Concern with Johnny Manziel is about optics

The latest well-known figure in the football world to take aim at Johnny Manziel? All-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith, who this week suggested that Manziel is living a “short career lifestyle.”

But Smith should know all too well that football players party, often quite hard. A large number of his teammates did so during the Cowboys’ heyday in the 1990s. So why is Manziel held to a different standard when it comes to his indulgences off the field?

Well, for starters, he’s a quarterback. And quarterbacks are usually supposed to be leaders. They’re usually supposed to be more disciplined. They’re usually supposed to be smart.

Joe Namath and Ken Stabler partied, but they were still outnumbered by the Troy Aikmans of the football world (different eras, but you get the point). If Aikman had partied like some of his teammates infamously did in the 1990s, it might have been a much different story for that dynasty.

Smart people party. It isn’t a culture exclusive to idiots. But when Namath and Stabler broke from quarterback convention and misbehaved, it was before TMZ and the paparazzi and the 24-hour sports news cycle. So they weren’t necessarily making good decisions, but you could argue that they weren’t making terrible ones either.

Manziel, though, has to know that everything he does now is recorded. And if what he’s doing is even borderline-objectionable, it’ll go viral. What concerns me is that he continues to pose for pictures at booze-fueled parties and continues to post social media content like this…

“Everybody is going to go out and have a good time,” said Manziel’s teammate, Joe Haden, per ESPN. “You gotta make sure when you’re with your people, it just doesn’t get out. He’s going to have a good time, but a lot of things need to be taken away.

“You need to have a phone valet — tell your friends to put your phones away. We’re going to go out but don’t record.”

But Manziel hasn’t grasped that yet.

What this leads me to believe is that Johnny Manziel is not very smart. Because if you can deal with what he has dealt with and you still don’t understand why decisions like these might backfire, professionally and financially, it’s an indication that you lack foresight and have poor judgement.

And that’s why I’m concerned for Manziel’s future. I don’t think he’s going to drink and party himself out of this league. That’s ridiculous. Most of these guys drink and party just as much. But quarterback is a cerebral position that requires those who play it to possess foresight and strong judgement skills. Quarterbacks need to be capable of making good decisions on the field. And when you can’t even make the right ones off the field, you’re in trouble.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.