Should the NFL Care That 20-Year Old Johnny Manziel is Acting Like a 20-Year Old?
If the internet is to be believed, Johnny Football is coming apart at the seams, tweet by tweet.
The college football royalty that came before him never had to endure the kind of 24/7 scrutiny Manziel is currently experiencing. That being said, the former face of college football, Robert Griffin III, relished the spotlight and the pressure that accompanied it. RGIII was fond of saying, "no pressure, no diamonds." Should Manziel toughen up and prove to the NFL brass that he can take it, or is the media making too much of his tumultuous off-season?
It's easy to forget that Manziel's well documented journey began a little over a year ago. After jumping into the middle of an altercation that his friend instigated, Manziel was charged last summer with three misdemeanors: disorderly conduct, failure to identify, and possession of a fake ID. This case is often cited by his critics as proof that, at his core, Manziel is a bad guy. Once the evidence was presented, the disorderly conduct and possession of a fake ID charges were dropped. Manziel went on to win the starting quarterback job in fall camp and subsequently, the Heisman trophy.
Since then, he's been photographed drinking, gambling and in the presence of drug paraphernalia. He has voiced his displeasure with the attention he's received and his parents have cited his drinking as a coping mechanism. This has led to fierce speculation that NFL GM's will pass on Manziel once he becomes draft eligible. Pundits have stoked the fire, stating plainly that the 20-year-old Manziel lacks the maturity to lead a team in the NFL.
Manziel set five SEC records during his freshman season, while helping the Aggies win 11 games. That 11 game win total was five games better than predicted by the many of the same pundits last August. He also drank during the season, went to parties, and used social media the same way his peers did. In the 21st century should that be a true red flag? Should NFL front offices dock him for behaving like a 20-year-old?
There was that incident where he was violently hungover and vomited before his game against Tulane. Oh wait, that was Brett Favre in college. Well, surely we can knock Manziel for those rumors that he's addicted to cocaine. What's that? That was Dan Marino? Oh, my mistake. Well, even if those stories aren't attached to Manziel, no NFL team would draft a major party animal in the top five. Let's just forget about Joe Namath, Kerry Collins, Ryan Leaf, Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell and Matthew Stafford.
Some of those misfits panned out in the league, others flamed out. The difference is that they weren't castigated by the media. The NFL is justified in placing Manziel under the microscope. He represents a potential multimillion-dollar investment. But the media's attacks on him are out of bounds. Manziel has taken a beating for simply being born in the wrong era. If people had camera phones and Twitter, all the above mentioned signal callers would have come under greater scrutiny, but we can't go back in time to roast them. What we can do, however, is cut Manziel some slack. Privacy may be a thing of the past, but common sense shouldn't be on the way out the door with it. If Joe Namath went down as a lovable man about town, then so should Johnny Manziel. Namath partied hard and backed it up on the field. If Manziel continues to do so, we should be equally impressed.
The media built Johnny Football up and now they want to tear Johnny Manziel down. I've written before that Manziel may be the next Joe Namath and I hope that the media will give him the same benefit of the doubt they afforded Broadway Joe. Has Manziel set himself up for a big fall? Absolutely. But if he doesn't fall, we should be all the more impressed. If I were an NFL GM, I'd view the distractions not as a negative, but as a positive, should he overcome them. If he dons the Superman costume again this fall, he's capable of handling any pressure cooker. Overcoming adversity is a prerequisite of a star quarterback, whether those hurdles are placed there by the player himself or outside forces. Last year was a love-fest for #2 and he was an unstoppable force. If he replicates his performance with the heat turned up on him, on-and-off the field, I'm officially sold on this gunslinger. And NFL GM's should be too.