Just hours after the NFL season ended on one of the most controversial play calls ever, news broke that one of the game’s most controversial players was checking himself into rehab.
There has been quite a bit of turbulence ever since quarterback Johnny Manziel began his football career at Texas A&M. A star on the field, Manziel’s off the field actions brought him just as much attention. There were stories of reckless partying, dissing the Manning family, an arrest and a scandal in which the NCAA investigated him for selling his autograph.
The talent was obvious, but so was the lack of maturity.
When it came time for the NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns chalked a lot of those issues up to him just being a college kid. With the potential to be their quarterback of the future, Johnny Football was going to grow up overnight.
Unfortunately that did not happen, as Manziel continued to struggle away from the gridiron and for the first time, on it. There was a preseason gesture that got him fined, a suspension that stemmed from his excessive partying and multiple reports in which sources inside the Browns organization questioned his work ethic and commitment to pro football.
Manziel has always talked about changing his ways, but has never really seemed to follow through. Perhaps Monday’s announcement, the one where his publicist said that he was voluntarily checking himself into a treatment center, will be Manziel’s first real step in the right direction.
"Johnny knows there are areas in which he needs to improve in order to be a better family member, friend and teammate, and he thought the offseason was the right time to take this step," his advisor, Brad Beckworth, said, according to a report from Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
The exact areas that Manziel is looking to improve upon is unknown, but one can imagine it is connected to his partying habits. He has been associated with both alcohol and marijuana in the past. A piece in a 2013 issue of ESPN Magazine quoted Manziel’s dad as saying that he believed his son “drank to deal with stress.”
Manziel is immature, there is no doubt about that. Yet, there may also be more wrong with him than simply being a kid who likes to go out and have too much fun. Being famous at such a young age can bring the type of pressure that a 22-year-old may not be equipped to handle.
Given how often Manziel has stirred the pot, that is not necessarily a valid excuse. He has had more than a few opportunities to learn some lessons and better himself. Of course, if this stint in rehab makes a lasting impression on him, it would be better late than never.
For Manziel’s sake, hopefully these next few weeks in treatment will truly have that impact on him as he tries to find the answers to his questions. As the Browns said, the initiative is worthy of respect and support.
Obviously, Manziel is making a concerted effort to change his ways and fight whatever demons it is that he may be dealing with. As far as the public knows, this is the first serious attempt he has made.
In the end, the biggest question on everyone’s mind is if he will follow through this time.
Gary Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @GPhillips2727.