Johnny Manziel's Inability to Start Right Away Not a Result of off-Field Antics

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

Jun 12, 2014; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) during minicamp at Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Manziel isn't a robot. He is a football player, yes—and a popular one at that—but his penchant for living life off the field is not something that will inhibit his skills on the field. 

Unlike, say, Peyton Manning—who gives the public the idea he does nothing but lock himself in musky film rooms until it is time to come out and shred secondaries—Manziel lives the life of a celebrity, meaning he parties on an inflatable swan and hangs with other celebrities, like the rapper Drake.

But there is a reason why TMZ and seemingly every other person with an opinion on the globe cares about Manziel's off-field escapades (otherwise known as "life") while those in the Browns organization clearly aren't too concerned.

None of it matters.

What matters is Manziel's ability to play. Should Johnny Football turn it down a notch off the field? No, but cornerback Joe Haden has a nice suggestion for the young signal-caller, per ESPN:

Everybody is going to go out and have a good time. You gotta make sure when you're with your people, it just doesn't get out. He's going to have a good time, but a lot of things need to be taken away.

You need to have a phone valet -- tell your friends to put your phones away. We're going to go out but don't record.

It's a fair piece of advice, but even if Manziel does not put some sort of awkward media leash on his friends and associates when they hang, the over-exaggeration of his life should not be mistaken for a lazy young quarterback who is not working hard at his craft.

In fact, Manziel is almost assuredly not the Week 1 starter. Just ask head coach Mike Pettine, who told Sports Illustrated's Greg A. Bedard, "We felt this entire draft class, every single quarterback needed a redshirt year, with Johnny really being the only one that had a chance to be an opening-day starter. It could happen, but in my ideal world, it's not opening day."

Jun 12, 2014; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) during minicamp at Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

That does not sound like a head coach who is in a hurry to rush out a rookie quarterback for the sake of doing solike many franchises erroneously doas a horrific way to validate the fact they spent a first-round pick on the most important position of all.

No, Pettine is doing things the right way:

That was our point all along, let's build the best team first, let's not take the quarterback. There was so much pressure internally to take a quarterback with the fourth pick [but] we weren't going to do it because the grade didn't justify it; we weren't going to draft for need.

My point was, I hope we're not drafting fourth again anytime soon. Let's look at the model. If you don't have that guy, then you need to build it like Seattle did, like San Francisco did. Get a guy with some unique traits, but first and foremost, he's not going to lose the game for you.

If Pettine sticks to his guns—as he should with so many failing examples having come before him—his new franchise quarterback will be nurtured, not rushed.

There is a fraction of the population who cares about this narrative that will suggest Manziel's off-field life gets in the way of his ability to learn the playbook and all other sorts of hoopla, but that's pure speculation.

It goes without saying that media won't flock to stories about Manziel hard at work, as he himself posted on Instagram with the caption "Guess it's impossible to enjoy the weekend and study?" recently:

Regardless, any speed bumps Manziel encounters on the field will see his off-field behavior beat to death. This is assuredly the case if/when he does not emerge as the starter right away.

Pressure for Manziel to hit the field will always be there. Pettine dug this hole for himself by grabbing him in the first round and subsequently inking him to a four-year, $8.25 million deal.

As Pettine has dug his hole, Manziel has one of his own in that his exorbitant lifestyle will chase him. He's not an NFL starter at this point, which is quite normal as he learns the speed of the game and all other things that come with making the jump to the pro level.

If there is a finger that must be pointed for Manziel not starting opening day as a rookie, point it at Pettine.

Then thank him profusely.


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