The Cleveland Browns were defeated,24-23, in their preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Monday night, but Johnny Manziel lost something much more valuable. The Browns quarterback lost his composure, as his emotions and frustration got the best of him. The rookie made a critical mistake when he decided to flip the bird in the direction of the Washington Redskins sideline. The incident came during the third quarter of the contest, when the flustered quarterback threw and incomplete pass. Many were shocked at Manziel’s behavior, not becoming of an NFL quarterback, especially on a nationally televised game. The obscene gesture was instantly scrutinized, as Manziel’s middle finger was clearly hoisted up while facing the opposition’s bench.
There is no clarity as to exactly what was said or done to cause the rookie to react in such an inappropriate manner. However, Manziel alluded to a heated exchange of words that contributed to the incident. Officials did not penalize Manziel for the gesture, which certainly falls under the umbrella of unsportsmanlike conduct, or at the very least taunting. Regardless, the NFL will certainly review the play and impose a fine for Manziel’s behavior. The penalty for such an act would make the rookie eligible for a fine of $11,025. The quarterback can appeal his first fine and potentially reduce it to a significantly lower figure.
After making what many would call a rookie mistake by bird flipping the Redskins sideline, Manziel is sure to face a great deal criticism in the next few days. Nonetheless, the nonchalant 2012 Heisman Trophy winner attempted to downplay his actions. A grinning and laughing Manziel stated “I mean, I didn’t think it was a positive,” when asked about his antics. The college sensation admitted he lost his composure after the play, but was far from apologetic. Instead he credited himself for maintaining his cool throughout the majority of the contest, despite having what he described as a mere “slip up.”
The gesture occurred with 2:28 left in the third quarter after a second and 7 pass attempt. On the play, a scrambling Manziel was trying to elude Redskin defenders, while under duress, he headed towards the sideline and threw across his body. The pass intended for wide receiver Jonathan Krause fell incomplete.
Manziel is still in a battle for the Browns starting quarterback job. Monday’s performance certainly did not help his case. The college football sensation struggled mildly throughout the game before the gesture was made. Manziel redeemed himself with a touchdown drive following his mishap, but his overall performance left a lot to be desired. Trading series with his quarterback competition, he managed to go 7-16 for 65 yards and was sacked 3 times with one TD and no interceptions. The stat line he posted was good enough for a QBR of 76.3. Manziel’s counterpart, rookie Connor Shaw, fared much better on the evening, going 8-9 for 123 yards, sacked once and throwing a touchdown without registering an interception. Shaw’s quarterback rating was a whopping 155.8. However, he is not in the running for the starting quarterback vacancy.
Brian Hoyer, Manziel’s competition for the QB position, struggled as well, going 2-6 for 16 yards, sacked once. Last night, Hoyer was not impressed by Manziel’s gesture. He was adamantly disappointed in his teammate, saying that that Manziel should be aware that the cameras are rolling at all times. The highly publicized quarterback admitted that he should have been smarter about the gesture and considered the constant presence of cameras before acting. Adding insult to injury, Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo repeatedly poked fun at Manziel, mocking his infamous money gesture after team sacks. Manziel is known for performing the Drake-famed gesture in celebration.
Brown’s coach Mike Pettine was also not a fan of the Manziel’s gesture, but was only made aware of the situation after the game. He said the middle finger-pointing “did not sit well,” with him and that the issue would be dealt with. As a rookie Johnny Manziel is due to make his fair share of mistakes, flipping the bird near the Redskins sideline may have just been his first major one. Maturity is an essential skill that any successful NFL quarterback should have at their disposal. At the moment, despite a great deal of potential on the field, it could be wasted if Manziel is unable to learn how to make better decisions and handle his errors with more tact.
Commentary by Brandon Wright