Johnny Manziel vs. AJ McCarron: A Tale of Media Perception

BJ KisselContributor IApril 11, 2014

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Let's get one thing straight regarding Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron.

Most people who have an opinion on either of these players regarding "off the field" stuff have never actually met either person.

People's opinions are shaped on what they've seen, heard and read in the media.

Granted, some of that comes directly from the players themselves—whether on Twitter, in interviews or said "on the record" from their coaches and those who know them best.

But in any case, these players' public perceptions have largely been influenced by the media.

It's not that "sports media" should be seen as some huge monster out to ruin the lives of Manziel or McCarron, but sometimes narratives have a way of sticking around when producers and editors have content to fill and a storyline to work through.

It's just the way the sports-media world works in today's society.

If you tweet a picture of yourself at a party with a well-known celebrity, somebody somewhere will trumpet the "he's not focused" line, and it doesn't take long before that narrative works its way to the masses.

That's a given with any athlete anywhere. The more well-known you are, the more people will talk about it, but the problem is that too often we aren't seeing the whole picture.

Are we comparing that to all of the other prospects who may be out partying also? Does the company you're partying with even matter in that case?

These questions don't really have answers because they don't matter.

If you're out partying every night and not working on your craft, it doesn't matter who you're partying with, right?

But in the case of Manziel and McCarron, it's been interesting to gauge public perception throughout much of the pre-draft process, and now looks like it might be changing.

David J. Phillip

For the longest time, people saw Manziel as a party boy only interested in the spotlight, hanging out with celebrities and taking money for signing autographs.

In that vein, many saw his celebration gesture against Rice as possibly taunting the NCAA about accepting money for the autographs.

We came to find out that it was nothing more than a sign of used by one of his favorite rappers, Drake. 

Then, it's sad that something as simple as Manziel throwing at his pro day wearing his helmet and shoulder pads redirects the narrative to "he's serious about this" and "his attitude must be changing."

Did it really change? Or did we just have no idea about it in the first place?

We ran with a few stories and made general assumptions about a person we don't know. Throwing with his shoulder pads screamed of a public-relations move by Manziel, and it worked.

It's sad that something like that could change people's perceptions of an athlete, but that's the world we're living in right now. Moves like that have to be made, and they're effective.

The same thing could be happening right now with McCarron's reality-show fiasco.

When word leaked to USA Today that a reality show featuring McCarron and his fiancee, Katherine Webb, might be on the horizon and even shooting a few episodes right now, people jumped all over it. 

Then observers switched to the narrative of whether McCarron is the one teams should be worried about taking and chasing the spotlight for attention.

Dave Martin

There may or may not be some truth to it, but the point is most people don't know and simply rely on the media to sway them one way or the other.

It's a dangerous game of media perception, and when you play the most important position on an NFL team, there will never be a time that it's easy.

Everything you say, tweet and do will be under a microscope, waiting to be torn apart, dissected and analyzed for the 24-hour news cycle before the whiff of something else gets in the crosshairs.

So be cognizant of how media perception of certain players affects your perception of those same players; there's always another side to the story.

Manziel and McCarron are great examples of how quickly perspectives can change. The truth is the players probably haven't changed much—just how they're portrayed and perceived.

Both of these players will be drafted high enough that teams are making an investment that means something. Manziel is projected as a first-round pick, while McCarron looks like a second-day pick. 

Regardless of where they're drafted, there's no denying these guys will be properly vetted by their respective NFL teams. A tweet here or a leaked story there isn't going to change anything in regards to their draft position. At least not on its own.

NFL teams have the resources to find answers and to find the truth. They'll peel back the onion to find out what they need to know, which is more than the media needs to run with a story or headline.

The teams will do their research and find the truth, for better or worse for both Manziel and McCarron.