On Dec. 29, 2014, it became ever so clear that Johnny Manziel should have remained enrolled at Texas A&M, and even gone to classes that were not online, if only to learn how to manage to speak at least halfway intelligently without resorting to common vulgarities as his everyday “go-to” words in an interview.
It is so easy to expect, once you hear Marcus Mariota, or Tony Dorsett or Robert Griffin III speak—before television cameras, on radio and in press conferences—that a Heisman Trophy winner is usually eloquent, so often well spoken, and manages to communicate with a gentlemanly decorum that goes along with the nation’s highest honor in college football.
But then there’s Johnny Manziel. During his freshman year, Texas Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin didn’t allow any freshmen to address the media. That was a smart move, especially when it kept young 19-year-old Manziel from being distracted by the spotlight.
The first time he addressed the nation, more or less, was in his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech, shared beautifully as he read from a statement that insiders are sure that Aggie communicator Jason Cook, or his staff, helped with, “just in case” young Manziel won.
Problem was, that once Johnny got “off script,” he would fish around for words, and then, coming up blank, would repeat many of those overused phrases that say nothing but take a while to come out.
Now Manziel, academically, is actually a bright guy; he had good grades during his freshman redshirt year and somehow, according to the computer, he completed at least 90 undergraduate hours, to qualify to receive his senior ring.
Probably he doubled up on those online classes the semester following his Heisman win. Recall that he claimed he couldn’t go anywhere on campus without being mobbed, so classes on campus that season were not to his preference. Motivated students do that all the time anyway, the online part.
However, all that said, it’s unclear why Johnny couldn’t manage to address the issues/rumors of why he missed the Saturday Cleveland Browns’ team meeting/hamstring treatment without 48 hours passing. Only then did he come up with a statement that shows exactly what Manziel did not learn at Texas A&M: (a) timeliness and (b) using intelligent language rather than what he chose to say.
His primary point was that the “reports of him throwing a party in Cleveland were ‘100 percent false’”-as he claims that he didn’t throw a party, but was instead on a night out with three friends from back home. That explanation certainly took a long time to generate.
No names of the Kerrville trio of pals were offered (so many Aggie fans of Manziel have wondered to where some of those pals had disappeared; remember autograph-gate?). But, Manziel’s sports agent didn’t issue a counterstatement to ‘the 100 percent false’ rumors yesterday, which could have easily been proffered. After all that’s what those high-dollar sports agents are paid to do: address the media for their clients, when the clients cannot or should not.
Then, adding more information, two days late and a few dollars more short, Manziel claims to have seen Josh Gordon earlier that day, but he wasn’t with them (the Kerrville “folk/ friends”) Friday night. Sounds reasonable, but what was the delay in sharing the information?
CBS Sports captured the image, Sunday pregame, that Johnny was not watching his team warm up on the sideline. He was instead texting on his iPhone. Reporters also later noted that Manziel was relocated to the locker room to watch the game, where at some point, he found time to check the Twitter feeds to favorite one regarding Chris Rock’s marital status. With teammates getting beat up out on the football field, a nonverbal statement from the so-called team leader speaks far louder than any words that he said, or anyone said in his behalf.
Remember just four weeks ago, that a fight broke out with the fan who “just wanted a hug,” at Cleveland’s exclusive residence, The Loft? There was a fan, Chris Gonos, his brother, and the hug attempt, that brought out the wrath of Manziel’s entourage that was there, per the police report.
Or there was the counterclaim that Manziel was not there with an entourage, per Manziel’s sports agent, who claimed young Manziel had finished dinner with his mother and his roommate. So there was no entourage fighting with the fan and his brother. Well one or the other is correct, but which is it?
He did come up with an apology, sort of, for why the Cleveland Browns’ security team had to come to his home since he didn’t return phone calls from the team, gently inquiring as to his safety and well-being. Per Jeremy Fowler’s story on ESPN.com:
It’s about action,” said Manziel, clearly frustrated with the situation. “It’s about being accountable and doing what I’m gonna say instead of looking like a jackass.”
Manziel’s coach, Mike Pettine, had words in response to the tune of “talk is cheap.” And noting the words “gonna” and “jackass” Manziel spouts, it says to America, “this is the Heisman Trophy winner educated for three years at Texas A&M speaking.” Great role model for the kids. One could argue that Bart Simpson says just about the same things but Bart is a cartoon character to be snickered at by middle schoolers, and there you go.
As for the situation that Johnny finds himself in today, he said:
It sucks because of the perception I’ve based around myself — I’ve done this to myself — that that was allowed to be reported and people are just allowed to nod their head and act like that went on,” Manziel said.
Added Manziel: “Either I’m going to learn or I’m going to be finding something else to do.”
What kind of representative is he for Aggies to have his big takeaway quotes using words like “jackass” and “sucks” and “gonna”? He’s a lazy speaker, choosing the lowest common denominator of communication, rather than trying to speak as a mature adult.
No one has followed up on the details on the November fan fracas, and that seems to have gone away. Which version of the story was correct? The police report or the sports agent’s version?
Which version of this new situation is correct? Was there a party Johnny threw or hosted, where multiple Browns players attended? Was there just a Kerrville reunion that went too long into the night and Manziel overslept and his phone battery died or something?
More unanswered questions will linger, but the bottom line is that finally when Manziel speaks, Jimmy Haslam is listening and watching.
On Dec. 28, 2014, Chris Pokorny of web site, Dawgs by Nature, reported that after the Browns lost Sunday’s game, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said that “both General Manager Ray Farmer and Head Coach Mike Pettine will be back for the 2015 season.” Without calling out Manziel and Josh Gordon, the message was loud and clear: “disrespect will not be tolerated.”
Anyone expecting Johnny to change (he lasted five days from wanting to be “the guy” to not showing up), is in for a long, long wait.
If Manziel does return to Cleveland next season, without another postseason incident or without being traded, all it takes is two or three wins with awesome plays to quiet the masses who are desperate to win. The talking heads will over-discuss how much Johnny has grown up. Hide and watch. See how, if Johnny Football becomes Johnny Cleveland, when more jerseys will be sold, then it will be back to ‘Johnny can do whatever he wants.” He has spunk, as TV’s Lou Grant would say.
Perhaps in his spare time, he can buy a thesaurus and find a more eloquent group of words to use next time he’s asked a question. That is, if anyone cares enough to ask Johnny anything else. Connor Shaw had a great showing and a big fan club among Browns fans and journalists alike on Sunday. Time will tell.