Thursday morning, Vanity Fair posted a very lengthy article detailing the issues that have long-plagued former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, including his journey to and out of the NFL. The article is titled, “The Fight to Save Johnny Manziel from All-Out Self-Destruction.”
I wouldn’t blame you if you think to yourself, “Nope, I’ve had enough with this [insert expletive] already,” and choose to close this article right now. However, I still think it is relevant to expound upon the narrative that was Johnny Football in Cleveland when new information (even if some of it was assumed) becomes available.
Some of the quotes below came from Steven Brant, who is listed as “Johnny’s longtime best friend.” We’re skipping all of the college stuff and focusing on his time with the Browns, beginning right at the point he was drafted:
With Steven Brant at his side at Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick of the first round. ... .Johnny and Steve ran out and immediately bought all the Browns hats and jerseys they could carry. “It really wasn’t until the flight home that it sunk in, you know—it’s Cleveland,” Brant says.
Yes, what a drab this city is. Brant goes on to say how going to Cleveland “was just the worst thing ever” and that the playbook was too difficult to learn:
“Going to Cleveland was just the worst thing ever,” says Brant. “He never felt he had any chance to succeed there. I mean, from day one. They didn’t get him any help, no receivers, nothing.” And Manziel wasn’t joking about his difficulty learning the Browns playbook; at A&M he hadn’t used one, instead perusing a brief game plan for each contest. “The only time I worried about Johnny was when I looked at that playbook, all those plays,” says Brant. “It was so complicated.”
When Brian Hoyer started losing his flare in 2014, the Browns turned to Manziel, and were destroyed by the Bengals 30-0. A different friend of Manziel’s relayed what the troubled quarterback said about his teammates:
“It was pretty apparent that the lack of preparation, the lack of commitment, derailed him,” says a friend. “In private, [Manziel] said, ‘The team quit on me.’ ”
When Manziel went to rehab, the article says that it was completely his own decision and that he just woke up one day feeling he needed to go. Flashforward to the 2015 season, when Manziel had beat the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, and then was sent back to the bench in favor of Josh McCown for Week 3:
Thus Manziel, and much of the N.F.L., was stunned when McCown recovered and was named to start Game Three. Johnny was distraught. His friends blamed the team. “The Cleveland Browns suck,” says Jim Muncie, a longtime friend from Kerrville. “They suck as an organization. They suck from ownership on down. They had terrible coaches and did a terrible job with Johnny. Pettine, he’s a nice guy, but he’s not a head coach. The chemistry was never good.”
What worried Manziel’s family and friends was how Johnny would fill the void of not starting. “That boy, he can’t ride the bench with nothing to do,” Muncie observes. “That’s when he tends to get into trouble, you know.”
Lastly, we have the situation of Manziel being benched during the bye week for lying about a video shot of him:
“He was just having a good time,” says Brant. “He went into the D.J.’s booth at one place, and the D.J. shot some video and posted it. We were on the phone the next day when the video came out. Johnny was already back in Cleveland. I refreshed my Twitter and there it was. I said, ‘Did you watch this video?’“ ‘What video?’“I told him.
He said, ‘I’ll call you back.’ When he does, he goes, ‘Well, I’m fucked.’ ”Brant sighs. “It wasn’t this crazy weekend,” he insists. “It was just a normal weekend.”
So, after everything that has gone on, what does Brant think Manziel’s problem is?
“Johnny doesn’t have a drug problem. He has a ‘having fun’ problem,” insists Brant. “I think I know him better than anyone. He’ll be fine. Believe me.” And then Brant smiles and mentions the popular documentary series on ESPN. “You know what?” he says. “The 30 for 30 is going to be great.”