Is Johnny Manziel a con man or a quarterback?
The second-year signal caller met the media Wednesday for the first time since the end of his disastrous rookie season, one that was so bad it forced the former Heisman Trophy winner to take stock of his life in the form of 10 weeks of rehab at the Caron addiction treatment center in Pennsylvania.
Manziel claims his “Johnny Football” persona which dated back to his days as a true superstar at Texas A&M overtook him as a person and he is now promising to quiet the noise in his sophomore season as a pro.
Manziel even agreed to drop his trademarked money sign, the celebration he created in College Station and took to the NFL when he was drafted and hit the stage at Radio City Music Hall.
“The money sign will not be back. I will not be making it,” Manziel claimed.
Of course there were literally no opportunities to use it in his only two professional starts last season except for the opponents who were mocking the immature, overmatched Texas native.
Manziel refused to acknowledge why he was in rehab in the offseason but numerous sources have confirmed he wanted to clean up what had become a rather messy alcohol habit, no surprise for those who have followed his exploits on social media.
“Last year is last year, it was what it was and it was not very good,” Manziel admitted. “So for me, I’m trying to close that chapter and just build on what I’ve done so far this year and just move forward, and try to close that chapter in my life. Not one that I’m very proud of, not one that I want to look back on very much and dwell on, that’s for sure.”
He also acknowledged that his off-the-field behavior, both the partying and the lack of preparation it spawned, was a detriment to an organization that took a huge gamble by selecting such an immature kid in the first round of the draft.
“I was a little bit of a distraction last year and I feel bad about that today,” Manziel understated. “I feel bad about that throughout the last months of my life, really thinking back and seeing how much of my life outside of this field and outside of this locker room is documented.”
Finally Manziel took a stab at step No. 9 and made amends to his teammates, who often had to answer questions about his antics.
“It’s not fair for (Pro Bowl cornerback) Joe Haden to be having to answer questions about me every day,” he said. “It’s not fair for (All-Pro offensive tackle) Joe Thomas and all these guys to just continue to have questions asked about me. I don’t think that’s fair at all and I don’t want that on them.”
All of that sounds really good but there there’s one thing you have to understand about Manziel: when you rewind his press conferences, he was always savvy enough to say the right thing even when his private life was spiraling out of control.
For Manziel his actions will not only speak louder that his words, the Browns have to completely ignore the semantics and focus solely on the behavior.
On the field in Berea he’s been up and down but there is little question that veteran journeyman Josh McCown has significantly outplayed Manziel in the spring.
“I’m doing some good things and I’m doing some bad things,” Manziel admitted. “I think that’s part of the OTA season. Some days you come out and you really feel like you have it down; the next day the defense will come down and throw wrinkles at you, and you have to go back to the film.”
The fact that Manziel is talking about watching film is a small step in the positive direction as is his off-the-field behavior since leaving rehab. Manziel moved away from downtown Cleveland for a quieter neighborhood and has been staying off the social-media circuit as well as nixing the high-profile trips out of town.
A sojourn to WWE’s “Monday Night Raw,” which was live from Cleveland on Monday night showed just how far Manziel has to go to regain his reputation, however.
When flashed on the screen for the first time, Manziel was greeted by noticeable boos although he was holding the T-shirt of Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, a Cleveland-area native who is a bad guy or “heel” in wrestling parlance.
Later WWE champion Seth Rollins, another heel, used Manziel in his promo to ignite the crowd, claiming “Johnny Idiot Face,” will never bring Cleveland a title.
There has been no confirmation that Mike Pettine is a Rollins fan but one NFL source flat out told me that the Browns coach has already moved on from Manziel in his mind.
General manager Ray Farmer has more skin in the game, however, and is certainly going to make sure a first-round pick on his watch sets a second chance.
Anyway you slice it, though, Manziel’s leash in Cleveland is now non-existent.
Either he’s a con man or a quarterback and it’s time to find out.