That has naturally carried over to the run-up to the 2014 NFL Draft, with NFL personnel gradually becoming aware of Manziel's star power. He is such a unique prospect on and off the field that some folks around the league are simply having a hard time grasping that instead of a quarterback's star power exploding after the draft, it's been steadily building for two years now.
Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer remarked that there were "flags" about Manziel's maturity in a radio interview. A column on MMQB.com recently brought up some of the same issues after Manziel was seen at a Texas Rangers game in the company of an attractive former Maxim model.
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"Manziel also has been spotted at the Final Four and The Masters just in the past couple of weeks. Wouldn't be surprised if the Kentucky Derby is next. For most players, no one would care. But after his Summer of Johnny last year, Manziel isn't just any player," Greg Bedard wrote. "If you think this isn't being talked about and dissected in NFL front offices, you're being idealistically naïve."
Sure it's being talked about in NFL front offices, but this isn't an incident or a case of being immature, it's an event he was at. He didn't get arrested, drive home intoxicated or even make a giant scene beyond his mere presence. In today's media world, everything from a prospect visiting a team to who their girlfriend is winds up as a post on the web. It's time to stop labeling these off-the-field appearances for what they are not.
The "Summer of Johnny" saw him show up at a few basketball games and go to a few concerts. Sure he had the monetary means (i.e. family money) to do so that other college athletes lacked. The fact of the matter is he was fairly responsible and handled himself better in most situations than others would have in the same spot.
It seems everybody from the media to NFL teams themselves are reading what they want into every headline Manziel creates. Is he perfect? No, and he'll probably be the first to say that in an interview with a coach, too. He's also not in the same category as Aldon Smith or even somebody like Jeremy Hill.
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If a general manager passes on Manziel because he doesn't like what he does in his free time, fine. If he doesn't draft him because of his height, arm strength or footwork, fine. There's no bigger boom-or-bust prospect in the draft than Manziel, and only time will tell if those front offices are making a sound decision or a tragic mistake. Let's stop trying to lay the groundwork for teams passing on the signal-caller because of how he spends his free time, however.
"At quarterback, more than any other position because of its importance, teams want a player who lives and breathes football, and one who doesn't have being a celebrity on his priority list," Bedard added in his piece.
You know who also attended a Rangers game and the Final Four? Current Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Tom Brady will be attending the Kentucky Derby this year, actually. And if that McDonald's commercial with LeBron James is too much of an issue for some scout out there, just note that Manziel's got a long way to go to catch up to Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.
Yes, those quarterbacks have all won a Super Bowl, but celebrity isn't limited to those who've earned a ring. Robert Griffin III has his own logo now and is the focus of a huge adidas marketing campaign. Tony Romo seems to inspire an internet meme whenever he pops up at an event. Cam Newton starred in one of the best NFL commercials in years.
A coach might want a quarterback who lives and breathes football but, in the offseason, there's no escaping the fact that they're celebrities and many of them embrace that fact. Manziel is simply taking advantage of this while he's a prospect and not after he's seen his press coverage skyrocket with an NFL team. He's unique in every aspect and this is no different.
More from Bedard:
"In a way, the Manziel situation is similar to the prospects who test positive for marijuana before the draft. If they can't stay away from the stuff in months before they determine their income level for the next five years, then how bright can they be? Manziel's biggest question mark is whether or not he will be appropriately dedicated to his craft. And if he can't stay in the shadows for another month before the draft, what's he going to be doing after he gets picked? People can complain all they want about how this is unfair, he's just enjoying his life and blah, blah, blah. The indisputable fact is this is a part of the draft evaluation process, especially for Manziel because of his past, and it's not going to help him."
First off, no this is not similar to prospects that test positive for marijuana before the draft. Showing up at a high-profile event is not the same as doing a drug. Why does the conventional wisdom have to be that draft hopefuls have to stay out of the spotlight? Teddy Bridgewater hasn't been seen a ton, but his stock is dropping. Manziel is still meeting with teams, still holding private workouts and still doing everything that's asked of him.
Manziel's subpar repute stems chiefly from an incident his freshman year where he reportedly was trying to break up a fight but quickly found himself in the middle of it. Along the way to the draft he added to his reputation with things like he doesn't like to work or that he's not focused.
Reality doesn't quite paint that same picture, though. He trained as much as nine hours a day with quarterback guru George Whitfield prior to the NFL Scouting Combine. Per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Manziel even brought a coach along to a meeting on his off day just so he wouldn't miss a film session. His former coach said teammates would run through a wall for the guy, and that he wants to be the best to ever play the game. Manziel's pro day was one of the most impressive in recent memory and there's been nary a peep of negative comments following one of his visits with teams.
Johnny Football is a unique player in this year's draft. Some coaches won't like him because he doesn't fit the mold of an NFL quarterback -- on the field and with his pre-draft schedule -- and they're totally entitled to that opinion. Those around the league who echo that sentiment might want to start sticking to the adage that it's better to say nothing than anything at all when it comes to Manziel though.