Johnny Manziel was posed to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history after he skipped out on his junior year at Texas A&M university to enter into the 2014 NFL Draft. Despite the troubles he faced in college, he was selected by the Cleveland Browns as the 22nd pick in the first round. But soon enough, the sports world watched in horror as the Heisman Trophy winner’s life spiraled out of control, and he became another sports star who ruined his career.
From on-field injuries to missed practices, drug and alcohol abuse, and a terrifying domestic assault case, the dual-threat quarterback’s NFL dreams were swiftly squandered. Let’s take a look at the tragic downfall of Johnny Manziel.
Johnny Manziel’s issues go way back
Before he played his first NFL game, Johnny Manziel was living the good life. Thanks to the athlete’s family’s riches, which were acquired in the Texas oil industry, Manziel wasn’t broke and feasting on ramen noodles like most other college coeds. Instead, he had more than enough money to party, travel, and hobnob with celebrities. That said, when the headlines favored his bad behavior over his talents on the field, it made many people question if he had the drive and focus to become an NFL superstar.
After all, as The Dallas Morning News reported in 2012, Manziel was arrested after being involved in a fight when he was just a freshman in college. He spent the night in jail after being charged with disorderly conduct, failure to identity, and possession of a false identification card. Despite his arrest and ever-growing reputation for being a misfit, he was chosen to be a counselor at the 2013 Manning Passing Academy — a four-day football camp hosted by the football greats Archie, Peyton, and Eli Manning. But the move didn’t exactly work out for him. There were rumors that Manziel had overslept and skipped out on coaches’ meetings. His parents even called in sick for him at one point, citing dehydration (via the New York Daily News). Eventually, he and the camp’s officials "mutually decided" that he’d leave a day early.
Manziel was already off to a rough start, and things would only get worse.
Injuries hindered his career
During his 2014 rookie season, Johnny Manziel left a game against the Carolina Panthers with a hamstring injury, according to Sports Illustrated, and was forced to sit out for the last game of the regular season. He had a chance to redeem himself in 2015, but, sadly, another injury cut his playing time short. He was forced to sit out the last game of that season due to a concussion he’d suffered that December, as reported by the NFL.
It was a bumpy beginning to an NFL career that had seemed so promising, but Manziel’s injuries were just one component of his tragic downfall.
Manziel was haunted by rumors of substance abuse
Suspicions that Johnny Manziel was on a self-destructive path of hard-partying and drug and alcohol abuse were all but confirmed during the fourth of July weekend of 2014. NBC Sports posted a photo of the quarterback inside a Las Vegas hotel bathroom with a rolled-up $20 bill in his hand. Many speculated that the rolled money was to be used for Manziel to snort cocaine or another illegal substance.
Over the years, there have been many photographs of the athlete partying like his life depended on it — even one in which he chugged a bottle of alcohol in a swimming pool. But over time, it soon appeared that he wasn’t just a social drinker who was cutting loose and letting off some steam. Instead, Manziel seemed to be fighting a battle that was much stronger than himself.
In January 2016, it was reported that he had shown up to a Browns’ practice completely wasted after returning from another trip to Las Vegas. According to the New York Daily News, the quarterback entered the Browns’ facility looking "disheveled and inebriated." It wasn’t a good look for Manziel at all, but he was just getting started…
Trouble was his middle name
According to Cleveland Scene, Johnny Manziel was among "20 men and two security guards" who were involved in a late-night brawl at a ritzy downtown Cleveland hotel. The alleged victim, Chris Gonos, said he approached Manziel and professed his love for the quarterback, and when he stepped towards Manziel "to give him like a handshake, or dap or whatever you want to call it," a member of Manziel’s crew allegedly attacked him, leaving the alleged victim with a "bruised hip and a bruised elbow."
Then there was the widely reported two-day party Manziel threw at a Los Angeles rental home back in April 2016. Page Six reported that the multi-day rager was so disruptive, comedian Kathy Griffin, who had a home in the area, as well as other neighbors, made calls to the cops. Once Manziel and his crew left the $4.5 million pad, the owners reportedly found the place in shambles. They estimated $32,000 worth of damage and reported "booze and drugs" strewn around, a glass table and a bathroom door that had been broken, and wine stains and cigarette burns left on the carpets.
Manziel was hit with a lawsuit, and, as of September 2017, the case was headed back to court for litigation, according to USA Today.
Johnny Manziel’s teammate said his performance was ‘a joke’
Before long, Johnny Manziel’s teammates on the Cleveland Browns were ready to wash their hands of him. ESPN interviewed 20 "Browns sources" who anonymously gave their thoughts about the misguided quarterback. One teammate described Manziel’s rookie season as a "100 percent joke." Another source affiliated with the team took the blame off of Manziel and instead pointed the finger at the organization, claiming that they knew that the quarterback wasn’t "going to grow up."
"You can’t blame Johnny," the insider said. "This is who he is. The team knew that."
Whether it was Manziel’s fault for sticking true to who he was or the team’s fault for giving him a chance, he would continue to leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth with his perceived lack of ambition and his lackluster performance on the field.
He went to rehab, but did it help?
After all the speculation about his drug and alcohol addictions, Johnny Manziel took a step in the right direction by admitting himself into rehab in February 2015. His family advisor released a statement (via the New York Post), which read, "Johnny knows there are areas in which he needs to improve in order to be a better family member, friend and teammate and he thought the offseason was the right time to take this step."
In April of that same year, Manziel completed his ten-week treatment and released a statement through the Cleveland Browns’ official website (via The Washington Post). While opening up about his time in rehab, the quarterback thanked the doctors and staff members for being "amazing," and he also apologized to the "Browns organization and the fans" for letting them down. "I take full responsibility for my actions and it’s my intention to work very hard to regain everyone’s trust and respect," his statement read. "I understand that will take time and will only happen through what I do and not what I say."
We applauded Manziel for attempting to get his life back on track, but, unfortunately, it didn’t take long for more issues to emerge.
That domestic violence issue with Manziel’s ex
In January 2016, Johnny Manziel was involved in a terrifying incident with then-girlfriend Colleen Crowley. According to CNN, the former couple allegedly argued while staying in a hotel room in Dallas over Manziel maintaining contact with another girl. When Crowley tried to leave the room, reportedly Manziel "restrained" her before leading her back to the valet area of the hotel. Although Crowley pleaded with the valet attendant to not allow Manziel to leave with her, the attendant reportedly told her that they didn’t know what to do.
Manziel and Crowley then entered his car and drove off, but, when he stopped about a half-mile from where her vehicle was parked, Crowley reportedly jumped out of his car and attempted to hide. "He grabbed me by my hair and threw me back into the car and got back in himself," she allegedly told police. "He hit me with his open hand on my left ear for jumping out of the car. I realized immediately that I could not hear out of that ear, and I still cannot today, two days later."
Manziel then reportedly drove to Crowley’s apartment, and, during the drive, allegedly threatened her by saying, "Shut up or I’ll kill us both" (via the New York Post). Upon entering her apartment, she grabbed a knife from the kitchen to defend herself, causing Manziel to flee from the scene. While the charges against him were later dismissed, Manziel was ordered to refrain from having any contact with Crowley.
Johnny Manziel got benched
Johnny Manziel was slated to be the Cleveland Browns’ franchise quarterback. However, retaining the starting position was no easy task. In May 2015, following his ten-week stint in rehab, he lost the position to teammate Josh McCown. According to then-head coach Mike Pettine, the team wanted Manziel to focus on his health and perfecting his craft instead of dealing with the pressures of leading the team on the field. "We want [Manziel], essentially, with horse blinders on," Pettine told the Chronicle-Telegram (via CBS Sports). "Focus on his job, getting up every day, perfecting his craft, whatever it is, homework that the quarterbacks have or come out and working on his footwork, his releases. That he’s much more concerned about himself than really anything else."
By November of that same year, Manziel was placed back in the starting position, only to lose it to McCown once again, according to USA Today. He was delegated to the third-string position after video surfaced of Manziel partying during the team’s week off.
"I’m especially disappointed in his actions and behavior because he has been working very hard," Pettine said at the time. "The improvements from last year to this year have been tremendous but he still has to consistently demonstrate that he has gained a good understanding of what it takes to be successful at the quarterback position on this level."
Sports fans hated him
Initially, the world couldn’t wait to see what Johnny Manziel would bring to the field, but the glimmer of hope they had that he’d become a dynamic force to be reckoned with quickly dissipated. Sports fans became fed up with his arrogance and cockiness, especially since they believed his sub-par football talents didn’t warrant all of his showboating.
When Manziel injured his hamstring during a matchup against the Carolina Panthers, the crowd at the Panthers’ stadium actually cheered in response to seeing him get hurt. Cam Newton, the quarterback for the rival team, even went on the record to say it was "sad" to see the crowd’s response, according to ESPN. "I just think it was classless at that time. Anytime a person is hurt, you don’t celebrate," Newton said. "I’ve had that done in my career. It takes the integrity out of the game."
In April 2014, Manziel soon realized it wasn’t just NFL fans who were fed up with his antics. While attending the Final Four in Dallas, Manziel’s face was plastered on the jumbotron screen in the arena, and, according to Bleacher Report, fans booed both him and his companion, rapper Drake. In January 2015, TMZ reported that partygoers at a Houston nightclub heckled the quarterback and shouted at him aggressively. Manziel and his crew were even doused with drinks.
Sports fans were letting it be known: Manziel had definitely become one of the sport’s most despised athletes.
Manziel’s father didn’t think he’d live to see 24
In February 2016, Johnny Manziel’s father, Paul, spoke to The Dallas Morning News about just how bad things had gotten for his son. Although Manziel had completed a rehab program in 2015, Paul had attempted to compel Manziel to receive further treatment in 2016 — both times, Manziel declined to enter a psychiatric and chemical dependency hospital, even though Paul had told police he felt Manziel was suicidal.
That’s when Paul made the following startling admission: "I truly believe if they can’t get him help, he won’t live to see his 24th birthday."
As Paul made his public plea for help, Manziel’s NFL career took a wild yet unsurprising turn…
Johnny Manziel’s team dumped him
As Johnny Manziel’s life continued to snowball out of control, things came to a head in March 2016 when the Cleveland Browns decided to waive the quarterback and be done with him once and for all.
In his two seasons with the organization, Manziel had played in only 14 games and was the starting QB for only eight of them, as reported by the NFL. The move signaled Manziel’s status as a free agent, meaning any team would be able to sign him to their roster. But with his tarnished image and his reputation in the league, many weren’t surprised that most teams didn’t want to touch him with a 10-foot pole.
Did bipolar disorder and depression cause his erratic behavior?
Looking back on his time in the league, Johnny Manziel cited his battle with depression and substance abuse for his poor behavior that eventually cost him his NFL career. In February 2018, the troubled athlete told Good Morning America (via Cleveland.com), "I was self-medicating with alcohol because that’s what I thought was making me happy to help me get out of that depression to a point where I felt like I had some sense of happiness."
Although he was able to refrain from drinking alcohol for a period of five months, his depression never went away, which caused him to put the focus on his mental health. "I started taking a look at my mental health a little bit and making it a priority in my life to where I’m taking medication for bipolar and I’m working to try and make sure that I don’t fall back into any type of depression because that leads me," Manziel revealed, adding, "I know how slippery of a slope that is."
Johnny Manziel’s ex-wife claimed ‘vows were broken’
While he began to make some positive changes in his life, Johnny Manziel married model Bre Tiesi "in a private ceremony at a California courthouse" in March 2018, according to People. But after a year of marriage, Tiesi removed the "Manziel" portion of her last name on Instagram and scrubbed him from her social media accounts — which is the modern-day equivalent of a relationship going belly up.
She reportedly jetted off to Bali, Indonesia and posted a bikini-clad photo of herself, leading Internet trolls to come out in full force and question the state of her marriage. In response to a follower, which was captured by The Spun, Tiesi revealed her marriage was on the rocks, writing, "U been married? U been betrayed? I don’t do betrayal for a person I was devoted to period. Vows were broken f**k money and f**k u and every other loser on here."
Days later, Manziel broke his silence and officially announced their split, telling TMZ Sports that he was "very sad" about the entire situation. According to sources cited by People magazine, the couple had previously considered separating at one point, but following Tiesi’s trip to Bali, she had an inkling Manziel had been cheating. "She somehow found out, and she was irate," an insider said. "I don’t know how she found out, but she did." A second source claimed Manziel "wanted to work it out," but Tiesi reportedly "wasn’t having it."
It’s time for ‘COMEBACKSZN’
After becoming a free agent in 2016, Johnny Manziel revealed to Good Morning America (via Cleveland.com) that he’d stopped drinking, gotten engaged to then-girlfriend Bre Tiesi, and was in a much better place in his life. But sadly, NFL teams were still cautious about giving him a second chance.
His dream of being a quarterback wasn’t completely lost, though. The Canadian Football League signed Manziel to a two-year deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in May 2018. USA Today reports he was traded to the Montreal Alouettes "midway through the season," only to get dumped by the team and kicked out of the CFL in February 2019, because he "contravened the agreement which made him eligible to play in the league." Doh. In March 2019, we thought Manziel was back on top after the Los Angeles Times announced he’d signed with the Alliance of American Football as a teammate of the Memphis Express. However, as with most aspects of Manziel’s tragic downfall, his deal fell apart when the league ceased operations the following month, making Manziel a free agent once again.
After lying low for a few months, CBS Sports revealed Manziel was "granted the trademark for the word ‘COMEBACKSZN.’" Confused? So were we! But according to a tweet sent out by his lawyer, Darren Heitner, the term — which would be used on footwear and apparel — was geared toward "anyone who has been hurt, down & out."
Don’t count "Johnny Football" out just yet!