Johnny Football may still struggle in the NFL, so don’t crown him yet, but it looks like he’s at least taken one positive step forward: He grew up.
Last year, Manziel had two problems. One was that he was no good. The other was that he was still very much a college kid, used to being the biggest star around.
He was late to meetings because of alleged partying. He had a trademarked nickname that was bigger than his real name. He would yell at opposing players and taunt the sidelines. If he scored, he’d get up rubbing his fingers together in what became known as the “money” sign.
Kid stuff. That’s fine in high school and maybe even in college, but it looked weak in the pros. This is a league of men and it looked like Manziel was one step behind. The kid who doesn’t realize it’s time to put on a suit and get in the office.
Now, a lot of players have signs and dances and what have you. But the problem with Manziel was that these things permeated his attitude. He didn’t seem focused on football, but on Johnny. He loved being a star, but he didn’t care about studying his playbook, being the first one in the weight room, being the last one off the practice field.
It was all bright lights and chaos. He never settled down and really focused on his craft. Some players never learn how to do that, and they usually don’t last long. Physical talent only goes so far.
That’s why canning the money sign mattered. The sign itself didn’t matter, but it reflected who Manziel was. He said he didn’t want to be that person anymore, and he was going to stop using the sign as part of his new persona.
He scored Thursday night, on a nice scramble against the Washington Redskins. He dropped back well in the pocket, had it dissolve back around him, and ran up through the hole that created in the middle. It was a redzone carry, so the goal line was right there, and he cut to the outside to make sure he got in.
When he crossed that line, looking to make sure no one could catch him, he just pumped his fist. Proud of what he’d done, glad to have scored, but not trying to draw all of the attention to himself. Like he’d said, that money sign really was gone.
Again, this doesn’t mean Manziel can become one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He still has other problems, such as his height and even his desire to run instead of throw. These are issues he’s going to have to work to overcome, and not everyone can do it.
The problem before, though, was that it was pretty clear he wasn’t going to work. He had no hope as a college quarterback in a pro league. In the few chances he got, he was atrocious.
This offseason, he decided to work on himself. He went to rehab, he made changes. He bettered himself and grew up.
That’s going to lead to work elsewhere. It gets him in the right mindset to start putting in the extra time, the hours with weights or the playbook. It means he’s ready to start trying to overcome the things he can’t change, like his height, and perfecting his craft.
And that’s a very good sign for Browns fans. Because, if he’s ever going to turn himself into a starter in this league, that’s exactly the first step he had to take. Last year, he seemed unwilling to take it, but a new year has brought a new Johnny Manziel, and this one actually has a chance.