The NFL's Silly Season Can Have a Serious Side, Too

Manziel drew headlines off the field, but at the Browns facility, teammates have vouched for the rookie quarterback's work ethic and eagerness to learn. (Marc Duncan/AP)
Johnny Manziel drew headlines off the field, but at the Browns facility teammates have vouched for the rookie quarterback’s work ethic and eagerness to learn. (Marc Duncan/AP)

With mere days to go until the opening of training camp, when we’ll truly begin to suss out the answer to the greater question of whether he can be a successful franchise face during an NFL season, Johnny Manziel has proven without equivocation he is a bright, glittering star of the NFL Silly Season.  

Perhaps the greatest ever.

Think about it. If his post-combine life was one great, big MadLib—you know, the famous fill-in-the-blank children’s word game—it would appear as if Manziel’s answers have all been chosen by Harvey Levin.

For example, let’s pretend this MadLib got published back in May, right after the first-round of the NFL Draft in New York City:

“After hanging with ________ and ________ in ________, Johnny Manziel was then spotted at ________ with his new _______ and _______ before _______ and being ______ a rolled-up _________.”

Now let’s have some fun and fill in the blanks. Shall we?

First, here are the answers Cleveland Browns brass from owner Jimmy Haslem on down would have collectively chosen:

“After hanging with his old choir and pastor in church, Johnny Manziel was then spotted at home with his new playbook and practice DVDs before calling his dog and being brought a rolled-up newspaper.”

Fair enough. Now, here’s how the snark-aholics at TMZ would have filled out the MadLib at their cubicles:

“After hanging with Rob Gronkowski and bikini hotties in Las Vegas, Johnny Manziel was then spotted at a Hollywood party with his new friends Justin Bieber and Floyd Mayweather before going back to Vegas and being caught on Twitter holding a rolled-up 20-dollar bill.”

Incredible. The only thing missing is a Kardashian of some kind. 

Make no mistake: for those whose job it is to fill in figurative blanks of NFL coverage during The Silly Season, this is chum in the water. And when it comes to Johnny Football, we in the NFL media need a bigger boat.

Is the Manziel drama Silly Season-worthy material? Or does it meet the standard of serious business because it will affect wins and losses for the Browns in 2014?

But, when it all comes down to it…what does it all really mean?

Just because Manziel doubled down on his Memorial Day Weekend Gronkapalooza by getting photographed with Canada’s most notorious egg-tossing, Fisker-speeding tabloid cover boy and America’s most well-known sports-gambling sports figure in the same photograph doesn’t mean he won’t crush it on the NFL gridiron this fall? Right? 

Or does it?

Just because the guy who rubs imaginary money as a sign of his confidence was apparently photographed rubbing actual money in a way that inspires little confidence in his ability to become an NFL franchise face doesn’t mean that he won’t become exactly that for Cleveland. Or does it?

Just because he was mostly able to do what he wanted off the field at Texas A&M while doing mostly whatever he wanted on the field for Texas A&M doesn’t mean he can’t also live his life that way at the NFL level and be successful. Or does it?

Are we seeing in real time what we would have been seeing in real time had Twitter and Instagram been around when, say, Broadway Joe Namath was living life in the fast lane while building towards and winning a Super Bowl? Or is it worse?

Cleveland's New Coach

Mike Pettine wasn't the first choice (or second or third or ...) to lead the Browns locker room. Greg Bedard profiles the 47-year-old ex-high school coach. FULL STORY

In other words: is all of this Silly Season-worthy material? Or does it meet the standard of serious business because it will affect wins and losses for the Browns in 2014?  

Only the playing season will tell. Indeed, this is that rare storyline whose Silly Season status hinges on regular-season results. Thankfully, there’s only a handful of ways that breaks down:

1) Manziel starts Week 1 and plays well. If this happens, then all of the above becomes Silly Season material to the nth degree. If Manziel plays well right away and wins, well, then expect to see Bieber in the Dawg Pound by October.  

2) Manziel starts Week 1 and struggles. If this happens, then slowly but surely, Manziel’s lifestyle gets called into question. If Manziel struggles to the point Brian Hoyer eventually gets the nod, then all of the above immediately loses Silly Season status and comes crashing down on Johnny Football. And then it’s all Bieber’s fault. Which, by the way, isn’t far from the truth in all matters.

3) Brian Hoyer starts Week 1 and plays well. If this happens, then all of the above becomes absolutely moot until the minute Manziel steps on a field. And a large contingent of tortured Browns fans will spend that time torn between enjoying Hoyer’s winning ways or worried if Hoyer’s winning is really a short-term mirage stunting the long-term growth of a team they envision having a higher ceiling with Manziel under center. Classic Cleveland angst.

4) Brian Hoyer gets the nod and struggles. This is the scenario where the Browns and new  coach Mike Pettine wind up in the crosshairs as sticks-in-the-mud. If the team struggles under Hoyer while Manziel fidgets on the sideline with a clipboard and an earbud, then all of the above will be considered by the fan base as Silly Season material that the Browns are improperly taking too seriously by benching Manziel. Unless, of course, the team knows something about the Silly Season behavior that the outside world doesn’t know.

And that last part is the Johnny Manziel conundrum in a nutshell: We just don’t know. We think we do, but we honestly don’t.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped virtually every breathing person on the football planet from forming an opinion or taking a side. People either love Manziel for conducting himself in a manner that flies in the face of football convention or loathe him for it and can’t wait for the unceremonious fall. There is no grey area, which is a hallmark of virtually every TV-rating needle-moving figure in sports (see James, Lebron; Bryant, Kobe; Rodriguez, Alex and Woods, Tiger).

That’s why the Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner enters his first season of professional football as full-on must-see TV. My take: I love it. I think it’s great. Who are we to tell someone how to live a life? If he blows it because he can’t handle fame, as Charles Barkley suggests, or can’t handle his friends, then that’s on him. And he becomes a cautionary tale for other supremely talented young kids coming up the ranks. If he succeeds, and folks are wringing their hands as to how that manifests itself with impressionable fans, then it’s on coaches and parents to caution their kids that not everyone can do it the Manziel Way. Nor should they. The NFL will still stand if Manziel wins and makes headway on the sports pages and TMZ Sports pages. In the meantime, Cleveland will rock. And the fans there deserve the rocking after all the misery.

Outside of all that, however, for someone whose job it is to discuss football every single day of the year, I wish to personally thank the football gods for one Jonathan Paul Manziel, the King of the Silly Season. The man who single-handedly helped us all get to Training Camp in 2014.

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92 comments
JimCody
JimCody

Are all you sportswriters afraid to criticize Sherman because you think you'll be called a racist, or do you just like making excuses for a-holes?

RawrRay
RawrRay

This comment section has been just as if not more entertaining then the MMQB this week. Next year during King's vaykay lets give the guest spots to  @Wombat @Mike26. As long as there is no real football news let us be entertained 

ArchMage
ArchMage

Mr Eisen, I enjoy reading you much more than listening to you.  This column is so good that I would hope you could be a regular substitute for Mr King who has gotten rather set in his ways and pleased with himself.  Perhaps you can nudge him off of his throne a bit!

I am glad you left out politics and filler Tweets which are getting to be so annoying to me on TV (in print I can just skip them).  If I cared what those people had to say, well guess what, I would subscribe to them.  It is lazy, cut and paste journalism.

You have an agile mind, and the discipline of writing suits you very well!


Thank you!

RobertGrier
RobertGrier

Gosh that was so much better than reading all of King's personal stuff.... an MMQB column actually about football....

JasonO'neal1
JasonO'neal1

Johnny Manziel is the worst thing to ever happen to the NFL. No one needs this crap, NFL has too many guys you personally would not get along with off the football field just because you don't like their lifestyle.

JasonO'neal1
JasonO'neal1

Sad to say, but the NFL will lose viewers when Peyton Manning retires.

Knowitall
Knowitall

Peter - how about a guest column from @Mike26? You could call it "Dean of Mean vents Spleen."

You either need to give this jerk a forum, or get him some therapy, but help us out if you can.

JakeSteed
JakeSteed

I am personally split on what I would like to see happen with Manziel. On the one hand I hope he succeeds so it it would fly in the face of the all the stuck in the mud fuddy duddies who believe that you have to sleep in your office to be successful ala Jon Gruden. You know, the Peyton Manning way. I think that is just BS because for all the countless hours of film study Gruden and Manning have only 2 Super Bowls. Both Orchestrated by Dungy IMHO. Gruden won in Tampa not with a dynamic offense or great QB play, his supposed expertise, but with the defense left to him by Dungy. These are the people who think touchdown celebrations are the root of all evil and are the epitome of the No Fun League and I would definitely like to see them taken down a peg. Also the the hypocrites like Barkley who talk out of the side of their mouth and have no clue wtf they are talking about! Not to mention if I were in that position I would be in Vegas with the Gronk and the Bikini models too! 

On the the other hand, just based on what Ive seen and things he says I think the kid is a spoiled brat and a world world class tool and he needs to fall flat on his face to get some kind of humility. 

So I guess I hope for something in between, maybe he falls flat on his face, but then recovers to be a star.

GoPSULions
GoPSULions

I can easily understand GB fans booing Favre.  When released from his contract he said he would not play in the division, and he did go to the Jets.  But then to go to the Vikings was a slap in the face to the fans.  As a life long Steeler fan, would Bradshaw be as beloved had he left and played for the Browns, Bengals or Houston?  Favre didn't care about his GB legacy, he wanted to attempt to stick it to GB for wanting Rogers over him.

dennis
dennis

The upcoming downfall of society got it's start by this new trend of pretending not to notice reality. Such as pretending like soccer is more than an inferior sport played by third world countries who don't have what it takes to play real football. Oops, oh yeah, I wasn't suppose to say that out loud.

dksherlock
dksherlock

Will it ever end, this gushing over a sport that's meant for third-graders?  Can't I even get away from it when I'm reading an alleged NFL column?


dawnsblood
dawnsblood

Number six makes me thankful I don't watch tv. That list sounds cringe inducing.

GraemeSimpson
GraemeSimpson

'the only sporting event that even comes close to mirroring the World Cup in terms of worldwide interest and epic magnitude of the outcome is the Super Bowl."

Really? Get a grip. 

Interest in the Super Bowl outside USA is tiny compared with the World Cup - or a lot of other actual, you know, world events. Even the Rugby World Cup final has a far more international audience spread (and rugby sevens will be an Olympic sport in 2016). 

Love the Super Bowl and what comes before over the entire season, but the World Championships of the USA really doesn't cut it in the world, sorry.


ChitownTexan
ChitownTexan

You forgot "drinking champagne while floating on a swan" in the Johnny Football mad lib. 

seamillguesthouse
seamillguesthouse

must have a young wife with 3 kids 6 and under. he looks to be middle aged

Orange Crush
Orange Crush

I see Hoyer being the starter going into the season and having a fair amount of success. I think more than anything I am intersted in seeing how Manziel responds when/if his team has success with Hoyer. Does he play the good teammate happy for his team's success role or the pouty it should be me role.

Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan
Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan

Rich Eisen’s MMQB contribution above is well-written.His conversational tone doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of his piece, which need not be laced with colorful metaphors and flowery language to be successful.Unlike some national television sportscasters, Eisen is witty and has a good sense of humor.His book, “Total Access:A Journey to the Center of the NFL Universe,” is a great read.

One thought about those lazy, hazy, news-less days of the NFL’s summer “silly season.”As to Johnny Manziel, the last time I recall this degree of media-inspired sensationalism accompanying an NFL rookie, his name was Tim Tebow.Manziel would be wise to steer clear of all the glamour and glitz, and tune out the media’s seductive siren call to avoid risking damage to his football career.If given the chance, some in the media will tear him down just as fast as they build him up.It’s their favorite sport.

jordanN
jordanN

"But the news cycle never stops."

No, it does; you guys just pretend it doesn't by manufacturing nonsense.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

plus once again jameille hill showed basically how much of a racist she is by going why is everyone getting on Josh Gordon but not getting on Jim Irsay basically implying if Irsay were black the media would be all over it.  I mean she finds a way to always insert race, when she should be worried that the way Gordon is going he might kill someone

number18
number18

All Johnny FootBall has to do is to get drunk, kill somebody,do drugs,hang out with gang members,beat up a few women,give a frothing at the mouth sideline interview, and he will be Loved by the Media,including Wannabee eisen.

IHeartMotelCoffee
IHeartMotelCoffee

I came here for motel coffee reviews and insights to Amtrak car social norms. SMH. At least there are some thoughts that someone thinks they think, which I think I think is pretty groovy. But that's just me and the silly way I think I think.

pirate
pirate

Interesting column, mostly because of the difference in style. Eisen is a talker, not a writer, and it shows. This just feels loose, meandering, overwritten and fluffy. It makes me appreciate King all the more. That said, I enjoy the change up.

Mike26
Mike26

@Knowitall You seem upset about something.  What, pray tell, are you particularly ratted about this time?

BrentStorrs
BrentStorrs

@dennis Not sure how the world cup made the MMQB this week but I'll take it.  Many NFL-fan-only people probably skipped over it which is understandable. Soccer could learn something from the NFL's concussion protocol and many other things. Not sure why FIFA is so slow to deal with things. And for those of you that say soccer players are not the best athletes, which I understand, please view soccer players as NFL quarterbacks. Having a more athletic quarterback will not necessarily translate into a better quarterback. Just compare Vick and Manning. One is beast mode athlete and the other is a beast mode QB with a whole lot less athletic ability. Whats Peyton's 40 time? Imagine mixing the 2 and you have a soccer player. A smart, explosive and technically sound athlete who can run long distances and short sprints for 90 minutes or 120 minutes if needed. Average = 6 miles per game. Hey, even Dennis could play soccer for a few minutes. He could probably play "real football" too. Who knows? He may be 5 foot 10 and weigh 500 pounds. I've seen some real big American football fans out there, massive, just massive people.

LuisDaniel
LuisDaniel

@dennis The downfall of society got it's start when people decided to spend much more time and effort in things they hate, than in things they like. Like you, bothering to comment on soccer. If you hate it so much, get on with your life, and don't try to ruin stuff for everyone else. "World Cup" were the fourth and fifth word in that paragraph; you could have bypassed it easily.

Wombat
Wombat

@GraemeSimpson You know, one could get very tired of the whole "USA vs World" when it comes to soccer. Face it folks it has been decades since soccer became the Sport of the Future in the US and yet it still hasn't caught on as a top three pro sport. It may someday but as of now it hasn't... get over it folks...

Mike26
Mike26

@Orange Crush Without any WR talent, it's unlikely that EITHER QB will have much success in Cleveland this year - at least until they send 2 #1's and 2 #2's to Houston for Andre Johnson....

Mike26
Mike26

@CobyPreimesberger Thanks for bringing in complaints about a writer for a completely different site here to SI - your semi-coherent ranting should be on Bookface back over at TWWL.

BushidoBrownsRevenge
BushidoBrownsRevenge

@CobyPreimesberger Well it is somewhat true. The main reason is Gordon is a professional athlete and we hold them to higher standards than just about anybody in America for some weird reason. Race is probably a factor in this. Both he and Irsay seem to struggle with addiction but Irsay seems to get a lot more sympathy. Irsay probably should have been charge with the far more serious felony intend to distribute. 

BushidoBrownsRevenge
BushidoBrownsRevenge

@number18 The media does love him. He does get drunk and possibly does drugs. I would say being involved in bar fights is much worse than a frothing at the mouth sideline interview.

Wombat
Wombat

@number18 All Johnny Football has to do is survive more than a year as a Browns QB! Better men than he have been shown the door.  I don't mind him drinking... I think it's probably a good idea in his position. 

Mike26
Mike26

@IHeartMotelCoffee I suppose you're trying to be witty, but you failed miserably.  Go back to winning comment sections on CNN.

ruggerrick9
ruggerrick9

@pirate He all but admits that in item 10 on his list.  The trick to writing pieces like this is the ability to think and write in an abridged manner- keeping things short an incisive rather than long and rambling.  I will take some issue with dismissing him as being simply a "talker".  If he's like most anchors, he probably writes alot of the stuff he reads on air.  But it's not easy and we shouldn't expect someone accustomed to writing short news items to air on live TV to be able to adjust effortlessly to the format.   

Wombat
Wombat

@pirate I agree on the style difference but you have to admit that there was nothing to write about this week. Gordon - old news. Manziel - yawn! That's why PK vacations this time every year. This way he doesn't have to produce 2500 words on nothing. Eisen is a rambling kind of guy be he pulled these pages OTA.

BrentStorrs
BrentStorrs

@Wombat @GraemeSimpson Soccer has been around 2 decades maybe 3. In another 2-3 decades we could see it challenging baseball and basketball and even overtaking it. Either way, soccer is a very young sport in the good ol USA and its only going to grow.

usameos6
usameos6

@Mike26 @Orange Crush I don't think the Browns would give up much for Johnson as there would be concerns that he wouldn't show up since he wants to play for a contender and they're still a few years away (maybe more depending on how the QB situation shakes out).  That being said - they are the Browns.

Orange Crush
Orange Crush

@BushidoBrownsRevenge @CobyPreimesberger Wrong. Gordon came into the league with question marks. He has already failed numerous tests and faced suspensions because of them. He is now facing another suspension and then gets a DUI on top of it. Now Irsay doesn't face the same testing as a player does, but this was his first legal offense. If he continues to spiral downward and get into trouble like Gordon has then he should face the same scrutiny, but we are not even close to there yet. When you hear of all the players getting first offenses for DUI's/possession they face far less scrutiny than Irsay has regardless of color. That is why it is not the same.

IHeartMotelCoffee
IHeartMotelCoffee

Ok, I think I think I will. This place is just too intellectual for me. CNN, here I come!

Buck2185
Buck2185

@Wombat @pirate  As opposed to PK's 2500 word ramblings on his political beliefs, opinions, anything Patriot, beer, coffee and hotel amenities??......

Mike26
Mike26

@BrentStorrs @Wombat @GraemeSimpson Brent:  It's NOT young in the USA and the same mantra has been repeated for over 30 years, yet there's little movement at all at raising its profile or consciousness in American sports.

Mike26
Mike26

@usameos6  I agree completely.  I threw it out there to stay consistent with my previous comments about Johnson and what it would take to move him at this point of the NFL calendar.  But hey, we should just let Cleveland be Cleveland and see what happens....    ;)

Wombat
Wombat

@Buck2185 @Wombat @pirate Yes, but imagine what PK would have brought up in his stead... that's right, all of the topics that provide fodder for this forum! Admit it Buck, you wouldn't have half the fun on Mondays that you do now if PK stuck to sports.

Wombat
Wombat

@jordanN @Buck2185 @Wombat @pirate Really? I found is a consistent response to my comment. His comprehension appeared adequate. What are you basing your judgement on sir?

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