Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Good luck, coach

Mike Pettine has declared the latest Johnny Manziel escapade a non-story. The Browns’ head coach is absolutely correct. But that does not eliminate a problem.

When Manziel tossed a partially loaded water bottle in the direction of a heckler at a professional golf tournament last weekend in Dallas, it became international news.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. But it took on a much larger meaning than it should have because it involved one of the stars of the TMZ World who happens to play quarterback for the Browns.

What it should not be is one of the items on Pettine’s agenda. He has much more to worry about than Manziel. Much, much, much more. And yet, there it is.

Yes, it is a non-story that has become a story in spite of being a non-story. And it joins the list of other Manziel off-the-field exploits that were much more newsworthy than this.

Taking time out to talk about his quarterback’s off-the-field life is nothing more than annoyance for Pettine. He, of course, would much rather discuss the positives about the changed Manziel. He can and does, but it is overshadowed by incidents such as the latest one.

Unfortunately, that will continue to be the case because Manziel is a human magnet when it comes to trouble. It seeks – and usually finds – him rather than the other way around.

It will remain that way as long as he pursues a career in professional football. Whether it’s with the Browns or some other National Football League team, he will be the focus regardless of his status with the team.

Whether or not he did it deliberately, he built and nurtured the Manziel brand. He has made himself a target. He’s Johnny Football. A former Heisman Trophy winner. He cannot escape the world he created. He brought it on himself.

Practically every move he makes is scrutinized. Not fair and yet a reality of life. He has no private life. When he steps out in public, the world becomes one gigantic camera. He is a lightning rod. He can’t get out of his own way.

There are a lot of crazy people lurking out there to make life miserable for him. It’s as though he walks around with an enormous bull’s-eye on his back that beckons trouble.

While at Texas A&M, Manziel enjoyed wearing that target. He was a star there. It’s a whole lot different now. Now, he is discovering that unless you translate collegiate success into pro football success, all that glitz and glamour is nothing more than a distraction, an impediment to the ultimate goal.

There’s an excellent chance we’ll never know how good Manziel can be as a pro. His non-football adventures have become a mitigating factor.

Coaches have enough to do without outside interference. It is something with which Pettine has to deal as long as he and Manziel are employed by the Browns.

Manziel needs to keep the lowest of low profiles from now on if he is serious about his job. Moving to a golf community from his downtown Cleveland digs was a step in the right direction.

But he’s still only 22 years old and likes to have a good time. That, of course, flies in the face of the low profile the club probably wishes he would keep.

Is there a solution? Probably not. Will the media pester Pettine again this season about his backup quarterback’s behavior? Count on it. Comes with the territory.

Pettine’s biggest challenge will be to make certain the rest of his locker room is not distracted by whatever trouble in which Manziel eventually finds himself embroiled.  His team will have enough trouble maintaining focus in what is certain to be a pivotal season with regard to the coach’s future employment.

As for Manziel, his situation is one he’s going to have to live with for the rest of his professional football career. Once that stops, his TMZ World comes crashing down. Where and when that stops, though, is anyone’s guess.

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