Johnny Manziel’s Off-The-Field ‘Issues’ Are All Positives, If Anything

  • Matt Rudnitsky

The 2014 NFL Draft is coming up, which means that media outlets are conjuring up bullshit “news” about prospects, acting like things are changing when, if you haven’t noticed, the college football season is over.

Everything you need to know about Johnny Manziel is out there. Teams will watch film, continue internal dialogues and talk to Manziel (and the other 99098539 eligible draftees), and finalize rankings.

The scouting report on Johnny Manziel has been written. It’s done. All that’s left to see is: When will he be drafted, and how will be fare, over a probably-long career, in the NFL?

Here is an excellent scouting report about Johnny Football that doesn’t delve into bullshit narratives, from Russ Lande at SportsOnEarth. Check out the whole thing. Here is the gist.

When you watch a football game on television, it is usually easy to get an impression as to whether a quarterback has the tools to play in the NFL. With Manziel, however, it takes a lot more time studying film and breaking him down to determine what his NFL future holds. I have spoken with numerous respected NFL scouts about him, and it’s an understatement to say that opinions are split. A few have told me they feel he is the best quarterback in the draft, which is high praise indeed. But on the other hand, others have actually said they would not draft him. Needless to say, opinions split that drastically on a player are rare.

He is indeed a difficult player to evaluate on the field, much of the reason why he’s “polarizing.” The scouting report mentions the postives: The “plus arm,” that he “can make every NFL throw with ease.” The “rare ability to avoid pressure and sacks to buy himself a second chance that can extend plays longer than any quarterback I have ever evaluated.” The “lowest error/interception rate” of the top-five quarterbacks in the draft.

Then, the real concerns. He’s short. That’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s a significant hurdle. He also needs to be coached by someone who will tailor an offense for his unique style of play.

That’s about it. He’s very good and has incredible potential. But he has a few attributes that could prove too much to overcome. Which is why he’s gonna be a first-round pick, but like almost every prospect in every sport, he’s not a sure thing.

But you don’t hear that on SportsCenter or read about it on blogs (sports blogs are the worst!). They (but not us!) talk about his “character issues” or “red flags” or whatever bullshit term they use to hide the fact that they cannot support their arguments in any capacity.

And it’s not just the media; NFL teams are joining in. Some of them are probably capitalizing on the idiocy and smokescreening. But with the amount of idiocy we’ve seen within the NFL, well, some of them probably are serious.

Mike Zimmer:

“All of the things that happened out in Los Angeles, the commercials and all that stuff [Manziel had a cameo in a recent McDonalds commercial with LeBron James]; the position of quarterback in the NFL is such an important position and the reason these guys need to be a totally football-minded guy is the pressure of the position and being the face of an NFL team and doing everything right. That’s the thing you want to know about him — will he be into work early every single day? Will be the last to leave? Will he be the guy that is working the hardest to get better?

“All of the things that happened out in Los Angeles” were… him being spotted, seemingly sober, with a really attractive girl, exiting a nightclub. In the offseason.

And yes, he received money to be in a fast-food commercial. Remind you of any good, pizza-hustling quarterbacks?

Again, there’s a good chance Zimmer is just throwing smokescreens. But the media isn’t, and like I said, some of the teams that sound like idiots, probably are.

Those questions at the end, about work ethic, which all reasonable GMs are asking about every player, are the right questions. Bad answer on those = red flag. It’s possible that teams will be disappointed with Manziel in these regards. But, all of the evidence we’ve seen suggests that there are ZERO red flags here. If anything, they improve his stock.

Back to Lande’s report:

Nearly everything I have been able to dig up on Manziel’s character has been positive. (Having worked for two NFL teams, I completely understand that scouts lie to media all the time to deceive and hide intentions, but I have tremendous confidence in my sources on this subject.) No one I spoke to will deny that Manziel can act like a spoiled kid who is still maturing as a young man, but none expressed great concern about his true character, with the consensus being that football is very important to Manziel and that he consistently does more than is asked to make sure he is successful.

Manziel is viewed within the program as a rare competitor who will do anything to succeed, and this shows in his willingness to play through pain and confront teammates when needed as leaders must do. One thing that shocked me when speaking to scouts is that prior to practice and games, Manziel actually goes through the process of making tough throws from awkward positions when he cannot set his feet and this shows up in his ability to make great throws despite terrible positioning. Not that his raw footwork is good when he has a clean pocket or time and space to reset feet, but it clearly pays dividends when outside the pocket.

Can’t get more assuring than that.

I’m not a scout — I don’t know if Manziel will be “Jeff Garcia,” a “more mobile Tony Romo,” or or “Brett Favre.” Or better than those comparisons, or worse. But if he doesn’t succeed, it’ll probably be because of the “red flags” in Lande’s scouting report. The on-the-field obstacles. If something off-the-field derails Johnny Manziel’s career, it will be a shock.

But not to the media. Especially Noted Moron Nolan Nawrocki.

Has defied the odds and proven to be a great college-system quarterback, but still must prove he is willing to work to be great, adjust his hard-partying, Hollywood lifestyle and be able to inspire his teammates by more than his playmaking ability. Overall character, leadership ability and work habits will define his NFL career. Rare competitiveness and third-down efficiency could carry him a long way, yet he will be challenged to avoid a Ryan Leaf-like, crash-and-burn scenario if he does not settle down and mature. A high-risk, high-reward pick, Manziel stands to benefit from entering the NFL at a time when moving pockets are trending.

Yes, Nawrocki compared Johnny Manziel to Ryan Leaf. Yes, this is a pretty standard mainstream discussion of Johnny Football. It’s disgusting bullshit.

Let’s be clear: There are two off-the-field flags regarding Johnny Manziel. The arrest, and the Manning Passing Academy incident. That’s it.

The arrest was two years ago, and unless the report is incorrect, it was simply Johnny trying to protect a dumb friend. That is not a red flag; if anything, it’s a good thing. Yes, he had a fake ID. I assure you that 90% of my college friends also had a fake ID. For a popular college kid, his “red flags” are incredibly tame.

The Manning Passing Academy, sure, was a flag. This is what happened.

Manziel was spotted at a bar in Thibodaux early Friday morning, and he was late for one of the Friday coaching sessions. No one’s sure where he was Friday night, but he was a no-show for a two-hour session Saturday morning, and the staff had to cover for him. (Imagine you’re a high school sophomore, you’re excited about coming to the Manning camp, and, as if that’s not enough, you walk in for orientation Thursday night and hear, “Johnny Football’s going to be your counselor.” You’re all jacked up, and then you show up Saturday for a two-hour workout with Manziel … and he’s nowhere to be found. Not good.)

Confronted by the staff early Saturday afternoon, Manziel said he wasn’t feeling well and had to miss the Saturday session. Even if that were true, the staff wasn’t pleased that Manziel never called and left the coaches short-handed. It was then that someone — Archie, by some reports — told Manziel it would be best for everyone if he went home.

It is one incident that shows immaturity. Teams should ask about it. But people were talking about “red flags” before and after this, and this is literally it. This is all.

Hanging out with Drake is not a red flag (well, at least for football purposes). Going to clubs and bars is not a red flag. Being a cocky quarterback is not a red flag. As long as the person is a good leader. Tom Brady talks shit. Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers are cocky as hell. Joe Flacco called himself the best quarterback in the NFL.

The autograph “incident,” too, is meaningless.

A.J. Green sold a jersey in college. Terrelle Pryor sold multiple items. Jadeveon Clowney may have sold autographs. There are (completely unconfirmed) rumors about Teddy Bridgewater and Braxton Miller doing the same. Arian Foster admitted to taking money at Tennessee.

This has zero predictive value for projecting Johnny Football as an NFL quarterback.

Seriously, just go to if you think that a player being seen drunk in isolated incidents has a correlation to talent. You’ve seen Gronk. Big Ben. Rex Grossman. Rory McIlroy. Chad Henne with Natty Light! My friend has told me about playing beer pong with Eli Manning (and other Giants). Most athletes drink. Most athletes go out.

All (non-Tebow) athletes talk to attractive women and sex them.

You could argue that Manziel “should be more careful” and hide his personal life. But the only reason to do that is because people try to act like a ridiculously popular college kid acting like a ridiculously popular college kid has anything to do with his success at the job at which he’s projected to star.

I assure you that if Johnny Frat Boy’s college years were as visible as Johnny Football’s, he wouldn’t get picked No. 1 in the I-Banking draft, and you’d probably be horrified at all of the stupid shit he’s done.

This shouldn’t be controversial, but it is. If Johnny Football fails at playing football, it’ll be because he’s not good enough at playing football. And why bet against a dude who has a dad with the last name, Football?