In an expected move, the Cleveland Browns waived quarterback Johnny Manziel after just two seasons with the team. Originally, Browns fans had hoped he would become the franchise quarterback following his highly decorated collegiate career at Texas A&M. He was the first freshman quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien award, which is given to the nation’s top quarterback. However, since being drafted with the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, he has been nothing more than a disappointment.
Manziel was ineffective in his two years with the Browns, playing just 14 games with eight starts, which is the fewest by any quarterback who the franchise selected in the first round of the common-draft era since 1967. Manziel also had the fewest touchdown passes (seven) for any of the 13 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 150 passes in their first two NFL seasons.
The 23-year-old did have a couple encouraging performances in the 2015 season, such as his career-high 372 passing yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers and 270 passing yards against the San Francisco 49ers, which also marked back-to-back games with a 90-plus passer rating. There were bumps in the road, but what ultimately doomed him was his constant off-field issues.
He was the named the starting quarterback for the rest of the season in mid-November, but then-head coach Mike Pettine demoted him down to the third string on the depth chart after an online video surfaced of Manziel partying. What made matters worse was that he reportedly lied directly to Pettine about the timeline of the video, and he also encouraged his friends to lie about when the video was filmed.
Things continued to go in the wrong direction when he was spotted at Las Vegas’s Planet Hollywood casino the night before the Browns’ regular-season finale game against the Steelers, which resulted in him being benched due to his failure to check in with the team medical staff about a concussion prior to the game.
The end of his run with the Browns occurs after an incident that makes him the subject of a grand jury investigation in Dallas, concerning a reported assault of his former girlfriend. This made the decision to cut him quite easy with the exorbitant amount of off-field baggage that he has accumulated. Nonetheless, Manziel was appreciative of his time with the organization despite the constant turmoil.
“I’d like to thank the Browns for the opportunity they gave me — nearly two years ago, we all hoped that we were building what could be a championship team for Cleveland,” Manziel said via ESPN.com. “I will always remember the support I received from the organization, my teammates and especially the fans.”
With Manziel entering the free agent market at just 23 years old, there may be a team or two that will take a chance on him because of his potential on the field. However, there’s always a chance that his numerous issues off the field have deteriorated his value to the point where teams are extremely wary of signing a player surrounded by a cloud of negativity.
Yes, there are plenty of players across the league who can’t be described as the best citizens but this is an entirely different case with Manziel as he’s playing arguably the most important position in the NFL. The quarterback is supposed to lead his team by example on and off the field. They are almost always labeled the face of the franchise, which means that their behavior must be on the mark at all times.
Manziel hasn’t shown any improvement in his maturity or commitment to bettering himself off the field. Yes, he did take a giant personal step forward by entering rehab for his alcohol problems following his rookie season but his persistent troubles with controlling it is what hurt his professional career.
All of this makes it hard to envision a team giving him a legitimate shot at being their franchise quarterback. However, we can expect someone to sign him based on his potential alone. That said, if these off-the-field problems continue arising he could be out of the league in a blink of an eye.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com and ESPN.com.