Johnny Manziel, a freewheeling quarterback once thought to be the savior of Browns football in Cleveland, but who ended up succumbing to a litany of off-the-field problems that doomed his short tenure in the AFC North, was officially cut on Friday, the Browns announced.
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Manziel texted then-quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains from the draft’s green room as he began a sharp slide down the board. His words were convincing enough to prompt Loggains to send the message to then-head coach Mike Pettine and owner Jimmy Haslam.
“I wish you guys would come get me,” Manziel said. “Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together.”
Loggains, who would not be in Cleveland a year later, said in a radio interview at the time: “When I got that text, I forwarded it to the owner and to the head coach. I’m like, ‘This guy wants to be here. He wants to be part of it.’ As soon as that happened, Mr. Haslam said, ‘Pull the trigger. We’re trading up to go get this guy.'”
From that point, the franchise sunk into the all-familiar tug of war that has existed between ownership, the front office and coaching staff for nearly two decades now. In the time since Manziel was drafted, the team replaced another head coach, fired general manager Ray Farmer and installed a front-office hierarchy bent on eliminating the mistakes of the past. Sashi Brown, an attorney and former club general council, was installed alongside former Mets executive Paul DePodesta to run the franchise.
Manziel started eight total games, losing six. He completed 57 percent of his passes, hurled seven total touchdowns and seven interceptions. He rushed for 259 yards and a touchdown.
There were moments when his play transcended the typical confines of NFL quarterbacking, leading former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to joke that sometimes coaching is irrelevant. Just let Manziel roll out, evade tacklers, call his own number and hurl a 50-plus yard touchdown pass.
But his on-field performance alone didn’t come close to defining the Manziel era in Cleveland. For better or worse, his tenure was underlined by a perceived lack of maturity and far-reaching substance-abuse issues that landed the quarterback in a treatment facility following the 2014 season.
Among his most memorable moments:
Manziel spent the weekend after his first organized team activities partying poolside in Las Vegas. Photos of Manziel surfaced on the Internet later that summer. One showed Manziel clutching a bottle of what appeared to be champagne while floating on an inflatable swan. He also appeared in a photo that depicted him talking into wads of cash — the “Money Phone.”
There was also an alleged incident involving a drunk fan at a Cleveland area hangout, The 9 at the Metropolitan, and at Manziel’s own apartment to close out the season. He missed a walkthrough before the team’s final game of the 2014 season.
From there it only seemed to spiral. Manziel and his girlfriend were questioned by police in Avon, Ohio, in October after they were involved in a roadside incident. Manziel told police he and his girlfriend had been drinking. Last month, Dallas police investigated a complaint of domestic violence assault against Manziel after he allegedly hit his ex-girlfriend multiple times during a January argument. The case has been submitted to a grand jury to determine if he will be indicted on a misdemeanor assault charge. The NFL is investigating the matter.
“I truly believe if they can’t get him help, he won’t live to see his 24th birthday,” Manziel’s father, Paul, told The Dallas Morning News in February.
So it goes for Manziel, who is now free to sign with any NFL team, including a Cowboys club that nearly drafted him two years ago but pulled back.