Johnny Manziel is about to strut into the NFL saloon with a reputation for living large, playing fast and loose and seemingly eager to wear the black hat that goes with notoriety.
In other words, he’s the anti-Tim Tebow.
Where Tebow preached unabashedly about his cleanliness and piety, and may have rubbed some fans the wrong way with his weekday sermons, Manziel makes no apologies for his brashness, his collection of Twitter party photos or his larger-than-life me-me-me profile. He relishes it.
Currently out of football, Tebow, the son of missionaries, is building a hospital to help children in the Philippines. His mark on the NFL remains that one playoff win, Tebowing, the meme where he dropped on a knee and rested his fist on his head in glory to God, and as a draft-day cautionary tale.
In comparison, Manziel, an heir to an oil business fortune, is reportedly trying to trademark the phrase The House That Johnny Built, in reference to the $450-million renovation of Texas A&M’s home field where Johnny Football (another pending trademark) made his name. His draft day tale remains unwritten.
Tebow, who trademarked Tebowing to make sure it’s used in The Right Way, was often photographed shirtless yet claimed to still have his virginity. He is now a roving minister.
Manziel was suspended half a game for an alleged autograph scandal, lit up Twitter with various racy party photos and was allegedly told to leave the Manning Passing Academy as a counselor for reportedly being hung over and/or being late to sessions.
Both quarterbacks enjoyed tremendous success in the college game and have Heisman Trophies on their shelves. They embraced different running styles, Tebow like a bruising fullback, Manziel like a scatback, but both used the same skill to lift their names to the NCAA marquee.
Coming out of college, Tebow was as wholesome as pure milk on campus but had plenty of questions about his accuracy and throwing ability. Questions that should not have been overlooked by the Broncos when they drafted Tebow late in the first round or else Josh McDaniels would still be in Denver. Tebow simply couldn’t complete a mid-level pass consistently.
Manziel, on the other hand, is a double shot of Texas whiskey, no ice. He too comes with questions about arm strength and throwing mechanics. His lack of height (not quite 6 feet) is another issue of concern, as is his penchant for improvisation as a passer.
The biggest link between Tebow and Manziel coming out of college however, is in Q rating. Like the former Gator, Manziel has the PR sizzle to lift a QB-needy franchise out of any malaise. At least in the short term.
Every move photographed. Every nuance interpreted. Every outing papparazzied. If there’s a media superstar waiting to break out of this draft, Manziel is it. He’s a walking one-man version of Hard Knocks.
With some on-field success, Manziel could help build a stadium in Buffalo, put Jacksonville back on the NFL map, end the QB suffering in Cleveland, transform the Twin Cities' offence or restore the roar in Oakland’s Black Hole.
Just the same, he could party his way out of the league or earn enough suspensions to permanently retard his development as a quarterback.
It’s a proposition teams at the top of the draft and teams looking to trade up for a quarterback have to consider. And given the similar quality of passers in the draft class, it’s a risk that not many teams are willing to take, which is why, along with the other concerns, Manziel isn’t the slam dunk No. 1 overall choice.
He’s not a Troy Aikman, a Peyton Manning, or even an Andrew Luck.
The player Manziel resembles most coming out of college is Michael Vick. Manziel is not as quick or as fast as Vick and also doesn’t measure up in terms of arm strength. But he is a bit more accurate with the ball and has a better sense of anticipation in terms of when a receiver is about to come open. Their freakish abilities to avoid defenders is roughly the same.
Will their career arcs mirror each other as well? I don’t know but either way, it will be must-see TV.