A deep dive into the Johnny Manziel situation this morning by ESPN the Magazine’s Elizabeth Merrill revealed a distressing reality: Even Manziel’s friends don’t know what he’s up to anymore.
Of particular interest are his whereabouts on Saturday night, when he was reportedly spotted in Las Vegas wearing a fake mustache and a wig and identifying himself as “Billy.” This is a problem for multiple reasons before you even get to Manziel’s impression that he lives inside the Dennis the Menace universe — but mainly: Manziel was supposed to be getting concussion treatment in Cleveland on Sunday morning, and he wasn’t.
There was a time not so long ago that people were willing to write off Manziel’s behavior as youthful indiscretion — and maybe it genuinely was that at one time — but that explanation is harder to reconcile when some of his closest friends say they don’t know where he was on what is turning out to be the pivotal moment of his NFL career.
One person familiar with his lifestyle is a guy named Gareth Kirk. He’s an old buddy from Texas who lived with Manziel last year in Cleveland, worked on his marketing team and is just about the only person in Manziel’s circle who’ll talk. The roommates had a lot of fun together during Manziel’s rookie season. Too much fun.
In a past life, Kirk was one of the guys Manziel would call to go on a quick vacation. But he didn’t call this time. Kirk, like the Browns, doesn’t know where Manziel was Saturday night. He says his friend is talented and smart enough to do anything if he walks the right path. Like so many others, he can’t understand why a man who can be so competitive on the field is doing so many things to jeopardize his career off of it.
“It’s a question that everybody can’t figure out,” Kirk says, “and it’s so frustrating for all of those people who love him and care about him. I wish I had the answer, but I don’t.”
The rest of Merrill’s detailed story chronicles the weeks leading up to what the headline characterizes as Manziel’s “last great audition.” There is some dark exploration of fame to be found in there, and a critical teammate in Joe Thomas who seems to think Manziel has blown it.
“That’s the path he’s chosen and what he’s going to have to live with,” Thomas says.
The next few weeks are going to be rather interesting in Cleveland.
If Merrill’s thesis is correct, if this was Manziel’s last great audition, then his career appears to be quickly going the way of JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young and Ryan Leaf. All four of those quarterbacks have unique skills and personalities, but what they have in common is that for all of their physical ability between the lines on Sundays, they couldn’t cope with the everyday demands of being a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Life comes at you fast.