In the wake of his recent domestic violence issues, continued reckless partying, and subsequent release from the Cleveland Browns, there has been a lot of pontificating on Johnny Manziel. However, there has not been much in the way of real reporting at the heart of how things spun so terribly out of control for the young quarterback.
Thanks to Emily Kaplan and the folks over at MMQB, we finally have a definitive look at Manziel’s downfall in Cleveland.
Those around Manziel revealed the quarterback never really felt wanted by the team from the start, while coaches say Manziel failed to grasp the full role of an NFL starting quarterback.
While Manziel and fans celebrated, one Browns assistant says the coaching staff was less thrilled with a selection that had seemingly come down from ownership.
“Johnny never really felt like the coaches wanted him there,” a close friend says.
That feeling became more defined as the season wore on. Manziel had never had a playbook before he entered the NFL—Texas A&M issued its players weekly game plans—and he barely studied it. He struggled through weekly quarterback tests. At practice, the offense would run a set of 10 scripted plays, with Manziel (as the No. 2 QB) running two of them. He would brush up on those two plays, and only those two plays.
“[So] when he was thrust into [the starter’s] role, it became very clear he had no idea what was going on,” says a former Browns coach. “He went out there and had no clue.”
The piece also reveals Manziel was far from a pariah in the locker room, rather quite the opposite. However, some of his antics and comments started to rub some players the wrong way.
Manziel was often detached at practice. On an especially cool afternoon, he remarked: “I bet it’s nice in Dallas right now.” That irked many in the organization, including some teammates, though he was never unpopular in the locker room. Far from it. Many players seemed to gravitate towards Manziel because he was charming and cool. Manziel is loyal, picking up the tab anytime a friend visited Cleveland, buying friends Rolex watches “just because” or taking time to engage in conversation with a teammate’s or coach’s kids who were fans. If he didn’t like someone, he let it be known.
“That’s the thing most people don’t understand about Johnny,” a Browns source says. “His teammates all love him, and stand up for him.”
Of course, no in-depth piece on Manziel would be complete without sordid details of the quarterbacks recklessness and battles with substance abuse. When the Browns benched Manziel after leading the team to victory over the Titans in Week 2, his downward spiral began in earnest.
With no support system in place, the benching was a tipping point. Browns sources say this instigated Manziel’s downward spiral. Friends too, noticed that Manziel was disengaged after the Titans game, though they saw him regroup a few more times during the season. Before the Steelers game in Week 10, for example, Manziel was acting with confidence, as Pettine had just tapped him as the starter for a second consecutive game.
“If Johnny doesn’t have a carrot dangling in front of him, he resorts to his default,” says a friend. “And his default is not giving a s—.”
There were also reports that Manziel would sleep off hangovers in the team’s facility.
He wanted to party again, so he did, often showing up late to the facility for meetings and, according to a Browns source, sometimes sleeping off hangovers in the back of equipment rooms.
There’s a lot more in the full piece, including documentation of Manziels efforts to clean himself up, which you can read here.