We have reached the point in the Johnny Manziel story where we should all look away, but we won’t.
You can say a lot of things about Drew Rosenhaus, and many people have. But you can’t say he gives up easily. Rosenhaus may be the most relentless agent in the NFL—not so much when he negotiates, but when he pursues players and sells their skills to the media. And Rosenhaus just gave up on Johnny Manziel.
That is the latest BREAKING NEWS! about Johnny Football: He got fired by another agent. But this story does not change the bigger Manziel narrative in any meaningful way. We all know what his problems are. We just don’t know if he will solve them.
Rosenhaus is making a big deal about the fact he never fired a player before. But he knew what he was getting when he signed Manziel. Rosenhaus would either have another high-profile client, or he would say he tried to help Manziel and couldn’t. Either way, Rosenhaus would look good.
We have reached the point in the Manziel story where we should all look away, but we won’t. We can’t help ourselves. We’ll click on the next TMZ story, or pass around the next photo of Manziel looking like he Vegas-ed himself to death, and tell ourselves we’re following a developing story, but we’re really not. The story is not developing at all.
Some will even argue that he “deserves another chance” in the NFL, even though Manziel is not worth 30 seconds of discussion in any front office right now. General managers know it. They will spend more time debating their seventh-round picks than talking about Manziel. Scouts who would sneak into war-torn third-world countries under cover of darkness to find a solid backup defensive end won’t waste their time on Johnny Manziel.
And still, we watch.
This does not speak well of us. But here we are.
Manziel has reached the point in his celebrity life where everything he does gets people’s attention, even if it’s entirely expected and undeniably sad. He is the most prominent current sports example of 2016 circular media logic: Anything Manziel does is “news,” therefore anything he does is news.
And yet: Every new chapter adds nothing to the story. Manziel has obvious substance-abuse issues. (Only those who spend time with him can detail the substances, but whether he is using more than alcohol is almost beside the point.) His girlfriend accused him of abuse. His father is worried he will die before New Year’s Eve. He will party until he gets help (not imminent) or runs out of money (sooner than he thinks). He is surely surrounded by pseudo-friends who may have their own abuse issues.
He can trash a house in L.A. and party at Coachella, as he apparently did, or he can hide in Charlie Sheen’s closet for a month. He can ride an elephant in India or swim with sharks off the Hawaiian coast. It doesn’t matter. These are just details.
The ship is sinking. If the fine china in the dining room breaks, so what?
You can sum up Manziel’s NFL “career” right now like this: Aldon Smith has a job. Martavis Bryant, who has been suspended for the entire 2016 season, will likely have a job when he gets back. Josh Gordon was just denied reinstatement, and is apparently partying with Manziel, and even he has a much better chance of returning to the NFL than Manziel does.
Manziel has been accused of domestic abuse. He basically quit on the Browns more than once. If he had put in the work, maybe he could have adapted his Heisman-winning skills to NFL offenses. But he didn’t.
Manziel remains a fascinating figure because of the way he played at Texas A&M and the interest he generated. There are questions that remain, but he is clearly in no position to answer them.
We can only hope that he emerges from this part of his life, gets help and comes out on the other side. We can hope he realizes how reckless he was, how he endangered himself and others, and that he finds some sort of enlightenment. I hope to hear from that Johnny Manziel one day, but he doesn’t exist yet. In the meantime, the NFL has moved on. I wish we could, too.