Skip to main content

A history of controversies surrounding Johnny Manziel

A look back at the many controversies surrounding Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Johnny Manziel’s time with the Cleveland Browns has come to an end.

The Browns have officially announced the release of their former first-round pick after just two years with the team.

Manziel was drafted by the Browns in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, and in two seasons with the team his off–field antics were discussed more than his performance on the field. Even dating back to his successful career at Texas A&M, the Heisman–winning quarterback has been no stranger to controversy.

Manziel is only 23, but he’s already been the center of enough misconduct to last a lifetime. Here’s a look at Manziel's history of controversy. 

06/29/12: Arrested for fighting, fake ID

While enrolled at Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel, then 19, was arrested and taken to jail after fighting and being discovered with a fake ID. He was charged with three misdemeanors—disorderly conduct, failure to identify and possessing a false identification card. Manziel was taken into custody around 2 a.m. and released in the afternoon.

Manziel later pleaded guilty to his failure to identify charge, and he was ordered to pay the maximum fine of $2,000 in addition to court fees. He was briefly suspended by Texas A&M but was reinstated to the team after an appeal.

06/16/13: Tweets about wanting to leave A&M

Manziel tweeted that he “can’t wait to leave college station...whenever it may be” at 12:38 a.m. local time. Although he deleted the tweet, some followers took screenshots of the post. He followed up the deleted tweet with a second one that stated: “Don’t ever forget that I love A&M with all of my heart, but please please walk a day in my shoes.”

07/15/13: Leaves Manning Passing Academy early

Manziel left the Manning Passing Academy early, reportedly due to illness, which caused him to miss meetings and practices. Camp officials disputed reports that Archie Manning sent him home for partying. Manziel’s father toldTheDallas Morning News afterwards that his son was recovering from dehydration.

07/26/13: Manziel spotted partying 

Video surfaced of Manziel getting kicked out of a University of Texas fraternity party after the quarterback, then 20, showed up at the party. TMZ reported that Manziel was asked to leave in fear of punishment from the school for underage drinking.

The next day, attendees at a different Texas party shared pictures on Twitter of Johnny Manziel sporting a New York Jets Tim Tebow jersey.

08/28/13: Subject of NCAA autographs investigation

Manziel met with NCAA investigators in August regarding allegations that he was paid for autographs during the off-season. Reports surfaced that the Heisman Trophy winner had allegedly agreed to sign the autographs in exchange for a five–figure flat fee while in Miami for the BCS National Championship. On Aug. 28, the NCAA and Texas A&M released a joint statement announcing Manziel had been suspended for the first half of the Aggie’s season opener against Rice.

A new Manziel?

After two seasons in College Station, Manziel declared for the NFL draft.

“I was a kid who made some goofball decisions,” he told the Houston Chronicle ahead of the draft. “That's been part of my journey. Maybe it's part of the whole Johnny Football deal that I'm trying to get away from. I'm trying to show people I've grown up and I've learned from my experiences. I feel like you're a stupid person if you continue to make the same wrong decisions.​

“I don't want to hear, 'Oh, anybody in his situation would have been doing the same thing.' I'm 100 percent responsible for my actions.”

Manziel was drafted 22nd overall by the Browns. He texted the team during the draft and asked them to take him, so they can “wreck this league” together. As he walked on stage to shake the commissioner's hand, he made his trademark money hand gesture. Later that night, he was spotted partying at a nightclub in New York. 

“I’m not going to change who I am for anybody,” Manziel said during an NFL Rookie Symposium clinic for kids in June. “I'm growing up and continuing to learn from my mistakes and trying not to make the same ones over and over again, but am I going to live in a shell or am I just going to hide from everybody and not do anything? I don't think that's the way I should live my life and I'm not going to do it.”

In July, more controversial photos surfaced of Manziel partying, and Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer later reported that the Browns had become concerned with Manziel's antics. 

08/19/14: Manziel gives the finger

After showing up late for a training camp meeting, Manziel created his biggest NFL controversy to date when he gave the Redskins bench the middle finger during a preseason game on national television, drawing a $12,000 fine.

On Aug. 20, Brian Hoyer was named the Browns’ starting quarterback.

11/24/14: Cleveland apartment skirmish

A Browns fan approached Manziel and his entourage in the lobby of an apartment building in downtown Cleveland. A fight broke out, and the fan told police he was beaten up by the quarterback’s crew. A security guard is also injured. The fan later apologized.

12/14/14: Manziel says he'll change

Manziel made his first start against the Cincinnati Bengals, throwing for just 80 yards and two interceptions in a 30–0 blowout loss. A week or so later, he told reporters that he needs to take his job more seriously. On Dec. 27, he missed a team walkthrough and later admitted he had gone out the night prior. On Dec. 29, with the Browns' season over, Manziel said he wanted to take responsibility for his behavior.

"It's about actions, it's about being accountable instead of looking like a jackass," he said.

01/28/15: Manziel checks into treatment

In early February of 2015, Manziel checked into a treatment facility. “We respect Johnny's initiative in this decision and will fully support him throughout this process,” Browns GM Ray Farmer wrote in a statement. “Our players' health and well-being will always be of the utmost importance to the Cleveland Browns. We continually strive to create a supportive environment and provide the appropriate resources, with our foremost focus being on the individual and not just the football player. Johnny's privacy will be respected by us during this very important period and we hope that others will do the same.”

In April, Manziel checked out of rehab after a 10–week stay. 

02/04/15: Kevin Sumlin: Texas A&M could have done more

Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin acknowledged there are things Texas A&M could have done better in its handling of Manziel. “There really hasn’t been anybody like Johnny,” he said. “I think everybody looks back on [it] and says what they would have done, what should have been done. That's a heck of a lot easier than dealing with it as it goes on … certainly, there are things that we put in place, that we did with Johnny that we were able to help him, and there are certainly some things we feel like we could have done better."

06/01/15: Heckled at a golf tournament

While attending the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament, an 18-year-old fan repeatedly badgers Manziel for an autograph and then heckles him. Manziel reportedly handles himself well, but spikes a water bottle in the fan’s direction in frustration.

Two weeks later, Manziel apologizes through the media for all the distractions he caused as a rookie and announced he would stop making his signature money sign with his hands while on the field.

10/12/15: Domestic incident in car

After leading Cleveland to its first victory of the season on Sept. 20 while replacing a concussed Josh McCown, Manziel faced questioning from police after an incident involving dangerous driving on the shoulder of the road and an alleged domestic incident with his girlfriend. He admitted to drinking earlier in the day. No charges are filed.

11/07/15: Caught partying in College Station

Two days after making a start in Cincinnati, Manziel is caught partying on camera in College Station after attending a Texas A&M game as an honorary captain.

After videos surfaced of him partying on multiple nights during the bye week, Manziel was benched by Pettine, who called his behavior “a concern.”

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported that Manziel lied to him about what happened in Texas, and initially told him that the video was old.

Manziel was demoted to third string, but regained the starting job Dec. 13 after two weeks on the bench.

11/17/15: Caught partying on video, misses concussion check

After Manziel started in a loss to the Chiefs, a new video surfaced online depicting him singing along to rapper Future alongside another individual who appears to be consuming alcohol.

Days later, Pettine announced that Manziel sustained a concussion against Kansas City and would miss the team’s Week 17 game against Pittsburgh.

Manziel reportedly spent the night before the team’s game against the Steelers partying in Las Vegas while wearing a disguise. SI’s Peter King reported that Manziel missed a concussion checkup at the team HQ the morning of the game, and was unavailable on his cell phone the entire day. The Browns did not comment on Manziel’s whereabouts. Manziel is later fined for missing the treatment.

Even after this incident, the partying didn't stop: A new video surfaced showing Manziel partying in Dallas on Jan. 26. 

1/30/16: Police investigation into possible assault

In late January, it was reported that police were investigating an early–morning altercation involving Manziel and an ex-girlfriend. A preliminary investigation determined “a possible assault” had occurred, but Manziel was not charged. His ex-girlfriend told police she was concerned about the quarterback’s well-being. Police used a helicopter to search for Manziel, and later determined that the quarterback was safe. The NFL is reportedly looking into the matter.

02/04/16: Reports surface that Manziel threatened to kill ex-girlfriend

In early February, WFAA in Dallas reported that Manziel threatened to kill himself and his ex-girlfriend, identified as Colleen Crowley, during an alleged assault committed by the quarterback the week before. 

According to the report, Manziel hit Crowley and dragged her by her hair before forcing her into a car. 

"He grabbed me by my hair and threw me back into the car and got back in himself," she reportedly told police. "He hit me with his open hand on my left ear for jumping out of the car. I realized immediately that I could not hear out of that ear, and I still cannot today, two days later."

02/05/16: Manziel’s father says he fears his son won’t live to see 24

In February, Manziel’s father said he fears his son may not live to see the age of 24 if he is not rehabilitated.

“I truly believe if they can’t get him help, he won’t live to see his 24th birthday,” Paul Manziel told The Dallas Morning News.

He added that his son has declined to enter rehabilitation twice in the past week, and that the 23-year-old could be suicidal without treatment or charges.

02/05/16: Manziel’s agent drops him

Also in February, Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, dropped him as a client.

“It is with deep regret that, after several emotional and very personal discussions with his family, his doctors, and my client himself, I have made the decision to terminate my professional relationship with Johnny Manziel,” Burkhardt said in a statement. 

Burkhardt added that he “will remain a friend and Johnny supporter,” but “it has become painfully obvious that his future rests solely in his hands.”

03/11/16: Browns release Manziel

The Browns released Manziel just two days into the new league year. Manziel finished his time with the Browns with 147 passes for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in 15 games, eight of which were starts.

April 2016: Off-field issues continue

The month after his release, Manziel continued to make headlines for strange reasons. First, it was a bizarre housing story, in which Manziel told TMZ he was living with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, which turned out the be false. In the same video, Manziel had just left a nightclub, and said partying could co-exist with his football career. Later in April, Manziel was accused of causing nearly $20,000 in damage to a Los Angeles rental home.

04/19/16: Agent Drew Rosenhaus drops Manziel

Manziel’s agent Drew Rosenhaus dropped him as a client after previously threatening to do so if the former Browns quarterback didn’t seek treatment during the off-season. It was the second time Manziel had been dropped by an agent in three months.

04/19/16: Grand jury to hear domestic violence case

The Associated Press announced that Manziel’s domestic violence case would be heard by a grand jury in Dallas. The hearing will decide whether or not to charge Manziel with misdemeanor domestic violence for his alleged actions against Crowley.