The Riddle of Johnny Football

And we need a cutline...
So Johnny Manziel is going the way of the NFL.

By Will Martin

The announcement was made January 8 this year causing the media world to go crazy. College football’s first freshman Heisman Trophy winner declared himself eligible for the National Football League draft in May.

Dubbed “Johnny Football” in 2012 when winning said Heisman, Johnny Manziel threw for 68 touchdown passes and 7,820 yards in just two seasons at Texas A&M University. He also rushed for 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns.

To say that Manziel means excitement would be an understatement. The NFL now gets to be treated to his maverick brand of play, we believe. With the paperwork filed in the proper channels, Manziel’s last message was placed on Texas A&M’s website:

“After long discussions with my family, friends, teammates, and coaches, I have decided to make myself available for the 2014 NFL draft,” the note said. “The decision was not an easy one, but we all felt this was the right time to make the next step toward a professional career.”

While there are many people who wish Johnny well in his new venture there are those in the haters camp who want to see him fall flat on his face. Not so much for what he did on the field but for what he did off it.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”

Johnny Be Good Versus Johnny Be Bad
Winning the Cotton Bowl over Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium one year ago. Oversleeping and missing out on a football camp hosted by Peyton Manning. Did Manziel only oversleep or did he party it up the night before?

Winning big at a casino and being boastful with a Twitter pic. Having a huge game at home on September 14 against Alabama putting up 42 points despite a defeat. Sitting out half a game to start the 2013 season for signing jerseys and allegedly getting compensated.

The hype of Johnny Football continues to grow like an urban myth or legend take your pick. This football quarterback who fuels an anti-hero, anti-establishment, goes down his own path demeanor slowly is gaining steam with each passing day.

It’s like a cross between Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, and John Daly with TMZ en route. Every move watched, scrutinized, discussed, prodded, applauded, dissed, loved, hated, but never ignored.

Such is going to be the world of Johnny Football in the NFL. After all, it’s what fans like you and I wanted.

Which NFL Team Fits Best?
The Houston Texans are on the clock with the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Does Johnny go there? Great defense, a new coach who will run a system Manziel is familiar with, a running game with Arian Foster when healthy. That would be a good fit in theory. To hear the experts speak, Manziel will wind up with the Oakland Raiders or the Cleveland Browns.

I say no to Cleveland, maybe to the Raiders, as that would elicit memories of Kenny Stabler and a Southeastern Conference of years past. Of  late, quarterbacks essentially wither away in Cleveland…unless their last name is Kosar, Sipe, or Graham.

To those of you who don’t think Johnny Football gets drafted in the first round how about this scenario? If Manziel gets overlooked in the first 30 picks or is picked late would anyone be surprised if the kid from College Station wound up as a Dallas Cowboy?

Before you react angrily consider some scenarios, pro and con. Time and time again Jerry Jones has shown an ability to defy the odds and buck the trend. A .500 record since 1997 and a perfect 24-24 since 2010 despite record ratings each time the Cowboys are on in Prime Time. Imagine having a Johnny Manziel to back up an aging Tony Romo with a bad back.

Imagine the extra number of cameras in the locker room when Manziel appears after a game win or lose. You hear that term”It Factor” at times to describe a player and Johnny Manziel certainly appears to match that criteria.

The Entourage
Add to that the dysfunctional family that Johnny’s entourage provides one can envision a day Dez Bryant resembles a patron saint. Heck, you might even want to change his last name to MAN-ZEAL. Mom and Dad have had their moments of stupidity and making comments weird enough to make you scratch your head and say, ‘huh?’

The status and popularity with the guys and the ladies is at an all-time high. We are drawn to perceived bad boys or a potential car crash in the making. Call it Breaking Bad meets Making Good. Jerry Jones loves any kind of attention brought to his team. The rock star perception that Johnny Football potentially brings is at the very least intriguing. Old-time Cowboys fans would despise and not like the continued breakaway from old school discipline and tradition.

The Perfect Fit?
If this is a fad may Johnny keep reinventing himself like Madonna does every 3-5 years. My guess is that the public will eat up this person until his troubles off the field supersede any superhuman act on the playing field. In football we like a little bit of nasty to match wits with a violent sport.

Johnny on the spot. Still a kid but oh so fun to watch make the transformation to a man. Place me on the side of the aisle that says Johnny Manziel makes it, and gets represented by Drew Rosenhaus while playing for Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. That is, if Houston decides to pass on him.

There would be the extra attention, the added distraction, the marketing of No. 2, filling AT&T Stadium with upwards of 95,000 people, and an ever present presence on ESPN with visits by Ian Rappaport, Albert Breer, Babe Laufenberg, Steve Dennis, and of course Dale Hansen!

It’s a long way to May and anything can happen. We currently assume that Johnny Manziel is going to make it. He possesses the off-the-field aura of a Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Babe Ruth, John Daly, a big man on Wall Street so to speak. A gunslinger who isn’t afraid to take a chance and willing to risk it all.

We felt the same way about Vince Young in 2005 as a Longhorn. Young’s pro career didn’t pan out. Johnny Manziel turned 21 on December 6. Is there a chance he simply burns out from the ever-hot eye of the camera and media scrutiny? Or will the demands of the NFL and the responsibilities of adulthood get in the way of moving on from a period of life that we think of as the “college phase”?

Houston, you’re on the clock!