Warren Moon has added his name to the list of Hall of Famers criticizing Johnny Football. The quarterback who saw himself as a stand out leader for both the Houston Oilers and the Minnesota Vikings, among others, believes Johnny Manziel should keep more of a low profile when he’s enjoying himself off the field. The Browns rookie quarterback disagrees and has said that he is not interested in living “in a shell.”
Given the tone of the statements by Moon, the criticisms are fairly mild and seem to have a fatherly, rather than judging tone to them. Moon recognizes that people go out and have a good time but cautions Manziel that being extremely public about anything will make him more vulnerable to increased “speculation and criticism” from the public. Moon seems to be implying that Johhny Football will simply be a happier person if he stays out of the public spotlight rather than criticizing him as a person.
Manziel has been outspoken about his reluctance to tone down any aspect of who he is. The Cleveland quarterback insists that his fun is not interfering with his football training and that is all that should matter. His attitude has not hurt him significantly up to this point but this may be something that catches up with him later. Public figures increasingly have to work very hard to maintain their privacy and keep a bit of personal space. This is something that is even truer now than it was when Moon was at the height of his career.
Joe Montana offered similar advice to Manziel when he recounted Bill Walsh’s words to him after Montana won the Super Bowl with the 49ers for the first time. The advice was something akin to “leave them wanting more” with the insinuation that the public may quickly tire of the Johnny Football image and he could lose many of the perks that come with his status. Even Ricky Williams has put in his two cents on the matter. Williams seems to agree with Manziel when he says that some people may need to “have fun to play well.” Williams seems to miss the point a bit here, though, since no one seems to be saying that Manziel should not have fun, just that he do it in a less conspicuous way. Regardless he, like all professional athletes, will have to make up his own mind about how he chooses to act and pay the consequences, whatever they may be, when the time comes.
Truth be told, nobody really knows whether Johnny Football will listen to Moon’s criticisms in the end or chart his own unique path. No one knows the future either. Manziel may find a way to own his own sort of “maverick” identity (although he may have to be a little more unique to pull that off) and make it work for him. Pro sports has always been full of characters with unique personalities and most of them have been bigger than life in one way or another. At the very least, whether they get respect or not, they seem to get lots of attention. From “Broadway” Joe Namath to Michael Vick’s rise, fall, and rise again, the NFL seems to have room for all sorts of bigger than life personalities. Johnny Football may just be the newest.
Commentary by David Morris