Far be it for me to slam somebody for spending Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas. There are many ways of honoring the troops, and it’s all fine with me. For people looking to inject excitement into their lives – which is most of us – this Adult Disneyland is about as good or bad as any.
The electricity is truly palpable, blaring at you from the millions of lights, and it’s very easy to take your mind off whatever you want to take it from.
But what does it tell us about Johnny Manziel that after his first week of practice with his first pro football team, he decides to tour Sin City with New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski?
To some it suggests he’s not taking his job seriously enough. The Cleveland Browns’ owner, general manager and head coach all have spoken about his needing to work his way up from No. 3 on the depth chart. Being a first-round draft pick and selling thousands of tickets and jerseys and throwing perfect spirals Brian Hoyer can only dream about does not mean you get to start.
Perhaps there was a misunderstanding. When they said act like a backup, they didn’t mean act like someone who’s not ready to be a team leader, which includes being one of its hardest workers.
If you’re trying to convince your new team of your dedication, this is not how you do it. It reminds me too little of Peyton Manning, who Johnny Football a year ago famously snubbed in Louisiana, giving up a berth in his renowned quarterback camp for a boozy Saturday night.
It reminds me far too much of Tony Romo, who once spent a couple of days in Vegas on a bye week preceding a Dallas Cowboys game against the New York Giants.
Romo said he just wanted to relax, that a little R & R at the casinos would not impair his football performance. What it did, however, was motivate the hell out of the Giants, as if they needed more incentive to beat the Cowboys. They thrashed their archrivals and afterward said they were enraged by Romo taking it for granted that he was going to beat them.
Since then, Romo’s leadership of the Cowboys has been under constant doubt, given that his Vegas fling was not his first misdirected play. Prior to that he had a weekender on a Mexican coast as a warmup to a playoff game.
Of course, this situation is very different in one key respect. This is the off-season. The Organized Team Activities, better known as OTAs, are not mandatory. The opening of the season is three months away. Still, the timing of this mini-vacation could have been better. I defer now to Zac Jackson, FOX Sports Ohio, who provided a local view of Manziel’s fleeing his new home:
“The Browns have been publicly asking Manziel to stay in his playbook and he very publicly chose to go to Las Vegas and live it up. Maybe this won’t matter in the long run (and chances are it won’t), but while Johnny Football is competing for a job he needs to put football before Johnny.”
Not that we’d begrudge him a weekend of relaxation after a stressful two months of draft auditioning and now this cram course on pro football play-calling.
But as Jackson says, “A private Florida beach with the playbook in hand – even if he had a Bud Light in the other – would have been a better play.”
In this era of telephone cameras and video everywhere, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas only if you’re not a celebrity. Whether you’re O.J. Simpson or Prince Harry or Charles Barkley, you don’t go to Vegas to keep a low profile. Not surprisingly, photos are posted of Johnny getting loose, spraying a bottle of champagne in a Vegas night club as if he were celebrating a championship.
There are no reports of damage being done with his holiday nocturnal adventures, but as there have been a few regrettable episodes in his past, the Browns might prefer not seeing photos of Manziel making champagne rain on well dressed people in a night club.
Being so oblivious, Manziel undermines his bid to be the team leader. His confidence crosses into cockiness. The Browns are not ENTIRELY blowing smoke when they speak of Hoyer as No. 1 and possibly staying there.
Consider that Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, the first quarterback taken in the draft, has been told he probably will back up Chad Henne for his entire rookie season.
Hoyer is at least as good as Henne. He won two of his three starts for Cleveland last season. Yes, he’s the prototype journeyman, undrafted free agent, four NFL teams in five years. But he works hard, knows his playbook thoroughly, has the confidence of coaches and players. And he’s perceived as unlikely to show up on a police report.
I say all this as a cautionary tale, as a self-confessed Man-zealot from the days Johnny Football was in high school. As a fan I can forgive his occasional lapses of judgment. But I can see how if these occur too often, his act, no matter how creative and entertaining it may be on the field and even off it, will tire.
Browns general manager Ray Farmer said Hoyer is ahead of Manziel “probably by a substantial margin.” Even though he’s just 21, Johnny should not be wasting time.
The last first impression he needed to create is that he thinks it’s easy to be a starting quarterback as a rookie in the NFL. That he can be a party boy and it won’t matter. That the work ethic he had in college is good enough for the pros.
For every RGIII or Andrew Luck who blossomed immediately, there have been other talented first-round picks who struggled as rookies. Peyton Manning threw 22 picks. Eli Manning completed 48 percent. And no one accused them of partying too much.
Manziel needs to – once again—re-think what he’s doing. Does he really need the noise, the cameras, the action? Does he want to be a Manning? Or a Romo?
Click here for Zac Jackson’s article on FOXSports.com: “Is Manziel putting football before Johnny?”