Mike Pettine continues to say all the right things regarding Johnny Manziel. The era of 24/7 sports coverage has made it excessively easy for pundits and analysts to criticize players for even the most frivolous of reasons. Coverage that spans every hour of the day creates a problem for itself: that space needs to be filled. Accordingly, a 21 year-old going to Las Vegas and taking part in 21-year-old activities becomes a story in order to fill air time. Pettine refuses to dignify certain claims about those legal, non-criminal activities.
Some say that Pettine downplayed Manziel’s Memorial Day trip to Las Vegas. To the contrary, some would say he demonstrably addressed the situation for what it is: none of his business as it does not affect the performance of his football team.
"I can only judge him on what he's done when he's been here," Pettine said. "I'm not going to judge him on how he lives outside the building as long as that's not affecting what he does here. And he came back here prepared and he's performed solidly."
Pettine also guaranteed that there were "a lot of other NFL players in Vegas" that weekend. With that, he’s proven to be a head coach who refuses to play into the hands of those trying to create controversy. Unfortunately for sports talk show hosts and pundits, his deliberate words and firm stance on players’ personal lives leave little room for interpretation.
"Johnny has been great. He's in the playbook. Now if he was out doing something illegal, we'd have an issue."
Pettine again refused to play into the hands of the "Manziel’s behavior is a problem" faction when questioned about his first-round draft-pick’s weekend consisting of a party in Austin and courtside seats at an NBA playoff game.
As reported by Nate Ulrich of The Akron Beacon Journal, Pettine addressed his lack of anxiety over Manziel:
"I’m not concerned," Pettine said Tuesday. He "would become concerned if it was something criminal, and I would be concerned if it affected his job."
Perfect answer: a firm and unwavering stance on what his players choose to do off the field, in their free time. Perhaps, unlike many who are quick to criticize Manziel’s "antics", he just realizes it’s June. Perchance, unlike many, Pettine realizes that Manziel is in a league where, according to ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie, 74 players have been arrested since 2013 and his quarterback is not one of them.
Pettine appears to be able to stand back, examine an event, and decide whether it warrants criticism or concern. Terms like objectivity, detachment, and common sense continue to come to mind when one hears his comments.
He has refused to become one of the millions who are often too quick to criticize persons for doing nothing wrong in the eyes of the law or, more pertinently, who have not violated league policies.
"I think there’s a lot of our guys if when they leave here, if they were followed around you’d get some very similar pictures," he said, referring to how Manziel’s behavior might be overblown by the media, considering that he’s most likely a part of the majority. While Johnny’s social life is a target for many, Pettine recognizes that it really doesn’t differ that much from the rest of the league’s players.
Pettine realizes that Manziel has done nothing illegal ("criminal") and that people in this league are actually in trouble and have affected their respective organization with actual grievous behavior. Yet, for some reason his quarterback has been arguably the most scrutinized entity in the league he’s only been a part of a few weeks.
The most impartial portion of Pettine’s response (as reported by Ulrich) came when he turned the microscope on himself:
"I was involved in an event this [past] weekend, and if there were some cameras at certain times it probably wouldn’t have been the most flattering. It was a group of coaches out and we had a good time, but we were responsible."
That’s an example of neutrally examining a situation and putting oneself in another’s shoes prior to criticizing them -- a head coach saying that his player’s weekend was no more detrimental to the Browns than his own.