed in him. He'll need to prove to everyone he isn't an addict. He needs to find someone who will give him the chance to build trust.

"Let's wreck this league," Manziel texted the Browns when trying to get them to draft him and save him from a first-round free fall.

Cleveland bit on it, but after all the chances, all the coddling, all the enabling, all the counseling, Johnny bit back.

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