Who’s Johnny, The Next 30 For 30?

I’m going to go ahead and comment on it, even though I feel like I’m wading into a hurricane with a kiddie raft.  I have been watching the drama unfold in Cleveland, Las Vegas, Texas and who knows where else for far too long to keep my mouth shut any longer: someone has to stop the Johnny Manziel downward spiral.

So let’s run this down with some highlights, er lowlights, and see what I’m talking about.

May 8th 2014 – Manziel is drafted by the Browns as the 22nd pick of NFL Draft.  Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said that a homeless guy convinced him to draft Manziel on the way to the draft.  Seems legit.

May 24 2014 – Johnny goes to Vegas instead of focusing on football.  This comes just after questions of his work ethic and character were brought up in the draft process.

June 6, 2014 – Manziel is pictured floating around in a pool on a giant swan focusing on a bottle rather than a football.  Apparently there is a playbook stuck to the bottom of the pool.

July 4, 2014 – Manziel is in Vegas where he was caught on camera with something that looks a lot like drugs.  I do not believe he was working on football here either.

August 18, 2014 – Manziel gives the Redskins the bird in a nationally televised event.  Stay classy.

November 22, 2014 – Manziel gets into a fight in a hotel in Cleveland with a fan and members of his entourage.  It almost feels like it had been too long since he did something, didn’t it?

December 23, 2014 – Manziel gets hurt and says he has to change in order to be successful.  You think?

December 26, 2014 – Change is short.  He throws a party and is late for treatment on his hamstring, although he is quick to deny there is a party.

January 3, 2015 – Flips off some fans at a club in Houston who end up taking it differently than Manziel expected.  They drench him in their drinks.  Cheers!

January 28, 2015 – Manziel decides that this time it’s really about change and goes to rehab.

April 11, 2015 – Manziel comes out of rehab a changed man.

April 17, 2015 – Manziel issues an apology to Cleveland, the fans, his teammates, the world, the universe and whoever else wants to listen. Everyone believes in the change.

June 17, 2015 – “Money” Manziel is gone.  No more?  Say it ain’t so Johnny.  Maybe the change is real?

October 12, 2015 – Manziel and his girlfriend have an argument after drinking.  The police are called because Manziel was driving like an ass and acting like an ass so his girlfriend tried to exit the vehicle while he was still driving.  It’s now beginning to get dark.  Jokes are now done.

October 25, 2015 – The NFL finally decides to investigate Manziel for domestic abuse.  I mean it only happened almost two weeks ago!?!

November 23, 2015 – More partying and there is video evidence of Manziel drinking and singing.  Instead of focusing on himself and/or football during Cleveland’s bye week he spent it on the one thing that is causing him to spiral out of control.

January 1, 2016 – Manziel spotted in Las Vegas at a casino when he was supposed to be going the following day to Cleveland to the team’s training facility for league mandated concussion protocol.  It had been reported in various sources he showed signs of a hangover in practice earlier in the week.

January 30, 2016 – Manziel is alleged to have assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley.  Crowley has filed an affidavit of protection from Manziel because he struck her so hard he ruptured her eardrum.

According to ESPN.com:

“The affidavit states that Manziel dragged Crowley down some back steps to the hotel exit. As they passed a valet, Crowley states she pleaded with a valet as the pair left, saying: “Please don’t let him take me. I’m scared for my life!” The valet responded that he didn’t know what to do.

Manziel took her to Crowley’s car, where she states she got in the car’s passenger seat “against my will.” As he was backing up, she jumped out, ran across the street and hid in some bushes.

Manziel made a U-turn to where she was, grabbed her by her hair and threw her in the car.

“He hit me with his open hand on my left ear for jumping out of the car,” the affidavit states. “I realized immediately that I could not hear out of that ear, and I cannot today [Feb. 3, the date of the filing].”

Crowley writes that the argument continued on the way to her apartment and in the apartment itself.

“I continue to be extremely concerned for my health and well-being,” she wrote.

The judge issued the protective order Feb. 4, the day after Crowley’s filing.”

The Cleveland Browns organization has been hiding Manziel’s real problems for years because of the promise of talent.  With the partying it seems concerning that he isn’t taking care of himself and has some issues that he may be covering up.  Now that he has struck someone else it scares me to think about what else he might do when he is drinking.

And don’t get me started about Deion Sanders and his insinuation that Manziel’s ex-girlfriend is the reason for all the problems.  Sure, blame the victim of a ruptured eardrum and domestic abuse.  Go ahead.  Let’s not solve the problem.  Why does anyone even ask someone who clearly has no clue?

If you’ve never read the story of Derek Boogaard Boy on Ice by John Branch, it’s time to pick it up.  Branch examine’s Boogaard’s rise through the hockey ranks all the way up to the NHL all while battling his addictions: first with booze and then with painkillers and opioids.  Boogaard never got the publicity or was never the figure that Manziel is however his addictions remind me of Manziel’s.  Boogaard went to rehab multiple times and each time he came out he said he was going to be better and he was going to change but the only way he was going to change was if he was allowed to change and his team(s) never did that.

The Browns never made Johnny change.  They covered for him and you can bet the NFL did whatever it could.  The Wild kept finding ways to get Boogaard what he needed.  The NHL would do whatever they could.  Meanwhile both Manziel and Boogaard struggled with their addiction because they were stuck in the same spiral that only was/is getting longer, deeper and darker.  Boogaard’s spiral ended in a tragedy and now that we see Manziel at this junction it scares me to think that he’s teetering on something that’s going to end in the same place.

The Browns are saying they don’t want him, his agent doesn’t want him, the NFL might be saying the same soon, his ex-girlfriend filed a protection order, his family is pushing back and who knows what other people are pushing back against him.  I can only imagine that Johnny is fragile and there must be a million things running through his head.  If he truly is spiraling, this is the time to get help, I just wonder if he will get it?  Or five/ten/fifteen years from now will we be watching this on ESPN as a 30 For 30?

The Garden Of Nightmares?

On a night when questions about the futures of some of the best athletes in college football were answer in the NFL first round draft, the Rangers opened the door to some questions of their own.

Did the layoff hurt them?  Did it help the Caps?  Is Lundqvist struggling to regain his focus?  Where is the offense?  What happened to the Rangers who won the President’s trophy?

It could be possible that the time off hurt the Rangers coming into this game.  Maybe because they had more time to relax they lost an edge compared to Washington who is still in the game rhythm.  Sometimes that time off tends to back fire because you get out of that typical pattern and there is an adjustment phase.  Plus the Caps are coming off an extremely emotional win in D.C. over the Islanders in a Game Seven that they played extremely well in.  Ovechkin seems to have found himself in the latter stages of that series and Holtby came on after starting slowly.

After Lundqvist spent most of the past couple of months getting back on the ice you have to wonder if he’s still trying to find that playoff form.  Granted he’s rested but that sharpness may not be there at times, although the Rangers seemed to have left him out to dry a couple of times and he bailed them out.  The game winning goal at the end of the third period though probably should have been stopped and you have to wonder if it was a matter of focus?  

Speaking of focus, the focus should be on the power play, a power play that was supposed to have improved at the trade deadline with the addition of Keith Yandle but has yet to really make anyone pay the price here in the playoffs.  Even Rick Nash seems to be missing the net, setting that seemed difficult for him to do during the regular season.  With Zucc out now it’s going to be even more important for the power play and the top line to come through, someone is going to have to step up and make a huge contribution.  Holtby is beatable, in the Game Seven he let through a crappy shot that should have never scored, there’s no reason the Rangers should not be driving the net and putting pucks on net and scoring.  This isn’t the team that won the President’s trophy, we all saw that in the Penguins series.  I know playoff hockey gets tight but these aren’t the same Rangers, they look like they are the Jr Rangers.  Maybe Coach can shake them after the loss, someone has to because if Washington gets on a roll they are going to be tough to stop.  

I know it’s only Game One but there are some alarms going off and they need to be going off.  Issues need to be addressed and the Rangers better get to them now or else they are going to find themselves 2-0 headed to Washington in a hurry.

Ain’t No Turnin’ Back

Sometimes you can look around the sports world and think to yourself “yeah they get it, they know they are lucky to be where they are.”  Someone is giving back to the community, they aren’t putting themselves above everyone else, they aren’t abusing their status or they aren’t just taking advantage of everything.

Sometimes you can looking around the sports world and ask yourself “is it just going to hell?”  We see it in the newspapers and online websites, athletes on drugs, drunk driving, illegal weapons possession, drug dealing and a long list of things that most people can’t imagine even doing.

Coming up is the NFL Draft and I keep asking myself about that number one pick.  Ya know Jameis, and all the stories that swirl around him.  From the alleged stolen soda, soda taken in ketchup cups from a fast food establishment, to the accusation of stolen crab legs, the story went from he “forgot” to pay for them to this week he told Coach Harbaugh that a guy at Publix “hooked them up” with a birthday cake before and so he thought he could just get free crustaceans.  There are the other big allegations of sexual assault that have been brought before criminal and civil court, the criminal charges have been dropped but the civil are yet to be tried.

It still appears that Tampa Bay, with the number one pick, are betting on Jameis’ talent and football IQ to lead them to the Lombardi Promised Land.  The Florida based team is projected to dump buckets of cash on the former Florida State quarterback with their first pick in the NFL draft even though questions exist about Jameis’ decisions off the field.

We’ve seen multiple players let the money and bad decision making lead them to terrible consequences starting with one of the worst most recent cases: Aaron Hernandez (Murder), Rae Carruth (Conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, etc), Mike Vick (Dog Fighting/Unlawful Animal Cruelty), Adrian Peterson(Indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child for using a branch to spank his son in Spring, Texas, in Ma), Ray Rice (Arrested and charged with simple assault after he allegedly struck fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator. A grand jury indicted him on a more serious count of aggravated assault in March), Josh Brent (Charged with intoxication manslaughter after he flipped his car in accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown in Irving, Texas) and many more.

In fact, why don’t you go here and look it up for yourself?  No really, look at the names.  Make decisions for yourself.  Question it for yourself.  Ask yourself questions about all the things that happen.  We look at Jameis (and I’m not letting him off the hook) but he’s not the only one here.  He’s just joining a league where everybody else is doing something too.  No one else is perfect.  Maybe he’s just joining a group of somebodies that are getting away with some things too.  I mean who knows how many on that list are getting away with walking out of a store with something free because they are playing for an NFL team.  Maybe someone is going to a restaurant and getting a free meal?  Why?  Is it just because it draws crowds to that restaurant that the quarterback of the local NFL team eats there?  So the owner says hey, you eat free?  So why are we yelling at Jameis for doing something that someone else is doing?

Maybe it’s like “The Resistance” by Drake:

“I’m living inside a moment, not taking pictures to save it, I mean, how could I forget?

My memories never faded.  I can’t relate to these haters, my enemies never made it.

I am, still here with who I started with.

The game needed life, I put my heart in it.

I blew myself up, I’m on some martyr shit,

Carry the weight for my city like a cargo ship….

Man I couldn’t tell you where the fuck my head is

I’m holdin’ on by a thread it’s like I’m high right now

The guy right now

And you could tell lookin in my eyes right now

That nothin’ really comes as a surprise right now

Cause we just havin’ the time of our lives right now….

Did I just trade free time for camera time?

Will I blow all of this money baby, hammer time?

Yeah, I just need some closure

Ain’t no turnin’ back for me I’m in it ‘til it’s over”

There ain’t no turnin’ back for him now.  He’s burned a lot of bridges.  He’s coming out now.  It’s in it to win it.  He’s going all in.  So when he gets there, he’s going to be loved or hated, pretty much like before.  What’s changing?  He’s just going to be a pro.  More money, more problems.  Problem is, now it’s even more reported, even more microscopes even more to lose.  If he’s trying to do better than good enough, it’s time to change.  It’s time not to be better than same rut that all those guys in that rut got stuck in.  Time to take in all that advice all those guys have been trying to tell him.  Ain’t no turnin’ back yeah, but it might be too late, it might be over.

Silly Season (or How I Learned to Love Pete Carroll)

The off-season in sports is often referred to as the silly season.  I’m not sure that I like the name of that.  I get where it’s coming from, there’s so much speculation and people are watching the trades and the signings and hoping that their team is going to sign this guy and that guy.  I think I can see through the silliness sometimes.  The championship isn’t always won in the off-season, is it?  Rome wasn’t built in a day much less three months.  Although I do like to think it burned in a day.  Nero stood over in the corner and fiddled while it burned.  Some general managers of teams stand over in the corner and fiddle while franchises go up in smoke.

I don’t seem to recall last year’s NFL off-season.  Maybe I was disenchanted.  Maybe I had other things on my mind.  I just can’t seem to place myself in it.  It doesn’t seem to have hit me like this years’.  Who would have seen the Seahawks blowing up their offensive line to get a guy like Jimmy Graham?  Or Chip Kelly going out and getting Sam Bradford?  I thought for sure he was going to go get his old QB(not that I’m not convinced he isn’t still going out for him).  The Bills getting him to trade Shady McCoy to them for Kelly’s old LB Kiko?  Where the hell did that come from?  Talk about watching Rome burn.  So in the span of a week, you’ve dumped your old QB, RB, watched WRs and OLs walk in free agency.  Nero would be exceptionally proud.  It’s no longer Lincoln Financial Field folks, it’s the Roman Coliseum and they are going to start handing out togas and drink wine out of chalices.  Mongols are heading for Philly.  Changes are afoot in Philly.

But they always say you can’t win the championship in the off-season, it’s more about what you do in the regular season.  I just have to wonder about some of the deals though.  The free agent signings, the draft coming up; can you really expect to draft and trade and sign to find yourself in a prime position?  I would have to think that maybe you’d have to have a strong base to begin with.

Let’s take Seattle.  I do have to think the Jimmy Graham trade is a head-scratcher for me.  Look, they were a play call away from a 2nd straight Super Bowl title.  Now you take Russell Wilson’s protective blanket in Max Unger and ship him and your first round draft pick to New Orleans for a tight end.  Granted the tight end can line up in the slot, out wide or on the line, he’s big and strong and causes match-up problems, but he had issues with his shoulder last year.  Yes he played through it, but if he gets hurt, they are now worried about a center position AND a tight end position.  Whereas they already had the center position locked up.  Plus they had that first round pick.  I know the Seahawks are great at finding gems in the draft.  I’m a huge Pete Carroll fan.  I love his mentality.  The way he coaches up guys, the team first, playing up to potential and being able to step up and compete.  That’s what it’s about, you don’t play the other guys as much you do yourself, finding a way to compete and win by beating that nagging feeling inside yourself that says you can’t do it.  They’ve built this strong defense by finding this guys that other people have cast off as not being able to play.  Sherman, Chancellor, Wagner among others.  It’s this mentality that “I can bring in guys to play in my system, I’ll get them to play to the best of their ability by convincing them to be positive, knowing they can do it and not letting anyone tell them they can’t.”

At this level it’s all about finding that edge.  Carroll seems to have found that edge.  His book is excellent at explaining it.  It makes you want to play for him because you know at some point you are going to do something wrong, but he’s not going to run over there and just yell at you about it, he’s going to yell at you because he knows you are better than that.  He’s going to tell you that because you are better than that, you are going to go out there next time and kick someone’s butt.  He expects a lot out of you, but at the same time, he rewards you.  You can see it in the culture, you see it in the way the guys play.  The way they rally around one another.  Watch the NFC Championship game where Kam Chancellor is mic’d up.  You’ll see how he never gives up.  It’s an underlying theme Carroll’s philosophy.  Don’t quit on me now.  Did you happen to catch the NBC interview with him and Matt Lauer?  That man is positivity to a T.  Only once did he let that play call get to him.  Meanwhile on Twitter he’s being called “world’s worst coach” or it’s the “worst play call ever.”  But the team sticks together.  He calls them family because he believes in it.  It’s not just words.  It’s a way of life.  The amazing thing about this is that he doesn’t go out on the first day of free agency and sign this guy and that guy.  He builds relationships and makes people better.  He’s made a philosophy.  He wants to make you better through it.  Whatever you want to do in football you do it through competing.  Never stop competing.  Why would you ever stop competing?  Every day compete.  Get better every day.  That’s what he’s about.  Don’t look back on yesterday you can’t change it.  Build up yourself and get back on the field.  That’s what I’ve learned about Pete Carroll.

Silly Season?  Well it seems like to me Silly Season is any season without Pete Carroll in it.  These guys running around signing anyone and everyone are just filling rosters like a video game.  That’s not a philosophy, it’s filling rosters.  You don’t know what you are going to get until you get on the field.  But when you sit down with your players and learn about them take away the barriers and edges and make it priority to build a roster with guys that want to play together not just for the money well that’s a winner.  Nero burned down Rome in a day and by the look of it, some people in the NFL are trying to do it, meanwhile, some people are doing their best to build something to stand up long past the embers have gone out.

Drafts: The Curse and Blessing

Now that the NFL season is over (or has been over) talk is of the incoming college class that will make their names known on Sundays.  The combine just finished a few weeks ago and all anyone wanted to talk about was who would go first overall to the Tampa Bay Bucs.  Everyone has a favorite for whatever reason and they aren’t afraid to tell you who it is.  The draft brings out the GM/analyst in every fan/armchair quarterback.  But that’s the great thing about it.  It’s become such a spectacle where our favorite teams’ future seems to hang on that one decision.  It feels like “this is the year ” or “another year of reloading.”  But what is it about the draft?

The funny thing is that baseball and hockey have a draft that are nowhere as visible as football.  Basketball sets up a lottery to try to keep teams from bombing in order to guarantee themselves the number one pick.  It’s an interesting concept which has led to shock teams getting that valued top spot.  But what’s incredible is that even though you might get that “can’t miss” guy sometimes it doesn’t always work out.

The NFL history books are loaded with top picks that never quite panned out and I’m certain that most NFL fans can name a few without even looking them up.  Not they are necessarily busts but they didn’t end up being what the scouts said they were going to be.  Maybe they didn’t get in the right system to begin with, maybe they were forced into action too soon, maybe they struggled with injuries at one point, maybe they didn’t have the talent necessary or maybe the situation just wasn’t right.  For whatever reason these things happen.  Last year’s number one overall pick of the Texans, Jadeveon Clowney struggled with injuries and barely saw action of any sort.

Then you look at baseball or hockey and even most seasoned fans have no idea who their favorite team drafted.  They won’t see that guy play for six months if they are lucky to even years later in some cases.  Some hockey players don’t even get drafted and sign as college free agents or come from Europe as free agents.  We have no idea until they make an impact on the ice or on the diamond.  As for basketball, it seems like college has become a showcase for the NBA level talent, so they play a year and hopefully get drafted in the first round with the idea that they can get a guaranteed contract.  Second round picks aren’t afforded that luxury and can easily be cut and sent on their way.  We’ve certainly seen plenty of free agent college players make it to the pros and make a difference as well.  But the number one picks can be deceiving just as well.

That number one spot, it comes with a tremendous amount of promise and pressure.  You can make the team or ruin it; curse and a blessing.  It’s interesting how many teams gave up draft picks just recently at the NHL trade deadline in order to win now. These windows to win are small and many times the draft can be such a crapshoot.  Players can get hurt, sign somewhere else, someone else can make a bigger move or even the wheels can just fall off.  You have to go for it whle you can. Draft picks are great if you aren’t blessed with an abundance of talent but they can be a curse when you’ve got to win today and that rookie isn’t the final piece of the puzzle.