"The spotlight is 10 times brighter and 10 times hotter than I thought it was two months ago. I guess I feel like Justin Bieber or something. I never thought it would really be that way." -- Johnny Manziel, 2013 SEC Media Day
Irony, thy name is Johnny.
For the past three weeks, former NFL players ranging from Hall of Famers (Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana, Warren Moon and Monday it was Joe Namath) to complete scrubs (Akili Smith is still alive?) have lined up to give their opinions on what exactly Johnny Manziel needs to do to comply with the NFL code of "rookie future franchise quarterbacks not completely alienating their current employer."
Remedies have ranged anywhere from "lock him in the top of a guarded bell tower" (paraphrasing Smith) to "dude, have your fun, but drink from a cup, not the entire bottle" (paraphrasing Moon and Namath).
For their part, the Cleveland Browns (whose opinion matters more than any of the ones above) have remained publicly supportive, although there have been rumblings of discontent at the highest levels:
ESPN's Chris Mortensen said Friday that Manziel's latest party appearance, in which he confuses a stack of cash for a telephone , "did not sit well with the owner Jimmy Haslam, who did instruct his staff to at least have a talk with Johnny about being more savvy as he deals with social media," according to a Cleveland.com report .
"We know you're young. We know you're single," Mortensen added. "Joe Montana himself said that Bill Walsh pulled him aside, and that was before the age of social media. Johnny Manziel has been told to tone it down, and to watch what goes up on social media."
Manziel's response to the heightened concerned was passive defiance. At a Play 60 event late last week, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner had this to say:
"I don't think I'm doing anything wrong. I'm going out. Everybody goes out on the weekends and enjoys their life and lives their life. And just for them, they don't have people that when they walk into a place pull out their phones and all they want to do is follow me around and record everything. My situation is unique and different and now more than ever I've seen that it's an every weekend thing wherever I'm at -- whether it's in Cleveland on a weekend, or in Dallas or anywhere on a weekend, people want to record what I'm doing because they think it's a story. I'm not doing anything that's putting myself in a harmful situation."
Saying all of Manziel's peccadilloes are acceptable under certain circumstances is using the adjective "acceptable" a little loosely. "Tolerable" would be more like it.
Tolerable when you're the golden goose who is generating hundreds of millions of dollars for a college football program. Tolerable when the school and your coaches need you more than you need them. Tolerable as an NFL quarterback if you'd gone, say, 9-7 as a rookie.
None of these sentences apply to Manziel right now. So his act is not tolerable, plain and simple. Fine in college, not fine as a rookie who hasn't gone to his first training camp yet. Certainly, not fine as the future face of the franchise.
In short, it's not fine if the Browns' owner doesn't think it's fine. And reportedly, he doesn't.
So this past weekend, for the first time in about a month, there was no Manziel Monday update. No Vegas trips, no SUV limos in Hollywood, no bottle chugging in Austin, no Drake parties in Houston. Nothing. (I'm not gonna lie; the part of me that roots for "Team Content" was a little bit bummed.)
Maybe, just maybe, Johnny was heeding the warning from on high. Perhaps a quiet weekend at home catching up on binge watching House of Cards and pizza was on the agenda. In bed by midnight!
Yeah, right. As it turns out, Johnny was just stockpiling nukes.
If you're a defiant 21-year-old who doesn't really like rules, parameters and being told what to do.... oh, and you have ungodly amounts of access, cash and free time, what's the biggest figurative middle finger that you can flip at all of your authority figures?
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If staying off the grid in Cleveland was the equivalent of a truce, then partying at Bieber's house with Floyd Mayweather (a party where the cops were called in twice) is essentially a declaration of war.
In other (possibly related) news, the Browns have reportedly begun contract extension talks with incumbent starting quarterback Brian Hoyer.....