Johnny Renaissance: Manziel Begins Anew

20 Apr

Shirley Ellis called it “The Name Game” in her 1964 pop hit.


Ever since Jonathan Manziel (Johnny Football®) made the national scene in 2011, his trademarked moniker and free-wheeling lifestyle have become fodder for a kind of national name game, i.e., “Johnny Red Flag,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Johnny Case (Study),” “Johnny Got His (Sample Cup)” are just a smattering of the gamesmanship.

Some of the word-plays have been complimentary, others have been critical but most have poked fun at the Tyler, Texas native (12.6.92).

And my title (“Johnny Renaissance”)? It’s not so much a prediction as it is a communiqué of good luck. Not because I’m a huge fan of Johnny Manziel.

Though he entered the NFL draft after his sophomore season, I had hoped he’d remain in college for the duration as I believed he stood good chance of becoming NCAA’s greatest single-wing tail-back, i.e., run-QB.


The 2nd-year Cleveland Browns‘ QB and Heisman winner (Tx A&M ‘12) was reported to’ve voluntarily entered a “drug and alcohol rehabilitation” facility in February (“Sources: Manziel Out” / Fox-AP / 4.11). He’s exited the facility and is expected to be in attendance at Browns spring camp to kick off Monday (4/20).

Addiction, if that’s what the rehab stint was largely about, and taking steps to combat it through self examination, is serious stuff.

So I say, bravo, Johnny.

As of this write, Jon will compete with three quarterbacks for the Browns starter job, a number of rostered signal callers likely to be trimmed down to three.

Others include former Buccaneer & Bear, the pricey pick-up Josh McCown, 2nd-year man Connor Shaw (one start in ‘14) and former Brown & Bill, Thad Lewis.

Last year’s primary starter Brian Hoyer (13gs) won’t be amongst the group as he was not resigned and contracted with Houston (2y / 10M). The McCown signing doesn‘t appear a big upgrade but then the Cleveland brain-trust has been a bit shaky in signal-caller calls ever since the Bernie Kosar days ended (’91).

Brownies are not alone. A matriculating, field-savvy, healthy, clutch, long-term QB is hard to find, and getting harder.

Manziel had two starts in (0-2) and did not impress (51+ C%, 0td, 2int, y/c 9.7). But he kept the scamper to a minimum (9-29y) and generally kept his composure, excepting that backwards scoot & fumble @ Buffalo.

Run-QB has not translated well to the pro game and I don’t expect Jon, nor Mr. Mariota, to change that trend.

The rabbit-habit works wonders on the unlevel playing fields of the college gridiron but does not cultivate the form nor mental state required for the pass heavy pro-set. Once the ‘bolt action’ begins it’s a nearly impossible habit to break. Taking hard hits is a painful learning process best begun when young, dauntless and a bit imprudent.

But most NFL observers are right now more concerned with Jon’s mental maturity and social behavior. A believed drinking habit is thought to’ve been a hindrance to his development on and off the playing field.

A devout devotion to drink will derail anyone’s development. Problem drinkers, especially of celebrity status, will usually trip-wire trouble of a very serious, regular nature, something I didn’t quite see in Manziel’s reported behaviors.

Before his rehabilitation, whenever I heard of Johnny Football’s off field shenanigans I was often reminded of that Barbara Streisand song, “People (Styne & Merrill (Funny Girl ’64)), “♫ people who need people ♫.” No joke.

Manziel appeared to this amateur psychiatrist to be a young man who simply reveled in the company of others, loved the spotlight and sharing his fame.

Whatever the reason(s) Jon went the rehab route, be it the crutch of alcohol or something else, the experience should do him good, physically and emotionally. We all could use a cleansing now & then, body and soul (See; libation, medicines, gluten, HFCS (in pop), plastics, mold, chemicals, etc.).


The fact Skip Bayless sent out the SOS for Jon just prior to his entrance into the facility means either Skip has a conduit into the Manziel circle or his skills in long-distance observation & diagnosis are out of this world.

Whether or not the rehab will result in a rebirth of sorts, learning to respect himself and others, is something Jon, we, won’t know for some time. Change is a process. The valuable kind will often come in small steps:

Victory is not won in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground and later win a little more (Louis L’Amour);” or, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in, day out (R. Collier).”

That reads like standard motivational speech: true enough but rather austere.

Jon might keep one thing in mind that may prove helpful: As busy & beautiful as life can be, a good chunk of it is boredom, even if rich and famous. If you can cope with that, fill it with value, you’re halfway there.

Something in Jon’s favor: With steady decline in the number of pocket-passers coming out of the college ranks, where Sir Runs Alot has stole the show and the hearts of many a coach, the single-wing TB (run QB) should come back in vogue and, if not dominate the NFL, surely hold a dominion. Law of supply & demand.

That should also portend a rebirth in defensive dominance as offensive passing skills become more the icing rather than the greater cake of champions.

If Manziel flies right, catches a few breaks and his club is serious about winning, he could be at the forefront of a Renaissance, personally and professionally (NFL). His new theme song: “I Will Survive (Gaynor ‘78),” of course.


Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo credits: J.Manziel, wc.cca, ED.Drost, 7.25.14, Berea, pass; J.Manziel, wc.cca, ED.Drost, 8.2.14, Berea, head, thmb; J.Manziel, wc.cca, Shutterbug459, TxA&M, 10.20.12, thmb; J.Manziel, 7.25.14, Berea, run, wc.cca, ED.Drost, thmb; J.Manziel, Berea, 7.25.14, ED.Drost, wc.cca, standing, thmb.
Posted: 4.20.15 @12:56am EST


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