Oct 4, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) looks on before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel was back in the news over the weekend for all the wrong reasons.
Late on Friday, NewsNet 5 in Cleveland broke the news that Manziel was pulled over by police earlier in the week following an alleged domestic dispute with this girlfriend, Colleen Elizabeth Crowley.
The pair had been in an argument while driving and had been drinking earlier in the day. Police investigated and decided to not charge either Manziel or Crowley with anything. (Fox 8 News released the dash camera video today.)
In most cases, that would have probably been the end of the story. But with Manziel’s history of off-the-field problems, the story took on a greater focus.
The question now is: What should the Browns do about Manziel?
Option 1: Just release him already
One option would be to simply release him, which is what former Pittsburgh Steeler head coach Bill Cowher advocated for on Sunday’s The NFL Today pregame show.
"“I’ve watched Johnny Manziel now for a year and a half and I think he’s a backup quarterback at best. And he’s a distraction off the field. And listen, I believe in second chances but after the second chance, to me there’s a zero-tolerance policy. He can’t put himself into the position he put himself into."
"“I would ask for his release and I would do it for this reason: in that locker room players want accountability … and that’s the message that needs to be sent right here, that you’re accountable for your actions both on the field and off the field.”"
It’s no surprise that an old-school coach like Cowher would call for Manziel’s release. After all, when he was with the Steelers he was quick to discipline players like Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison when they had off-the-field issues. Oh wait, that’s right, he didn’t.
It wouldn’t be the Browns without CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora also weighing in on The NFL Today:
"“The Browns say they were aware of this situation and Manziel’s status is unchanged. He is, in fact, backing up Josh McCown today. However, I’m told, there are serious concerns over the fact that he admitted he had been drinking earlier in the day, just a few months after getting out of rehab, but they have no plans for additional discipline for him right now.”"
The Browns also “might” practice indoors this week and “might” do a lot of things. So take that one with a grain of salt.
Option 2: Get him back into rehab
Outside of simply releasing Manziel, the Browns could try to convince him to return to rehab, which is an avenue that Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Mary Kay Cabot would like the team to go down.
"It’s time for Johnny Manziel to go back into rehab."
"His domestic incident Monday involving girlfriend Colleen Crowley is a red flag that Manziel is off track in his aftercare program and needs to call another timeout in his life."
"Manziel and Crowley weren’t charged with anything, but the Browns and the rest of Manziel’s support network should insist that he checks himself back into the Caron addiction treatment center or somewhere else where he can get the help he needs."
It’s not the worst idea in the world. Whatever Manziel was being treated for when he spent 10 weeks in the Caron treatment center earlier this year – drugs, alcohol, anger management, – last weeks’ incident with Crowley makes it appear that Manziel is still struggling with those demons.
Even though Manziel moved to Cleveland’s western suburbs to escape the downtown life, seemingly everyone in Northeast Ohio has a story about Manziel continuing to be a presence along the bar and club circuit.
But this isn’t the 1920s, so the Browns can’t really force Manziel back into rehab, and even if they or his inner circle tried to coerce him into it, if Manziel isn’t the one making the decision we have to wonder how much value there would be in another rehab stay.
Option 3: Get him a handler
The Browns could tell Manziel that he needs a handler, either one issued by the team or someone of his choosing, like Julius Scott, Manziel’s former high school coach who kept an eye on Manziel earlier this year.
Scott told USA Today that things were going OK when he was with Manziel and did not hesitate when asked what he would say if Manziel wanted a taste.
"“If he asked me if I thought drinking was a good idea, I would say absolutely not. You’d have to have your head examined if you said, ‘It’s OK to go have a couple.’ He kept his sobriety alive and well when I was there.”"
Option 4: Keep helping him
No one other than Manziel, and probably a few of his family members, has any idea just how far along the road Manziel is to recovery or, for that matter, just how long the road will be.
It was clear though that once Manziel exited his stay in rehab he still needed to rebuild not only Manziel the player but also Manziel the person.
The Browns can be most directly involved with rebuilding Manziel as a player, and judging from the way he looked earlier this season, that part of the plan appears to be working, as FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer pointed out on Sunday:
"“When he’s inside our building, he’s an A-plus (player). Last year, he was a D-minus.”"
The Manziel situation is similar to what the Browns went through with Josh Gordon prior to the 2013 season. When Gordon was suspended many fans and media members called for the Browns to cast him aside. The Browns didn’t and were rewarded with a Pro Bowl season from Gordon.
While Manziel’s story may not have the same happy ending (or subsequent downfall), but the Browns have a responsibility to help Manziel as a player and a person. If having structure in his life is a positive, the worst thing the team could do is set Manziel free. If they can help him get better as a person, then they need to be there for him.
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Releasing Manziel doesn’t solve anything. While the media likes to talk about how players like Manziel are a “distraction,” they never seem to get around to pointing out just what the distraction is. The Browns certainly didn’t seem bothered on Sunday, when they pushed the undefeated Denver Broncos to the brink of defeat in overtime.
Manziel still needs help and if the Browns can help him then they need to be there for him. If it becomes a problem, they can always just make him inactive on Sundays rather than release him, which would ultimately help no one.
In the end, this falls on Manziel. We’ve seen people try to make the ridiculous argument that the team is to blame for Manziel’s off-field issues, but the blame (for lack of a better word) falls on Manziel. He got himself into this, but he doesn’t have to get himself out of it all alone.
Until he can do that, the Browns owe it to Manziel to do everything they can to help him.