Is Johnny Manziel becoming the next Ryan Leaf?
He was tabbed “Johnny Football” in college.
He reportedly called himself “Billy” while trying to stay on the down-low during a recent covert trip to Las Vegas.
The name by which Johnny Manziel will be referred to next?
As revealed by FOX Sports NFL Insider Mike Garafolo, Manziel’s days with the Cleveland Browns are numbered. Garafolo reported new head coach Hue Jackson privately expressed during his job interview that he didn’t want to work with the second-year quarterback if offered the job.
Cleveland’s new brain trust didn’t have a problem with such sentiment.
Nobody could blame them.
Manziel forced his ouster after being given chance after chance after chance to get his professional and personal life in order. He never truly did.
The final straw came in late December, when Manziel curiously was placed in Cleveland’s concussion protocol three days after starting in Week 16 against Kansas City. As reported by longtime Browns beat writer Tony Grossi from ESPN, Manziel arrived “disheveled and inebriated” to team headquarters and was sent home.
Rather than checking himself back into rehab, which is where he spent the first part of last year, Manziel decided to thumb his nose at the franchise and now-fired head coach Mike Pettine. “Billy” took a Vegas vacation and didn’t attend Cleveland’s season finale against Pittsburgh even though required for a concussion checkup.
That’s when the craps hit the fan.
One of Manziel’s biggest supporters and enablers, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, began to distance himself from the player he leaned on Cleveland’s football folks to make a 2014 first-round draft pick. Manziel then was dumped by LeBron James’ marketing agency. Nike reportedly is set to drop Manziel next.
The Browns will soon enough, although when and how remains uncertain.
Cleveland could cut ties with Manziel immediately by releasing him. But with the offseason program not set to begin until April, new Browns management has plenty of time to see if Manziel has any trade value.
That would be the wise move. The NFL is such a quarterback-starved league that even Blaine Gabbert fetched Jacksonville a sixth-round draft pick when dealt to San Francisco in 2014.
To his credit, Gabbert took advantage of the change of scenery after a horrific first three NFL seasons with the Jaguars. He even started the final eight games for the 49ers this season after Super Bowl starter Colin Kaepernick was benched.
But here’s one of the biggest differences between Gabbert and Manziel: Gabbert worked his tail off to get better. There’s no indication Manziel will do the same.
Rich Gannon, a former Super Bowl-starting quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player, recently offered a critique of Manziel after meeting with him prior to calling the Browns-Chiefs game as a CBS analyst. Gannon told Cleveland radio station 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland that Manziel had shown on-field improvement this season, but called into question whether he had the work ethic quarterbacks need to succeed in the NFL and “whether he’s ever going to figure it out.”
That’s doubtful. If he wasn’t fully applying himself to football in-season by living inside team headquarters and using his free time to watch video like the game’s greats do, what is the likelihood of Manziel plying himself in the offseason when surrounded by the party temptations and trappings that come with being, well, Johnny Manziel?
Even so, Manziel may very well get another opportunity in 2016 with another team for the reasons cited above. On paper, Dallas seems like a possibility because:
A) The Cowboys are in need of a backup for Tony Romo.
B) Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to select Manziel with the No. 16 overall pick in 2014 before being talked out of it by his son.
C) Players with troubling off-field baggage have never scared off Jones before. Remember, Jones signed a quarterback with the same type of party lifestyle as Manziel in 2001.
In the case of that quarterback, Ryan Leaf, he’s a draft bust and more. Leaf is serving time in prison on drug-related charges.
Manziel should make sure he remembers that name as he leaves Cleveland.