Waiting For Next Year is a compromise. From its inception, despite the priority that we’ve placed on this website in our own lives1 it’s never been anyone’s primary priority. To a man, whether we’ve had obligations related to family, job or some other thing, WFNY has taken a back seat. Don’t get me wrong, we’re proud of this site, but I don’t think anyone here would tell you that it couldn’t be better if we all could devote 100 percent of our time and effort to its continued growth. Not everyone would want to do that, of course, but that’s not the point. The fact is that we know we leave some things on the table because this isn’t anyone’s full-time job. It’s with that point in mind that I talk about Johnny Manziel and his weekend in Las Vegas. I’m not shocked or even appalled by his choice, and I want that point to be perfectly clear. Johnny Manziel’s choices don’t drive me crazy, but the people arguing on his behalf do.
Johnny Manziel can’t party for an entire weekend in Vegas and also be truly maximizing his opportunity to be the Browns’ No. 1 quarterback. It’s telling about where Manziel is as a player in the NFL right now. If he plays and plays well, it will be on the wave of superior talent that he’s presumably ridden ever since he put on a helmet. Maybe that’s good enough, and all this chatter is for nothing, but it’s much easier to look at Rob Gronkowski with his undeniable success in the league and say that his partying doesn’t matter. Even with Gronk though, you can’t tell me you don’t wonder if he could be even a tiny bit better if he cut out some of the late nights and the things that go along with those late nights.
I don’t want this to come off as overly critical, because I’m really not mad. It’s not a matter of me being condescending either. I was 21 once too, so I know how hard it can be to find all the right priorities. I’m a guy who thought he could be a rock star in his twenties, loading up credit cards with music equipment from guitars and a P.A. system that I couldn’t afford. Where would I be today if I’d focused on different things? I don’t live in regret and I don’t expect Johnny Manziel to do so either, but I also can’t deny my own tradeoffs in life. So I don’t really sit in harsh judgment, other than to say that Johnny Manziel’s champagne-soaked weekend tells me a lot about where he is right now as a person and as a football player. He’s not mature enough to commit all-in to the game.
It might not matter either. Johnny Football has that moniker because he’s been that damn good. He won the Heisman because he was that much better than those around him. It’s less likely that he’ll be that much better than the people around him in the NFL, but it’s not impossible. Additionally, there’s some leeway in the equation that will allow Johnny Manziel to be “good enough” for Browns fans, simply based on comparisons. For example, currently he just needs to be better than Brian Hoyer. While I like Brian Hoyer, he’s a speculative QB in the NFL at best. In Browns fans’ minds, Johnny Manziel must perform above and beyond what we remember from guys like Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb, Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden. That’s a fun contest for an incumbent quarterback to enter into, but it’s a lesser heat than the ones Browns fans need him to win by the end of his career.
Beating out the ghosts of all the bad interceptions since 1999 isn’t worth a whole lot though. What Browns fans need and want is the best Johnny Manziel that could ever be. The very best Johnny Manziel that can possibly develop from now until he reaches his peak as a player worthy of a roster spot on the Cleveland Browns is a lot to ask, but it’s what we ask of every Browns player. So I apologize if I don’t think the very best “Johnny Manziel” is achieved via turning champagne bottles into party-breathing fire hoses in Las Vegas ahead of his rookie campaign.
Maybe Johnny Manziel will sit behind Brian Hoyer for the entire season, thus rendering this entire discussion inconsequential. I’ve already been on record thinking it might be for the best if he starts on the bench. The issue, of course, is that unless he helps the Browns to win playoff games at some point in his career, Johnny Manziel will leave many wondering what could have been. What could have been if Johnny Manziel had taken every opportunity to take the game more seriously? What if Johnny Manziel had accepted the mission of becoming the very greatest NFL player that he could become?
Whether or not you think this past weekend in Vegas was that big of a deal, it’s hard to argue that point. Johnny Manziel could be taking the game more seriously and doing more to prepare for his jump to NFL football. That’s not the kind of thing you want to be able to say about your first-round draft choices. Johnny left himself open to that criticism. He’s 100 percent in control of the perception he gave off over the weekend. This isn’t about me or anyone else making things up.
And of course, the opposite refrain is, “What else could you expect when you draft Johnny Football?” The answer is nothing, really. I knew that all this was a distinct possibility and even a likelihood when I decided I wanted Johnny Manziel as a Cleveland Brown. I’m not shocked, appalled or even surprised in the slightest. Just because those things are all true doesn’t mean that I need to lie to myself or anyone else about other things that I know to be true. Playing quarterback in the NFL is one of the most difficult things in sports. Doing so takes both mental and physical preparation. Lastly, something we all know too well, even if you work as hard as you possibly can, many drafted quarterbacks fail in the NFL.
So maybe the fact that Johnny Football doesn’t fear failure will work to his advantage. Maybe the fact that he’s brash and confident enough to own the headlines from Vegas with Gronk on his weekend off is a leading indicator to why he’s going to be successful. Just don’t try to tell me that Johnny Manziel got better this weekend or is more prepared for his job this season. That seems like a dishonest stance to take.
(Photo by John H Reid III Cleveland Browns)
- Ask our wives, friends and other family members if you must [↩]