The comparison of the two quarterbacks has incited a war of words between Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB and Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com.
Yes, they’re beefing over Mayfield’s NFL comparison: Russell Wilson or Manziel (or someone else)? I can see you shaking your head. But this is what we do during NFL draft season. We embrace the rumor mill milling rumors about the rumor mill.
So let’s follow the rabbit down the hole.
Throughout the draft process, Mayfield has drawn comparisons to Manziel, whether it’s fair or not. Those comparison rest upon a few key ingredients.
- Both quarterbacks were talented with their arm and legs in their college days, and won a Heisman Trophy.
- Both quarterbacks were involved in alcohol-related incidents.
- And finally, both quarterbacks appeared on national television with at least one foolish gesture. Mayfield grabbed his crotch — Manziel flipped the bird.
Grossi finds these parallels substantial, and has perpetuated the comparison. Klemko is hell-bent upon undoing that comparison. It’s also worth nothing that Klemko is working on a multi-part feature about Mayfield, during which the reporter travelled to Austin and Lubbock, Texas and Norman, Oklahoma to follow the quarterback’s career through high school and his two colleges.
The two writers’ beef today stems, in part, from whether Mayfield did or did not “demand” a first class upgrade before boarding his flight out of Cleveland, as Grossi reported. Grossi also said Mayfield had to try a few credit cards to make the payment for the upgrade.
Stop everything: this 21-year-old student-athlete has bad credit?
Stop everything: Mayfield demanded an upgrade. He didn’t simply ask for one. Is that like when Michael Scott declared bankruptcy by yelling, “I DECLARE BANKRUPCY,” in “The Office”?
The radio show hosts at ESPN Cleveland made fun of Grossi for the report. Grossi then said: “Maybe it’s not a big deal.”
The report came back in play when Klemko and Grossi spoke on ESPN Cleveland radio.
“When you compare a person like Baker, who has made mistakes, to a person who was coke addicted and an alleged wife beater, then I think it’s irresponsible,” Klemko said to Grossi. “… To continue to make that comparison does a disservice to Baker, but more than anything it does a disservice to you as a journalist. It’s lazy.”
Fact check 1: There weren’t any public indications that Manziel was addicted to cocaine. He did, however, use cocaine occasionally, according to anonymous accounts from his friends.
Fact check 2: Manziel allegedly beat his ex-girlfriend (not wife), Colleen Crowley. It feels like a small fact for such a serious issue. But little facts matter in a situation where Klemko is accusing Grossi of getting the small facts wrong. The assault charges in Manziel’s case were eventually dismissed.
“As a player, they’re similar. You can’t deny they’re similar as players. I think [Mayfield]’s brash, like Johnny. You don’t think he’s brash like Johnny? You don’t think he’s a ‘me-guy’?” Grossi asked. “I don’t think he’s the right quarterback for the Browns. Why do you take that personally? Because you’re doing a series on him, and it’s in your best interest that he becomes the No. 1 pick.”
After more squabbling, one radio host suggested that the Cleveland area was “snake bitten” by Manziel busting in such a profound way.
“I think you have to put on your journalist glasses and be unbiased,” Klemko said.
Klemko eventually hung up on the radio show hosts. The interaction wasn’t done. He then looked into whether Grossi’s report was true, but seemed to confirm incorrect details about it.
Mayfield never “demanded” first class airfare from the Browns, according to Klemko. But that’s not what Grossi reported (in this mind-numbing exhibition of minutiae). Grossi said Mayfield demanded an upgrade at the airport at the gate, as Grossi reiterated following Klemko’s report.
The Browns would have paid for his flight to and from Cleveland, as teams typically pay for prospects’ flights on visits. That would have likely left Mayfield to cover the first-class upgrade, if he chose to do so in this situation.
And by the way, why didn’t the Browns pay for a first class ticket? For all they knew, Mayfield could have been their No. 1 overall pick and quarterback of the future. And the organization, which nets hundred of millions in revenue per year, sent Mayfield home on economy.
The news here is not that Mayfield has bad credit (and thus is the next Manziel — or whatever). The news is that the Browns snubbed Mayfield with their seat selection. But I digress.
If Grossi admitted the upgrade story “isn’t a big deal” and Klemko thinks it’s a “non-story,” then they’re in agreement about that one thing (hopefully with the rest of the nation). So we’ve got one battle settled in this war of minutiae over Mayfield and Manziel.
May that war be over soon. May the draft come immediately.