Here's how Johnny Manziel spiraled out of Cleveland's control

At this point in his career arc, any Johnny Manziel story feels like piling on. He’s an unwanted football player without a team and without any hopes for a team after the Browns cut him earlier this year.

But the investigative piece Tuesday from Emily Kaplan of TheMMQB.com is worth the attention, primarily because it takes a deep dive into Manziel’s fall with the Browns, focused on insight from friends and family.

These things stood out to us in helping Johnny Manziel's run in Cleveland turn into a complete disaster:

Loss of a mentor: Remember during the summer of 2015 when Manziel was turning his life around, maturing, moving to a golf community and living with his former high school coach Julius Scott? Things appeared to be going really well for Manziel, fresh out of rehab and trying to turn his life around. Then and suddenly, they fell apart.

The timing of Scott’s departure may not be coincidental.

By the end of the summer, Scott had been dismissed. By midseason, the quarterback had fallen back into old habits. It’s a familiar pattern: Manziel straddles the line between becoming the professional football player many believe he can be, and the kid from Kerrville who can’t help but sabotage himself.

Manziel ditched the one guy helping him get better, presumably because he didn't like the imposition of a mentor on his potential free-wheeling lifestyle.

Ignoring a legend: Also of note: An old coach thought it was pretty ridiculous Manziel decided to ignore the advice of Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James.

“When he had LeBron James as a mentor, texting him all the time, hanging out at his house watching football, and Johnny didn’t listen to his advice? That’s when I knew he had a problem.”

This is a great point. LeBron James has screwed up publicly before in terms of his image (see: "The Decision"), but he is an all-time great NBA player, one of the five most famous athletes in any sport and someone who understands the maturity needed to be a superstar at the professional level.

Ignoring his advice is a massive red flag.

Vanishing to Vegas: The highs and lows of Manziel's lifestyle appear to be a downfall for the former Browns quarterback. During what was described to Kaplan as a "wants to get right" period in his life -- mostly filled with DVD binge-watching and football study -- Manziel suddenly vanished.

Friends, family and coaches couldn't get him on the phone the night before the Browns' final game of the season.

He was in Las Vegas wearing a blonde wig and mustache.

The Benching: During Week 2, Manziel was forced into the starting lineup with Josh McCown hurt (Manziel played the week earlier against the Jets but didn't play well). He stunned the world by throwing for a pair of improvisational touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin, resetting the expectations for his second year in the span of 45 football minutes.

He didn't keep the starter's job, however, with Mike Pettine turning back to McCown, who was cleared from the concussion protocol.

Kaplan reports now Manziel was "incredulous" at the time, that the benching was the "tipping point," and that people inside the Browns believe it "instigated Manziel's downward spiral."

“If Johnny doesn’t have a carrot dangling in front of him, he resorts to his default,” says a friend. “And his default is not giving a s---.”

Manziel was never really good again, despite getting multiple chances as the starter in Cleveland (and at one point being named starter for the rest of the season).

Unwanted in Cleveland: Whenever we recall the Browns drafting Manziel, we always think about them bypassing Teddy Bridgewater -- who analytics said they should draft -- in favor of Manziel.

We don't know who made the call (most people believe it came from on high in the form of Jimmy Haslam, via direction from a homeless man) but we do know this: The Browns didn't always want Manziel.

Not taken into account is how this affected Manziel's attitude.

“Johnny never really felt like the coaches wanted him there,” a close friend says.

It's harder to feel comfortable at work if you don't feel wanted. Not an excuse, just a factor.

Bad circle: Everyone's got bad friends their parents didn't want them hanging around. Manziel -- not unlike other NFL players, or anyone in their 20s, really -- apparently has some bad influences lingering around him as he ages.

And people around him took notice, as Kaplan reports members of Manziel's marketing team "plopped the quarterback in front of a white board, mapping out the times he got in trouble and the people he was with when those incidents occurred." 


Again, the entire profile is well worth reading. Kaplan meticulously researched it, interviewing what appears to be a whole host of people who know/knew Manziel.

There's no way to pinpoint what caused him to completely self-destruct. But it's clear how thin the line between success and struggles can be regardless of how talented you are. Put a good support group around Manziel and maybe we're talking about a different story for the Browns. Or some other team.

Johnny Manziel is on fire early Sunday.
Johnny Manziel in happier times. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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