Johnny Manziel: Off-the-Field Issues '100%' Cost Me Respect of Browns Teammates

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst INovember 26, 2020

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2015, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel warms-up before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, in Seattle. Former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel says he's making a football comeback. Manziel announced Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018,  that he will participate in the developmental Spring League in Austin, Texas, which will play from March 28 to April 15. The league is designed for players hoping to impress NFL scouts. The league confirmed Manziel will participate.  (AP Photo/Scott Eklund, File)
Scott Eklund/Associated Press

Johnny Manziel's NFL career was supposed to be a preview of what the pro quarterback position could become. Instead, the Texas A&M star ended up serving as another cautionary tale.   

Living in relative isolation during the coronavirus pandemic has given Manziel plenty of time to consider his stint in the NFL. From the excitement of being a first-round pick in the 2014 draft to numerous offseason controversies that tainted his time in the league, the quarterback's run through the NFL featured so many twists and turns that it can be difficult to remember his tenure lasted just two years.

During that time with the Cleveland Browns, Manziel started eight games, winning just two of them. But it's not the win-loss record Manziel reflected on over the past few months, so much as the dysfunction and disrespect he displayed with the Browns.

During an appearance on the YNK Podcast, Manziel opened up on how he views his time in the NFL (comments begin at the 42:00 mark):

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"Looking back on it now, I would say I absolutely, 100 percent lost their respect. Why wouldn't you? If I was one of them looking back at what I was doing, and your decisions that you make off the field impact if I put food on mine, yeah I'd feel some type of way, a hundred percent. I would say we wasted a draft pick to go get this guy who doesn't give a f--k. And that's my only thing in life that I haven't been able to look back and like fully have closure on. ... It's probably one of the only things that I haven't looked back on and been able to be like super, super OK with what happened."

Even before he played his first regular-season contest, Manziel began making headlines for the wrong reasons.

He was fined $12,000 after a preseason game for waving his middle finger at the Washington Football Team,  he violated the league's substance-abuse policy in 2016, and he alienated many of his colleagues with his antics.

That was especially true of his teammates in Cleveland, which Manziel said was one of the hardest truths to accept:

"I don't appreciate going to Cleveland for two years and impacting and wasting two years of Joe Thomas' career, who's a guy that's going to be a 12-time Pro Bowler and going to be in the Hall of Fame. And I regret not going and being closer with these guys and being distant into the other life that I was living. And it's nuts, and to sit back and look at it now, it's a shameful thing and something that I have to look back, and at the end of the day, I can only say 'Yo' to those guys.

"And I feel like I've told them over the past couple of years. I've got to the point where I've hit like clarity, and I went and did Joe's podcast. I still talk to Joe Haden, some of these guys that were like foundation members of the Browns during this time. Cause I think we had the talent to do it, but we had a young—a bad mix of people and a point to where I got to where I didn't give it everything I had to everybody else. I didn't have the grind in my mind like I did to be great in college like I did in Cleveland, and I feel disrespectful to the guys who were there, being legends because they worked their f--king ass off."

Manziel was out of Cleveland by 2016 and out of the NFL shortly after that. He attempted comebacks with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes in 2018 and the now-defunct AAF's Memphis Express in 2019. 

As of September, he told TMZ he was retired. Coping with his football career remains an ongoing process.