The latest—and, Browns fans hope, last—in a long line of would-be successors to Bernie Kosar, Manziel has electrifying talent. There's no shortage of offensive weapons in Cleveland either, and new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan knows how to use a quarterback who can run.
There's a chance the Browns could be this year's big story—and Manziel, a roguish football phenomenon who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, would be a story no matter where he went.
Except the Browns don't want him to be a story.
New York Post columnist Bart Hubbuch wanted to report on Manziel from Cleveland's post-draft minicamp, but was informed the team is banning national media, according to a series of his tweets collected by Bleacher Report's Matt Fitzgerald. Citing their need to have a "tight grip" on Manziel, the Browns are hoping to avoid a Tebowmania-esque circus around their new franchise quarterback.
The Streisand Effect
The Browns might be about to fall victim to The Streisand Effect.
In 2003, when notoriously secretive entertainer Barbara Streisand found out a survey of the California coast had snapped pictures of her cliffside mansion, she sued the photographers for $10 million, according to Paul Rogers of The Mercury News.
If you build a giant house on the side of a cliff, though, you can't tell people not to look. Per the photographers' site, her lawsuit was dismissed. At the time, per Rogers, just six people had viewed the picture. News of her silly overreaction went viral, though; within a month over 420,000 people had peeped her palatial estate.
In trying to maintain absolute secrecy, she brought a mountain of attention on herself.
When the Browns went all Streisand on Hubbuch over Manziel, Robert Klemko of The MMQB summed up many NFL writers' reactions:
If it wasn't already, it is now. RT @BleacherReport: Browns ban nat. media from rookie camp: "We don't want this to be a Tebow situation.”— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) May 14, 2014
The Chilling Effect
Just before Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch tried to skip out on his mandatory media-availability sessions. As Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey wrote at the time, Lynch didn't simply thumb his nose at the people who help generate the fan interest that pays his salary, he ran afoul of NFL policy—and not for the first time.
Everyone has an aspect of their job that they hate. Before I became an NFL writer, I worked in IT—and man, did I hate filling out timesheets. They were an annoyance, a waste of time. I always dragged my feet on filling them out, because I never wanted to bother. Yet if I didn't fill them out and submit them to someone whose whole job was collecting timesheets and billing customers, I couldn't get paid.
So it is with NFL teams and the media.
NFL coaches hate distractions of any kind, and most football players would prefer not to have to face a scrum of reporters in the locker room. Aloof coaches like Bill Belichick wouldn't give the media any access if they weren't forced to, yet that access fuels the stories millions of the league's fans want to read, which in turn fuels their passion to keep watching.
Regardless, those fans balked when the Professional Football Writers of America issued a strong statement condemning Lynch's behavior, posted to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's site by D. Orlando Ledbetter, President of the PFWA (of which, for the record, I'm a member).
Many fans, understanding Lynch's desire for privacy, thought writers were overreacting; many likely think the same now as they read about Cleveland's lockdown.
OK, yeah: Whether or not Bart Hubbuch can watch Manziel do jumping jacks in living color won't dramatically change our understanding of the young man many call "Johnny Football." But what's the harm in having him there?
The Tebow Effect
Yes, Tebowmania was a weird and bad thing for media and fans alike. When a new backup quarterback is being covered like a Hall of Famer, that isn't good for him, the starter or anyone else in the locker room.
But no, Tim Tebow didn't fail because of the media. He failed because he couldn't play.
Manziel, like Tebow, built a massive following well before being drafted in the first round. He had the college football world in the palm of his hand for two whole years, and ESPN's first-round draft coverage revolved almost entirely around him.
If he can't handle the media pressure cooker of Berea, Ohio, the Browns probably picked the wrong guy.
True, his long list of indiscretions show he loves living large and has some life lessons to learn—but if he does something stupid during his first minicamp, there's going to be a national media firestorm regardless. On the flip side, if he handles himself like a pro, shows well on the field and earns the respect of his teammates, columnists around the country will only wish they were there to write about it.
Instead, they're writing about the Browns' futile effort to control Manziel's narrative, many chapters of which are already in the books.
In the end, the only one with control over how his story ends is Manziel himself. The Browns should worry more about giving him everything he needs to succeed than about who's watching.