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Johnny Manziel now ‘Johnny Bench’ as Heisman winner becomes an Internet joke

Johnny Manziel managed to go from contending starter Johnny Football to Johnny Bench, Aug. 18, 2014.
Johnny Manziel managed to go from contending starter Johnny Football to Johnny Bench, Aug. 18, 2014.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In less than 48 hours, the name of NFL rookie Johnny Manziel flashed from ESPN to CBS and onto the world wide web, as the 2012 Heisman trophy winner and beloved former Texas Aggie quarterback and first round NFL draft pick fell to the guy who won’t be starting for the Cleveland Browns when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. What’s more, on Aug. 20, 2014, New Jersey online ( deems Johnny Manziel to the status of, simply, an internet joke.

This could have all been avoided had Manziel more wisely chosen not to make an obscene gesture to the Washington Redskins in Cleveland’s biggest television draw, Monday Night Football, on Aug. 18. Johnny Manziel’s coach, Mike Pettine, said in the postgame interview that he hadn’t seen the gesture, but was surprised because he kept his composure pretty well for the rest of the game. Pettine may not have seen it, but he had a perfect opportunity to comment on it and maybe say a word or two about it.

Pettine's failure to own Manziel's action, claim it, and apologize for it that same night didn't speak well for the Cleveland Browns' organization to have that just "out there" with no answer. It wouldn't take a spin doctor five seconds to come up with a sentence such as "The Washington Redskins are a great organization and the Cleveland Browns have the highest regard and respect for their team." Had Pettine thought to offer something like that, it could have at least stood for something. Instead, Pettine and the Browns allowed Manziel's gesture to remain swinging in midair, without anyone really not wanting to get too close to it for fear it would rub off on them.

Before ESPN’s postgame interview with coach and players, their in-house sports analysts had mixed opinions as to whether the gesture would draw an approximately $11,000 NFL penalty as they ran and reran film showing why Manziel wasn’t at all ready for prime time, or projections whether news of "the gesture" would all “disappear by tomorrow.” As if that was going to happen.

Manziel managed to go from ESPN’s Monday night football star to the second topic in David Letterman’s comedy monologue on CBS “Late Show.” “Johnny Football” went to “Johnny Bench,” as comedian David Letterman joked in his monologue on Aug. 19, 2014. It's the second joke in the monologue, coming at the three-minute mark in the video.

Oh, how about Johnny Football?” Did any of you see Johnny Manziel for the Browns? I don’t know, did they decide whether Johnny Manziel is going to be the starting quarterback? He’s ‘Johnny Football’, yeah, ‘Johnny Football.’ And I got nothing against the kid but I saw him play last night and I think they ought to change his name to ‘Johnny Bench.’ Then toward the end of the game he gave the Washington bench the finger...

And there you have it. Manziel’s refusal to own the error made the decision easy for social media to put Johnny Football on their own personal “Top Ten” lists of jokes. Calling it “just a gesture,” Manziel did not once apologize to the Washington Redskins for any potential offense they might take. He did not express regret nor apology to his teammates for having made the gesture, which reflects on not only the rookie contender, but his Cleveland Browns teammates and owners. And, the media decided that his lack of concern deemed him worthy of getting as good as he gave.

Yesterday, Cleveland journalist Mary Kay Cabot reported in her story, "Mike Pettine admits Johnny Manziel's obscene gesture will factor into QB decision," noting that Pettine said that (the gesture) was "extremely disappointing." Specifically from Cabot's story, Pettine shared, finally after some time for someone to figure out that he needed to say it:

To me we talk about 'play like a Brown.' We want our guys to act like a Brown and we want this to be a first-class organization. We have hundreds and thousands of our kids come to our training camp practices and look up to our players and that type of behavior is unacceptable...I know it's something that will be addressed by the league and will be addressed internally.

As ESPN reported Aug. 20, 2014, Brian Hoyer was named the starter for the Cleveland Browns “to begin the 2014, the team announced Wednesday morning.” The story of Johnny Manziel’s “just a gesture” overtook the Internet, but the good news is that many journalists and commenters alike remarked how they liked Connor Shaw as the third-string quarterback who threw for a 123 yards and a touchdown.

The gall shown by Manziel, postgame Monday night, in refusing to own the gesture as obscene and offensive and his overarching focus on himself as a player, never once mentioning his teammates nor considering how his actions, gestures, and football playing impacting his team made the decision an easy one for the Cleveland Browns.

So, today’s news is Hoyer starts for the Browns this season, Shaw is likely continuing to study his playbook and work hard, and as for Johnny, he’ll be on the bench for a while longer. The Cleveland Browns’ naming Hoyer as the starter was probably “just a gesture,” no doubt.

Management executive and beloved Cleveland native, LeBron James, should really have a sit-down talk with his money-making machine franchise and work out an apology before Nike and Snickers pick up their telephones this afternoon. it was just one month ago that Manziel signed up to endorse Snickers. As ESPN's Darren Rovell reported on Jul. 21, 2014:

He still hasn't taken his first pro snap, but Johnny Manziel is racking up the endorsements.Johnny Manziel is the newest face of the Snickers brand, and he will appear in a national TV commercial closer to the start of the NFL season. The Cleveland Browns quarterback, who has already filmed commercials for McDonald's and Nissan and a digital spot for Nike, has signed on to be the next face of Snickers.

Now, as to how all that will stand, unchanged, in the future remains to be seen. Millions of dollars are at stake and those endorsement contracts are filled with clauses and exit conditions the way only attorneys can write them. No, it was not "just a gesture." LeBron may be called “King James” but he’s worked hard and long to earn that title, and keep it. This is the NFL. An apology is due the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins and to the fans, all of whom deserve better.

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