Jerry Jones has always had an eye open for talent.
But he has always closed the other eye to character.
If you have troubles and talent, the Cowboys have always been willing to take you in.
Charles Haley, Alonzo Spellman, Demetrius Underwood, Ryan Leaf, Quincy Carter, Terrell Owens, Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, Dez Bryant, Greg Hardy… When other teams were backing off of a player, the Cowboys were willing to step up.
That should be a sign to Johnny Manziel that he needs to voluntarily take a step back, remove himself from football and get his life in order.
The Cleveland Browns plan to release him at the first opportunity — March 9, the opening day of the NFL’s fiscal calendar — to rid themselves of the mistake they made in selecting him with a first-round draft pick in 2014. As it turned out his baggage outweighed his ability.
If the Cowboys don’t call Manziel on March 9 to offer him shelter in the storm that is his life, I don’t expect any NFL team to call Manziel.
And I do not expect the Cowboys to call Manziel.
After all the criticism the Cowboys took for signing Hardy on the heels of his domestic abuse issues, I doubt the Cowboys will bring in another player any time soon with those same issues clouding his life and career. I believe Manziel’s drive from Dallas to Fort Worth on the night of Jan. 29 sealed his fate.
No more football any time soon. Get your life straightened out and, succeeding there, attempt to resurrect your football career in 2017, 2018 or 2019 — however long it takes. First Manziel must win the game of life before he can once again think about winning a game of football.
Manziel became a victim of football affleunza. Too much came his way too soon. Beating the mighty Crimson Tide in Alabama, the first freshman ever to win a Heisman Trophy, his face and image plastered on national magazine covers, first-round selection in an NFL draft… He became addicted to the spotlight. The Johnny Football persona overwhelmed the Johnny Manziel reality.
All that made it easy for Manziel to lose perspective. And he did. He lost the football side of his life. What he did off the field became more important than what he did on the field.
I talked with someone from the Browns regime that brought Manziel to Cleveland. Everyone in the building has since been fired, including my source. He told me the issue with Manziel was that he needs to be engaged. When he was starting games, he was engaged. He was all about football. And it showed.
He cited three examples — games Manziel started against Tennessee in September, Pittsburgh in November and Seattle in December.
In the Tennessee game, Manziel completed only eight of 15 passes but they covered 172 yards with two touchdowns. He threw 50- and 60-yard TD passes in a 28-14 upset victory.
“He won that game single-handedly,” my source said.
Manziel was not supposed to be a pocket passer. At barely 6-0, the belief was he needed to move around, often out of the pocket, to survive in the NFL. Against Pittsburgh, he completed 33-of-45 passes for 372 yards and a touchdown in a loss.
“And that was standing in the pocket,” my source said.
Against Seattle, Manziel marched the Browns 80 yards in 15 plays on the game-opening possession on the road against one of the NFL’s best defenses for a touchdown. The drive took almost seven minutes with Manziel completing six of his eight passes for 60 yards. He converted four consecutive third downs to sustain the drive.
“There’s enough tape on Johnny to see he can play and play at a high level,” my source said. “He’s Russell Wilson with a more dynamic skill set. He’s electric. He’ll find (the open receiver). But he needs to be engaged.”
It’s difficult to keep a player engaged when he’s a backup, which is what Manziel was the bulk of his time in Cleveland. When he’s not playing, he has too many other things on his mind.
Right now Manziel needs to forget about football and focus on getting his life back on track. We’ve already heard his family concerns. His father says if he doesn’t get help, “he won’t live to see his 24th birthday.” The words of his father and the silence of the NFL should speak volumes to Manziel on March 9.
If I never hear his name or see him on the football field again, that’s fine. It’s more important that Johnny Manziel starts winning again off the field than on the field.
Listen to Rick Gosselin at 10:50 a.m. Tuesdays on Sportsradio 1310 AM/96.7 FM The Ticket with Norm Hitzges and Donovan Lewis, and follow @RickGosselinDMN on Twitter.