The Cleveland Browns have been suspiciously quiet about the future of quarterback Johnny Manziel. But now that the team has hired their new head coach, former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, there have been reports about what the plan for Manziel is going forward. According to multiple sources, and as reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN’s Pat McManamon and Dan Graziano, the Jackson hiring will mark the end of the Manziel era in Cleveland. McManamon and Graziano reported on Wednesday that during the Browns’ two meetings with Jackson, “Jackson indicated that he would prefer the organization move on from Manziel if he were to become coach, and he was told that would not be a problem.”
In two seasons, Manziel has appeared in 15 games, with eight starts. He’s completed 57 percent of his passes, for 1,657 yards, seven touchdowns, seven interceptions and 22 sacks taken. He’s also rushed 46 times, for 259 yards and a score. But it’s not Manziel’s on-field performance that has the Browns and Jackson ready to move on, but rather what he’s done off the field and in his spare time that has become the issue.
From “Champagne Swan,” to “Money Phone,” from rehab, to promises publicly made and broken, with a seemingly endless trail of social media posts displaying Manziel continuing to party in homes and in clubs and a brief police investigation into domestic violence allegations, Manziel has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. When Manziel skipped town (and mandatory concussion protocol examinations) in Week 17, the Browns had little to say and have said even less since the season ended. And now that the head coach who begrudgingly accepted him and the general manager who drafted him are gone, Manziel’s in-house support has dipped to nothing.
The changes at the top, though, make the decision about moving on from Manziel that much easier. There is no one left to placate by keeping him on board. And even if owner Jimmy Haslam still sees promise in the quarterback, the decision isn’t up to him. No owner, no team trying to turn its fortunes around are going to force a quarterback on a new coaching staff. If Jackson doesn’t want Manziel—and all indications point in that direction—he doesn’t have to keep him.
And that’s good for Jackson and good for the Browns. Though Jackson and company have to decide the best way to proceed with the Manziel situation—try to find a trade partner or release him outright—these are mere formalities. It’s not as complicated as the choice to keep Manziel on the roster and then figure out how to handle his next, inevitable offseason, off-field mess. It’s far less complicated as explaining to the other players on the roster why Manziel remains under contract in Cleveland given his myriad breaches of trust, of professionalism and of respect for the organization and his teammates. Jackson’s lack of desire to have any connection to Manziel is a sign that he’s taken control over the situation, an early show of strength that sets the tone for his first year as the Browns’ head coach.
Manziel has proven far more trouble than he’s worth. If he were a truly gifted player, a game-changing (and game-winning) quarterback with a true love of and desire to play football, perhaps he’d been an asset worth salvaging. But he’s not. Sure, he’s flashed some of the devil-may-care style of play that made him a household name in two years at Texas A&M, but flashes aren’t enough when weighed against all the drawbacks of trying to coach and manage Manziel. He’s been given many chances and squandered all of them, and Jackson isn’t about to take on a project who could sink his second opportunity to serve as a head coach in the NFL. Let someone else hitch their wagon to Manziel.
The end of the brief and brutal Manziel era seemed inevitable, given not just Manziel’s behavior to close the season but the whole body of work, as well as the coaching and front-office changes. With Jackson on board and reportedly wanting Manziel out, it appears the ball is rolling on making that desire a reality. Manziel could have prevented this by being committed to football, to self-improvement, to the Browns. But he wasn’t. Whether it was a calculated ploy to get away from a team he didn’t want to play for, a basic inability to be self aware or something else, Johnny Football is about to be Johnny Bye-Bye. If this represents one of Jackson’s first big decisions of his Cleveland career, then all hail our new orange and brown overlord.