The NFL Needs Johnny Football

Let me make this clear – if I ran a football team, I would not draft Johnny Manziel.

Don’t feed me his statistics. Don’t feed me the Alabama game. Don’t tell me about the Heisman. “All he does is win’ went out the window with Tebow’s career. I don’t care how much he can run. I don’t care that he can make things happen with his legs. We’re talking about the NFL, not college now. Scambling is a nice bonus, but the moneymaker, the meat and potatoes, is the ability to stand in the pocket and make plays from there.

Johnny Football can’t do that.

Want to talk about intangibles? OK, lets. Let’s talk about a walking, talking lighting rod for controversy. Let’s talk about immaturity. Who remembers the allegations of taking money for autographs, against NCAA rules? How about (cough-cough) allegedly showing up too hung over to continue at Peyton Manning’s quarterback camp? Endless rumors of partying in the face of common sense. And somebody should’ve put virtual yellow tape across his Twitter account.

So no, I wouldn’t draft him. Not in the first round, and probably not in the second.

johnny-football-at-spring-breakHe’s a square peg who has no interest in the round hole. He’s a juvenile, braggart, partying, walking, talking thorn in the side of his coaches (he singlehandedly shaved 10 years off Kevin Sumlin’s life). Hide your daughters and lock your liquor cabinet.

I wouldn’t take him. Not on a bet.

But somebody will. And I hope to high heaven that he proves me wrong.

You see, whether or not anyone admits it, the NFL needs Johnny Football. Not just Johnny Manziel, but the alter ego he plans to kill off to appease the scouts and coaches and owners. Manziel has the raw skills to be successful, but so do a lot of quarterbacks. Johnny Football, however, has what the NFL lacks and has been lacking, for several decades – a personality.

Lord knows the NFL has enough stars. Manning, Brady, Rogers, the other Manning…. But Manziel brings more than a Q-score; he brings the rogue. He’s going to do what it takes to win (nobody’s questioning his work ethic) but beyond that, he’s going to do what he’s going to do, and dare anyone to call him on it.

Love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore him. He can be the NFL’s first truly larger-than-life personality since… well, let’s go back to Broadway Joe. He’s the type of guy who will thrive on being the thorn in somebody’s side, as long as that somebody’s an authority figure. Think Reggie Steinbrenner to Billy Martin, Jim McMahon to Mike Ditka, Mark Cuban to David Stern.

It’s easy to imagine that his off-field exploits will be as entertaining as his on-field play. God help the paparazzi trying to keep up with him.

Sure, Manziel might need to grow up some, and he sure as heck needs to learn to stay in the pocket. But the worst thing he can do is to stop being who he is; that’s the surest recipe for failure, and the quickest way to become just another boring athlete.

In the end, though, maybe the NFL doesn’t need Johhny Football – the league’s making money hand over fist, and ratings are still consistently rising. But Johnny Manziel sure as heck needs Johnny Football. And come to think of it, so do the rest of us. True individuals are becoming rare – let’s not lose this one.

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