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Manziel lives dark side of Tebowmania

FOX Sports Kevin Lincoln
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What if Johnny Manziel were Tim Tebow?

His hair would be lighter-colored, for a start. He’d have to put on a bunch of weight: Manziel’s listed at 200 pounds, a full 36 lighter than the Prius-sized Tebow. He’d still have some of the same knocks against him — al dente arm, not ideal QB size, off-field demeanor — as well as some of the positives — creative runner, “winner,” “intangibles,” “[insert cliché here].” But he’d also be a slower, more powerful runner and a less accurate, stronger armed passer.

As far as quarterbacking prowess goes, though, comparing Manziel to Tebow has as much relevance as comparing Manziel to Cam Newton, or Manziel to Robert Griffin, or Manziel to Jake Locker, or Manziel to any number of other mobile passer with shiny college credentials. The real difference, were Johnny Manziel actually Tim Tebow, would be extracurricular: we wouldn’t be worried about Johnny.

To be clear, I’m not worried about Johnny, even after reading Wright Thompson’s excellent ESPN the Magazine profile. I was in college not too long ago, and Manziel sounds like every cookie-cutter, privileged-kid acting out that most people either a) grow out of or b) obtain enough money to eventually take to the next level of vice.

Considering the payday Manziel’s looking at when he hits the NFL, b) is definitely an option, but let’s cross that bridge once a multi-million-dollar first-round draft selection builds it.

Regardless of your thoughts on the licentiousness of being an angry golfer, Manziel’s behavior had ruptured the collective brain of the viewing public. Then, in the wake of Crown and Sprite panic attacks among the college-football faithful, Riley Cooper, who played on the same team in college football as a guy who’s currently awaiting trial because he might’ve killed someone, did something truly and unforgivably vile, something that opened up a nice little porthole into the corrupted core of not only his but plenty of other peoples’ souls. And there’s Johnny, doing … what, exactly? Ah, I forget.

That being said, our quick break from Crown-and-Sprite-Gate isn’t going to last. Manziel will be back, smeared with the black brush of “immature” and “unserious” until he wins a bunch of football games, at which point everyone will forget about it and he can complete his evolution into the first proper heel in the NFL.

The Texas A&M quarterback is a dynamic character who will be both hated and loved for his attitude and stand out nicely in comparison to the Andrew Lucks and Russell Wilsons of the world, Very Nice Boys who make such perfect product pitchmen that they might as well have been built in Beaverton. I like both Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson! But having a few different flavors of quarterback will be nice.

Considering Manziel’s descent/ascent into infamy, though, it makes you remember that quarterback we were comparing him to before, the last college player to reach such insidious penetration-levels of ubiquity and obsession: John Beck.

Just kidding, it’s Tim Tebow.

There was a span of months bridging 2011 and 2012 where Tebow went from mystic Broncos berserker-god righteously laying waste to everything in his path to pathetic mannequin moping on the New York Jets bench.

If you had asked any rational human being whether there was anything else he wanted to know about Tebow during that period of time, he would’ve said no, god, I’d rather hear you read your tax returns. It was a can’t-push-away-from-the-table scenario: we’d gorged and gorged but still kept eating.

And yet: Tebow’s rep had suffered, he’d been painted as a whiner and a failure and a zealot, and there was still no dirt. You just knew that various sport and gossip websites of both good and ill repute had People’s Liberation Army-sized forces assembled just to get the Tebow killer app, and nobody got it. Unless you consider maximum self-righteousness a sin, Tebow never did anything so bad as parking for too long in a one-hour spot. He’s so squeaky clean, he probably gets his car insurance for free.

As Johnny Manziel has gone great lengths to remind us, this isn’t his deal: Johnny Manziel drinks and curses and dates models and does the other kinds of things that you’d expect a rock-star famous 20 year old to do.

That one actually objectionable misdeed could be coming, but it isn’t here yet. Still, much of Manziel’s speckled public persona comes from the tweets and pictures and etc. of amateur reporters, often attached to things that Johnny would rather keep private. It gives us an opportunity to remember Tebowmania and think, huh.

Me writing what I’m about to write almost definitely means that Tebow’s affair with a married foreign dignity breaks within two days, but, like him or not, Tebow seems to be the rare dude who actually walked the talk.

Plus, playing on that same college team as Hernandez and Cooper, Tebow provided us a master case in chiaroscuro.

Tagged: Stanford, Texas A&M, Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel

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