So the Browns are alarmed that Johnny Manziel likes to party. Sources told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer as much.
Anyone who thought Manziel would start tucking himself in at 9 p.m. every night once he had more money in his pocket was putting more faith in hope than history. Maybe they believed what he said before the draft about maturing. Manziel said the right things again on Friday, talking about rookie mistakes and things he wished he could have back. "I'm not in college anymore, and there's just things I need to do better, and that's just part of being a professional. Hopefully with time and as time goes on, I'll get better at doing that." He talked about wanting to focus on football 24-7.
The pictures say so much more. In a way, the stream of images of Manziel partying is a worse reflection on the Browns than it is on Manziel. Other teams understood who Manziel was, which is why his stock was devalued on draft day. Now the Browns understand it, too.
Prosperity and fame bring out the worst in a lot of people, so it's possible that becoming an NFL quarterback will be the worst thing that can happen to Manziel. He may have enough instinct and ability to get by, doing things the way he has done them, but a quarterback's ceiling tends to be limited by riding on inflatable swans, spraying bottles of champagne and rolling up $20 bills in a manner that can be used for snorting. If he wants to be Johnny Footloose, he really cannot be a great NFL quarterback.
If Manziel were a cornerback, this would not be as big a deal. But he is a quarterback, the player that others are supposed to follow and who sells the most jerseys. On the path he's traveling, Manziel will set a standard for 52 others that's lower than the standard Browns coach Mike Pettine would like to establish. The Browns appear to have solid veteran leaders, and they're not going to buy into Manziel. If everyone figures out that their young quarterback's insouciance will cost them money and opportunities, Manziel will have another set of problems. Pettine has expressed concern about Manziel. So has Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. The good news is, the Browns recognize the need to housebreak the pup. The bad news is, the pup really likes the carpet.
A quarterback should not have to be forced to conform. The best ones force others to conform to them -- to their work ethic, their discipline, their willingness to sacrifice for others. Manziel has to realize this is not college football. This is a grown man's game, and it takes a grown man's mentality to flourish in it. The mental and physical demands on Manziel with the Browns are going to be 10 times what they were at Texas A&M. It won't come easy.
Bill Parcells likes to talk about quarterbacks. He has commandments for them. Some of the best: "Have fun, but don't be the clown." "Know your job cold." "Be the same guy every day." "Don't be a celebrity quarterback." If Manziel does not change drastically, he will break each of those four commandments. The way he parties and attracts attention will prevent him from knowing his job as well as Peyton Manning knows his. It's difficult to achieve consistency with bloodshot eyes.
Joe Namath did it, the argument goes, but there is no modern-day Namath, because the league has changed too much. It's too demanding now for a quarterback to get away with misplaced priorities. Another difference is that we did not get daily reports on where Broadway Joe partied every night. We weren't bombarded with his escapades, so there was a difference in the perception, if not the reality. Namath was able to operate in the shadows, an advantage that Manziel doesn't have in the Twitter and TMZ age. Then again, Manziel seems to relish the attention as much as the carousing. The photographer for many of the Manziel nightlife pictures has been Manziel himself.
Manziel can't be Namath. No one can anymore. The most significant part of the Namath story is that he played like a Hall of Famer and won a Super Bowl. He was so special in many ways. He earned the right to do what he did. Manziel hasn't even taken a snap yet. Manziel has to decide if he wants to try to be Manning, or if he wants to try to be Vince Young. Really, as training camp starts in Berea, Ohio, the only thing we know about Johnny Manziel, NFL quarterback, is that he can take a selfie.