Johnny Manziel on the Road to Redemption


If you’ve seen the new Mad Max: Fury Road movie, you’ll know it’s about a couple of tough warriors looking for redemption for the failings in their past. Maybe Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel saw a sneak peek of the movie because he seems as determined as Max and Furiosa to redeem himself from last year’s train wreck both on and off the field.

Last December as the season was winding down, Manziel’s Browns teammates made no secret that Brian Hoyer was their preference under center.

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Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports News reported there was “unwavering support for the incumbent quarterback [Brian Hoyer] by coaches and players alike.”

Jeremy Fowler and Pat McManamon of ESPN noted, “Those who spoke talked of a yearlong pattern that showed a lack of commitment and preparation, a failure to be ready when given a chance in his first start against Cincinnati and a continued commitment to nightlife, which affected his preparation and work while in the team facility.

As one player put it, Manziel throughout the entire 2014 season was a ‘100 percent joke.’”

It’s still not clear what finally prompted the wake-up call that sent Manziel to a 10-week long rehab stint, but whatever it is, it’s seemed to work.

Perhaps it was the departure of talented offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan with two years left on his contract? Losing a coach with the specific skill set that could maximize Manziel’s unique talents is as glaring an indicator as you can get that you’ve screwed up big time.

Whatever it was, it prompted quick change.

Aug 18, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) talks with Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (right) on the bench against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the season, Manziel apologized to the team and the Cleveland fans for his behavior. He said in the end of the season press conference, “I need to start doing every single thing and everything the right way and if I don’t I’m going to be exposed.”

Exposed is a soft term for “cut” probably followed by “out of football”.

Johnny Football’s word might not have meant much last season, but so far this year he’s put his money where his mouth is – and it is making a difference.

Teammates describe a notable change in his behavior, work ethic and off field activities.

He’s spending extra hours at the team facilities, putting in the due diligence more commonly associated with the Aaron Rogerses and Peyton Mannings of the world. He’s spending his off work hours with teammates or sharpening his golf game, most notably in the recent Browns charity golf fundraiser.

USA Today’s Lindsay Jones caught up with a number of people in the organization on this topic.

Star cornerback Joe Haden had this to say about Manziel’s progress, “I think he’s got his mind right, and he’s just ready to get ready to get going.”

Head coach Mike Pettine was equally impressed, “This is the one comment that I’ll share that Johnny’s made because he’ll be the first one to say it: ‘Don’t judge me on my words, judge me on my actions.’ That’s something that in the past, even I’ve been critical of him where the actions have to match what he’s saying. He’s saying the right thing, but it’s not adding up by what he’s doing, and that’s really been a big part of his message coming out.”

So far, his actions have reinforced the renewed commitment made to the team at the end of last season. Whether that translates to winning the starting role is yet to be determined. But Manziel deserves some credit for his mea culpa, and that fact that he hasn’t hid from view.

It would have been easy to disappear into the background after the embarrassment of last season, but instead Johnny has stood up and said, “I will redeem myself.” For this, at least, he deserves respect.

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