published Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Wiedmer: Where's Johnny Manziel's mom when he needs her?

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) stands during the National Anthem before an NFL preseason football game against the Washington Redskins on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Landover, Md.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) stands during the National Anthem before an NFL preseason football game against the Washington Redskins on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Landover, Md.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

If you haven't seen Johnny Manziel's one-fingered salute to the Washington Redskins by now, good for you. You're apparently more well-rounded than those of us who refuse to go to sleep until we've seen the Left Coast version of "SportsCenter."

But even if you've only read about the gesture made by Cleveland Brown's rebel-without-a-pause rookie quarterback during Monday night's exhibition game, you still get the picture. Almost certainly the most spoiled brat ever to win the Heisman Trophy, Johnny Finger (as my boss dubbed him) continues to disappoint all those who want to believe in him.

And at least a few who've never been sure what to make of him.

"I'd be pretty furious," said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman, whose son, Jacob, often mirrors Johnny (Can) Be Good on the field. "The first thing I thought when I saw that happen was, 'What would I do as a parent if Jacob did that?' He'd have a phone call no matter where he was, and he'd be getting an earful, big-time. I think that's absolutely ridiculous. That's not the example you want to set. Especially a quarterback."

Not that Huesman's quarterback saw his dad as his biggest problem if he were to follow in Juvenile Johnny's footsteps.

"Honestly, my mom would be the person I would have to worry about," Jacob said. "[Dad] wouldn't be thrilled, but my mom would be the one who'd be the most mad."

No one could become madder than the late, great Bear Bryant when it came to bad behavior by his players. Asked Tuesday afternoon what Bryant would have done to Manziel, Notre Dame High School grad Kurt Schmissrauter, who played on Bear's final Alabama team in 1982, replied, "That's really hard to answer, because that would not have been a possibility.

"You'd never get that far with him. By the time you got into a game under Coach Bryant, he'd found out everything he needed to know about you as a person. He'd already put you in every situation, tested you every way possible, before a game was ever played. But if that had happened, and he'd kept you around, you'd be running around campus at 6 a.m. with Coach [Ken] Donahue for the rest of the year. I guarantee you that."

You don't have to go as old school as the Bear to find a coach with no tolerance for such childish behavior. Tyner Academy's Wayne Turner is entering his 28th season as a head football coach in the Scenic City. He didn't see Manziel's gesture, but he didn't need two seconds to discuss the punishment he'd mete out.

"It wouldn't be pleasant, I can tell you that," Turner said. "We talk a lot about sportsmanship, about how you carry yourself, and how that's ultimately much more important than whether or not you win a football game."

He's also concerned about Juvenile Johnny's antics being emulated.

"Here lately, I'd say it's pretty evident that a lot of these things trickle down pretty good," he said. "Let's hope this isn't another example of that."

Yet heading into Monday night, 69 percent of more than 100 NFL players polled by ESPN said they expected Manziel to succeed in the NFL.

But that was before he seemed as out of place on the field as he's long seemed out of touch off it, kind of like former Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young throwing his shoulder pads into the crowd. In fact, the precise taunt that stirred Manziel's anger ultimately may prove to be the reason his pro career far more closely mirrors that of Ryan Leaf than Matt Ryan.

Said another Ryan -- Redskins defensive back Ryan Clark -- of his and his teammates' verbal sack: "I can tell you what the statement was that set him off. The statement was ... 'This isn't college anymore, and these people are faster than you are.' He didn't like it."

Say what you will of Manziel's monstrous collegiate career at Texas A&M, but much of his success was somewhat owed to being faster and craftier than those pursuing him, as well as receivers such as Mike Evans, who was noticeably bigger than most defensive backs.

Now that advantage is lost, which could leave the undisciplined Manziel as lost as Leaf, Vince Young or JaMarcus Russell -- NFL busts all.

Said Schmissrauter: "He has that character flaw that people see clearly. That will be his downfall."

As the embarrassments grow for Juvenile Johnny, it becomes more and more clear that if he has any fear of his own mom, she needs to exploit it now.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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fairmon said...

No one should be surprised. Little Johnny is playing with people bigger, faster and tougher than he is, he will be lucky if the injury he will have is not crippling.

August 20, 2014 at 3:10 a.m.
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