Few are better qualified to judge Johnny Manziel's balance of on-field focus and off-field fun than Joe Namath, the former New York Jets star quarterback who could run the offense and run the streets with equal effectiveness during a 13-year pro career. And as far as Broadway Joe is concerned, Manziel, who has built a reputation as a jet-setting partier himself, is going to be just fine when it comes to keeping himself under control away from football.
"This is an era where things get blown out of proportion. He isn't doing anything that other players his age -- older or younger -- aren't doing," Namath told Yahoo Sports. "Things are multiplied 10-fold at least, 20-fold at least. He documents going out to dinner and someone takes a picture and boom -- you've got a headline. I trust Johnny Manziel's integrity and I don't even know him. I trust him walking that line, and he's learned along the way. We didn't hear any negatives about him this season, no drinking and driving. So I think he's learned. I think he's moved beyond."
The glaring difference between Namath's days as a high-profile, fun-loving quarterback and Manziel's, of course, is exposure. Namath's news cycle came once a day, when newspapers hit driveways and perhaps when a TV news story hit the airwaves. Manziel exposure is 24 hours a day, and anyone with a cell phone can snap a photo and be an instantly explosive social media presence.
Namath recognized that.
"I'm glad I didn't have all these cameras, all the attention that these guys get these days. You almost can't be human any more," he said.
Manziel, for his part, spoke in depth with the Houston Chronicle about the need to separate himself from his off-field persona.
"I was a kid who made some goofball decisions," Manziel said. "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."
As for ability, Namath's only question about Manziel's NFL future is durability.
"If he lasts remains to be seen. You get knocked down in the pocket and you can tear ligaments. That's all it takes," Namath said. "But for me, you'd like to see Johnny Manziel on your team. How can any team possibly pass on that man? How can you not take him unless you think he won't last in the NFL? I think you still might have to."