Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Browns: Media Looking for Trouble with Manziel

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Finally, it’s a holiday weekend!

You’ve been hard at work at your new job, and you’re itching for a few days to rest your brain. The first two weeks have been anything but smooth sailing and there’s a lot of information being thrown at you all at once. You’ve been handling it all like a champ, staying quiet and trying to be a sponge, absorbing every bit of knowledge being tossed your way. You’re doing pretty well by all measures, even impressing the people who’ve worked with the company for awhile with your attitude and commitment.

But now you’ve got a break for a few days and that vacation with your buddies is finally here, exactly the mental break you’re in need of from the constant stress at work. You head to Vegas and party for the weekend, hanging by the pool and soaking up the sun. You brought that portfolio your boss assigned you to memorize by mid-July, probably gonna read it on the plane and review it before bed, you know, nothing too crazy. After all, it is a holiday weekend. You know you’ll find time to get to it, there’s no story here.

Exactly. There’s no story here.

I get it, it’s the dead part of summer, the NFL draft is over and so is the after-draft week as I call it. You know that time of year when you think to yourself, “wait, I thought I was supposed to be done seeing Todd McShay until next April.”

Also terrible, the two sets of playoffs are to that sad point where too many teams have been knocked out to be able to watch games every day. And after the way these NBA and NHL playoffs played out, I’m not sure anything could have matched the excitement of the first round anyway. And yeah there’s baseball, but it’s honestly tough to even find anyone who still cares enough to keep track for 162 games.

So with all that said, I can’t say I necessarily blame ESPN for talking about Johnny Manziel going on vacation in Vegas. Quite frankly, if I had to fill 24 hours a day with constant storylines I probably would consider this something that I could make a story out of.

It seems anything can be made into a story nowadays, even someone trying to avoid being a story. Somehow people twisted not talking to the media into Marshawn Lynch having character issues, but in reality, he just doesn’t like to talk much. (Sorry for the NSFW language but I think that’s my favorite interview I’ve ever seen.)

Sour media will try to ruin any party, even the Super Bowl.

The people who question Manziel’s character because he chooses to party on a weekend off of work are forgetting a few things.

When most of the football world was partying for the Super Bowl in New York, Manziel stayed behind in California to continue working with his quarterbacks coach. Manziel spent the months leading up to the draft off of twitter, fully focused on his work with renowned QB guru George Whitfield.

Manziel has both accepted and embraced the notion that his game will have to change in order to find success in the NFL, he’s not a spoiled, hard-headed superstar who can’t be coached. From day one, Manziel has committed himself to improving on his weaknesses and getting better with each opportunity. He handles the pressure from the media like a seasoned veteran, even when the firestorm seems to be inescapable.

The fact that something like Manziel’s pro day is live-streamed into SportsCenter proves just how overbearing the media has become today. I am not bashing media, I love sports news and this is what I want to do with my life, but we all need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

Every sports fan, myself included, is guilty of media anxiety. When I check my TeamStream app and there haven’t been any stories updated in 24 hours I get so angry, it’s crazy! I literally think to myself “what the hell is going on down there in Berea and why isn’t someone making some news? Not even a critical update that the twitter account @CoachPettine is a fraudulent account? No Tony Grossi sarcasm? Nothing?!”

Then, ironically enough, I usually sit down to try and create a story of my own to “make news.” I know, I’m such a hypocrite.

But in all seriousness, we live in an era of 24-hour sports networks and countless media outlets promising to bring us every bit of “news” that breaks, right up to the minute. When everyone is starved for a fresh media story to break, it can be easy to forget something really important: football players, athletes, celebrities, they’re all people too.

That’s right. They are one of us. As in, human beings, from planet earth.

Crazy, right?

Think about this for a second; Johnny Manziel is 21 years old. Yeah, twenty one, as in just became able to legally buy a drink a few months ago, 21. I don’t know what you were all doing when you were 21, but I’m sure it wasn’t getting twisted into a national story. Hell, Manziel is two days older than me and if everything that I did got put on SportsCenter there’s no way I’m coming away from that as clean as Johnny has.

It’s insane how much we demand from athletes, both personally and professionally. Football players in particular are subject to ridiculous scrutiny, and to be honest, seeing that some of these guys are just like me is refreshing. I like seeing that the guy my team drafted is someone that I could catch out at the bar and have a conversation with. He’s a real person.

It’s a nice change of pace to see a professional athlete going out and enjoying his life, I know I would do the same if it was me. Guys like Rob Gronkowski catch so much heat from the media for the fact that they like to have a good time, but when I see Gronk fist pumping at a Super Bowl party I think “man, I’d really like to party with him someday.”

It’s actually nice to see these guys acting like people, it’s something that we need to see more of quite frankly. Sometimes everybody needs a break from work, but guys like Peyton Manning have set us up to believe that quarterbacks, and athletes in general, are supposed to be robots.

Study. Eat. Practice. Sleep. Repeat.

That’s not the life for everyone, and that’s okay. Manziel isn’t a robot.

I don’t blame Johnny for wanting to get away for a few days, he probably needs a mental break from his job. At the end of the day, that’s what football is, it’s a job. And while I do expect anyone getting paid that much money to be serious and devoted, even CEOs need to get away from work. Tom Brady recently took a weekend off to go to the Kentucky Derby, but even that never got the type of coverage that Manziel’s Vegas getaway did.

Imagine if every time you took a two-day break from work it became a national headline. You lack commitment and don’t take your job seriously. You’re young and immature and not ready to handle all of the responsibility you’ve been given. You’re cocky and arrogant because you like to go out and have a good time. It’s crazy the way that things can be spun when everything has to be a story.

Admittedly, Vegas probably wasn’t the best place to be seen, but Johnny brought his playbook with him. He’s a human being, and he went on vacation for two days, why is it such a big deal? If it becomes a trend in the future then there might be a discussion that needs to be had, but I don’t think this needs to be blown so out of proportion.

Manziel is the first to admit that he made mistakes after winning the Heisman Trophy and gave in to too many distractions. He said in his Gruden QB Camp interview (which every Browns fan should watch) “I put too much on my plate and didn’t say ‘no’ enough, and should’ve said ‘no’ more.” Despite that, he has owned up to being immature and has seemed to change his personality a lot over the past year. Head Coach Mike Pettine shared how the people in the building feel about Manziel, saying “He’s funny and fun to be around, and he’s going to work hard and that’s something they all respect.”

Manziel has always walked the fine line in my head between confident and cocky, and some times he’s gone way too far for my tastes. Early on I saw a lot of red flags with Manziel, but as more time passed he seemed to focus less on his lifestyle and more on football. Seeing the way he rallied his teammates in his final game against Duke erased any questions in my mind about Manziel’s commitment to football and his ability to be a leader.

I am by no means a Manziel loyalist though, and there were times that his actions were out of line on all accounts. For example, Manziel haters, I’m with you on this one.

Johnny, c’mon bro. Against Rice, really?

There’s no excuse for acting like that, and that’s something that I’m sure Manziel is aware of. I would be lying if I said I’ve never had a show of poor sportsmanship, but once you make that mistake you realize the backlash that comes with it, and you choose to carry yourself in a different way. Manziel has never lacked passion and I’ve never heard one teammate question his character or work ethic. He was the leader of the Texas A&M locker room as a 20-year old sophomore.

I really believe Manziel has changed his attitude and committed himself to improving and being a successful NFL quarterback. Watching him in that Gruden interview was eye opening, he was so honest and genuine about his transgressions and his intention to excel at the next level. Manziel texting Cleveland coaches and saying that he wanted to win championships with the Browns is something that I absolutely love. He wants to be here, he wants to compete and he wants to win.

It seems like anything that has Johnny Manziel’s name attached needs to be spun into a story. As a fan and a member of the media (kinda), I need to do a better job of not being such an information fiend. I love the idea of Brian Hoyer starting because it will give Manziel a chance to truly focus on learning instead of doing and saying all the right things.

Let the man be, he’s trying to transition to a new city, a new locker room, new teammates and a long list of other new things. The media needs to stop forcing him to answer questions about vacation time and let him try to do his job. Then when the Browns try to shtelter Manziel from the overwhelming media on his first days of work, they’re trying too hard to insulate him. Like I said before, it’s crazy how trying to avoid a story can become headline news.

What the Browns were trying to say to the national media is simple: There’s nothing to see here! Just a rookie backup.

But instead of heeding the message, being banned from the first rookie camp made the media even hungrier for a juicy Manziel story. How could it be that a five-year NFL veteran is better than Manziel in his first week? How can Hoyer possibly be the favorite over a guy that won the Heisman and sold all those tickets? Why is Johnny Manziel having fun on his weekend off, shouldn’t he be hunched over a desk with his face in his playbook?

Yeah, probably. And shouldn’t you be looking for a real story?

 

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