Cleveland Browns Benching Johnny Manziel is About His Issues, Not Mike Pettine’s

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Five days.

All Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel had to do was stay away from cameras and clubs for five days while the team was on their Week 11 bye. But like most who go to rehab or admit to having some sort of addiction, he couldn’t—and it cost him the starting quarterback job and a demotion to third string.

In the wake of the latest video to hit the internet with Manziel partying it up just days after he told the Browns coaching staff and media members he would not do anything to embarrass the team, there seems to be a major divide in the fanbase.

On one side, you have what is seemingly a younger generation of Browns fans who idolize Manziel for his sandlot style of play in college which won him the Heisman Trophy, and revel in his antics and lifestyle off the field that they wish they could be part of (they likely ordered their own inflatable swan off the internet after the pictures surfaced). This group sees Manziel as “just a 22-year old kid having fun,” and does not understand why his repeated behavior is not only detrimental to himself—you know, the recovering addict who enrolled himself in rehab—and the franchise that invested a No. 22 overall pick and around $8 million guaranteed in him with the hope he could be their quarterback of the future.

On another side, you have a group that is sick of seeing Manziel’s name in the headlines. This group wanted nothing to do with him coming out of college, and no matter what he did on the field—good or bad—the other quarterbacks (Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown, Connor Shaw or Austin Davis) would always be a better option. This group sees Manziel’s latest action as an “I told you so moment” to remind others that he was never their guy and he will never get clean, and he will likely be out of the NFL in a few years.

The third group we have in this situation is an intriguing one, because they could honestly care less about Manziel but truly hate head coach Mike Pettine. Their only card in the game is that he is the worst coach the Browns have ever had, so whatever he does they will always support the opposite. Members of this group have come to truly believe that Pettine hates Manziel and that is the only reason he is benching him—even though he just named him the starter for the rest of the season a few short days ago.

Now that we have established these three groups, there is something you need to know—not one of these groups is right here. Shocking, right? Allow me to explain.

For the pro-Johnny fans out there, the organization did not just bench Manziel and demote him to the No. 3 quarterback because of ONE isolated incident that happened during the bye week. He is not being singled out because he likes to have fun by going to the club and rapping with DJ’s and taking selfies. No, Manziel is being benched because of a long list of repeated negative behavior that has represented himself and the organization in a negative light, yet again.

But wait, Manziel hasn’t been suspended by the league for anything, so he shouldn’t be punished, right? Wrong. Just because Manziel has not done anything (that we know of) that is punishable by the NFL, does not mean he did not violate personal conduct rules he agreed to with his employer, the Cleveland Browns.

For those of you who like to compare Manziel the NFL player to your own personal life, let’s talk normal work comparison for a second dating back to his rookie year. If you were just hired for a job, would your company allow you to come into work for months and not try or show little growth and effort, fail to grasp basic work concepts and keep you on the payroll? Probably not, yet that’s exactly what Manziel did as a rookie in 2014. He was so far behind the curve that an undrafted rookie (Shaw) was more prepared in his lone start last year than Manziel had been in his opportunities at the helm. It all ended in an “epic fail” at the end of the year when Manziel missed a team walkthrough and was late to treatment after he had been placed on the Injured Reserve (not knowing the rules of having to show up to your job or not when you are on this list is not an excuse).

Okay, so year one at his new career did not go so well. The organization that took a chance on him could have taken the easy road and cut-bait, but they saw something in Manziel to draft him at No. 22 and decided to stand by his side. Manziel and his family—public relations move or not—shocked many by admitting to having a problem that needed to be fixed, and he entered into rehab to get this problem taken care of. I’d like to call this, positive sign one.

After emerging from rehab, Manziel seemed like a new man. His teammates lauded his work ethic, his coaching staff openly discussed his growth as a passer and teammate in the locker room and more importantly, the results were showing on the field. Was Manziel putting up “next coming of Tom Brady” performances in preseason or after McCown went down with an injury? No, but he was showing the ability to play from within the pocket at times and go through progressions—like an NFL quarterback needs to do.

On top of all of this positive growth on the field and at work, Manziel was staying out of the clubs and off phones partying. Things looked good, well, until the most recent incident with his girlfriend after day drinking in Cleveland and heading home to Avon. We will not get into the he-said, she-said because it does not matter, Manziel had placed himself back in the spotlight again.

Despite this, the organization again backed their quarterback. In fact, their faith in Manziel had grown so much that he was named starter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after his best performance ever as a professional quarterback, he was named the starter for the rest of the season—meaning he would get six more games to show everyone that he in fact has grown as a leader and can be trusted with the keys to the franchise.

Which brings us to the present, and the five days it took Manziel to destroy everything he had built all season long. His positive growth on the field and “finding out what the team has in him” suddenly became meaningless, because his repeated negative off the field behaviors were starting to rear their ugly head once again. Before you start to say “it was a drink in the club on his day off” just stop, because this is not about one drink, it is about a repeated behavior he just promised the club he would not take part in over a five-day span.

Listen, I do not claim to know the struggles of someone who went to rehab for an addiction or the battle they fight every single day. I will not pretend to understand, nor will I draw empty parallels to what it is like to be Manziel and live his everyday life.

With that said, I know what it is like to want to obtain a career goal and what needs to go into achieving that. There have been things I have personally had to give up in order to get to those goals, and if I did not give them up, I would not have achieved what I set out to achieve.

This is where Manziel is now.

He is a 22-year old kid who just received the wake-up call of his life from his current employer. In order to be the franchise quarterback for the team that invested in him, Manziel needs to do the things he said he would do and attempted to commit to after entering rehab. It may be in Cleveland, or it may be somewhere else if the Browns decide to move on from him after the season.

Either way, this move is about one person and one person only—Johnny Manziel. It is not about whether his coach likes him or not. It is not about whether his teammates like him or not. It is about the re-surfacing of negative repeated behavior, and an attempt to get their employee to see that he needs to get back on the path he went on before the 2015 season, not the one he was on as a 21-year old rookie in 2014.

Put your personal feelings about the organization, the player and the coaching staff aside and see the situation in its entirety. Manziel is not your average 22-year old kid who is just out for a good time on the weekends and working some random 9-5 job Monday through Friday. He is a kid who was handed the keys to an NFL franchise—your favorite NFL franchise—and instead of taking it seriously and doing what he said he would do before leaving, he did the exact opposite.

I’ll leave you with a quote from NFL Hall of Famer, Cris Carter, because it is only fitting here.

“…What Buddy Ryan did was the best thing that ever happened for me when he cut me and told me I couldn’t play for his football team. But he told me a story. He told me the night before he went on and talked to his wife, and he asked his wife what he should do. And his wife told him, don’t cut Cris Carter. He’s going to do something special with his life.”

Johnny Manziel, you have not been cut as Carter was. Pettine and the Browns organization are attempting to help you (contrary to popular belief) become the best version of yourself possible. It is now on you to decide what you want to do with what seems like a last chance with the team.

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Bob is the Founder, Site Director and Senior Writer of Cleveland Sports Zone. He has been writing about sports for over nine years thanks to his passion for Cleveland sports and a Journalism degree. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, ESPN, USA Today and other major sports networks.

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