I know, another Johnny Manziel article. Real original, Jesse. Some of you are groaning but as I type this, Manziel ranks second behind Colin Kaepernick as the most searched football player on Rotoworld over the last seven days. So hear me out.
Now that there’s no reason for him to be in Cleveland anymore, you’re probably wondering where Manziel has been shacking up lately. TMZ went straight to the source, which wasn’t difficult since Manziel is known to frequent nightclubs on days that end with Y. Finally freed from the shackles of NFL employment, Manziel seems to have adopted Los Angeles as his new home. Which leads us to a question of much greater importance: who is Manziel living with?
It seems Manziel himself doesn’t even know the answer. Manziel told TMZ he was living with Von Miller, who is in Los Angeles shooting Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars. That seemed believable enough. After all, both are Texas A&M alums and Miller has spent the last month campaigning for the Broncos to sign Manziel. Don’t hold your breath on that—if John Elway was hesitant to sign Robert Griffin III because of character concerns, there’s no way he’d throw money at an off-field catastrophe like Manziel.
But alas, as Miller confirmed on Instagram (his post makes reference to one of the greatest films of all-time), the two are not actually living together. Instead, Manziel is splitting the rent with former teammate Josh Gordon. That might explain why Manziel and Gordon were seen together at the Connor McGregor fight in Vegas last month.
Either way, it’s not an ideal arrangement. Manziel basically drank himself out of the league last season while Gordon has failed numerous drug tests and is still waiting to be reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell.
He might be waiting a long time. According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, Gordon tested positive for marijuana again last month. As a repeat offender, Gordon’s chances of reinstatement this season are slim to none. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said the Browns were “fearing the worst” but they couldn’t have known for sure that Gordon’s test was positive. If they had, the Browns surely would have made a stronger push to re-sign Travis Benjamin, who was their second-leading receiver last year. Now the Browns are left with Gary Barnidge and a handful of spare parts including Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel.
As an undersized quarterback who struggles inside the pocket, Manziel was always a long shot to succeed in the NFL. But Gordon could have been great. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2013 and would have flirted with the single-season yardage record if he hadn’t been suspended for the first two games. Since then, he’s appeared in just five games. Plenty of careers have been derailed by drugs but Gordon’s situation has to be one of the most frustrating.
The stigma of marijuana is starting to go away. Four states have already legalized its recreational use and that number is sure to rise in the coming years. But state laws shouldn’t be confused with NFL rules. Being a professional athlete is obviously much different than working a regular 9-5 job but Gordon is still an employee of the NFL. Playing football at the highest level is a privilege, and in order to enjoy that privilege, Gordon must follow the rules like everyone else. Maybe the NFL will soften its stance on marijuana in the future but that’s not for Gordon to decide. Gordon has had plenty of chances. This time, he might not get another one.
The Manziel/Gordon pairing may amuse some people. It certainly has all the ingredients of a hot mess, which usually makes for great television. But to me, it’s a sad reminder of what could have been. Both players entered the league with giant red flags but the Browns thought their talent was too good to pass up. Hopefully they’ll avoid making that mistake in the future.
A Tragedy in New Orleans
It’s been a devastating week for the NFL. Will Smith was killed Saturday in New Orleans and the league is still mourning his loss. Smith was a productive and universally respected player throughout his 10-year career. Smith led the Saints in sacks when they won the Super Bowl in 2009 and went to the Pro Bowl in 2006. He was voted into the Saints Hall of Fame this year, though the team was waiting until May to make the announcement. The 34-year-old leaves behind two sons and one daughter.
Smith was driving with his wife through the Lower Garden District of New Orleans when his Mercedes G63 was rear-ended by a Hummer H2, causing Smith’s Mercedes to strike another vehicle. Smith reportedly exchanged words with the driver of the H2, who then shot Smith several times in the back. He was killed at the scene while Smith’s wife was transported to a hospital after getting shot in the right leg.
The alleged shooter, 28-year-old Cardell Hayes, was arrested at the scene and later charged with second-degree murder. Ten years ago, Hayes was a star defensive tackle in high school and even drew interest from LSU and Florida. Now he could be spending the rest of his life behind bars. Hayes’ attorney, John Fuller, believes a second gun was involved and may claim that Hayes was acting in self-defense. Hayes is currently being held on $1 million bail.
The Saints plan to honor Smith at a remembrance ceremony Friday at team headquarters. The event will be open to the public. “Will came to New Orleans 12 years ago and quickly developed both on the field as a player and off the field as a leader to become one of the cornerstones of a team that would go on to win a Super Bowl,” said GM Mickey Loomis in a statement. “Will’s contributions to both our franchise and our community as a whole will always be remembered.”
Before his death, Smith was working on his MBA at the University of Miami. Ironically, that’s the school Smith defeated as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2002 National Championship. Smith was part of the school’s inaugural Executive MBA for Artists and Athletes. He was also poised to join the Saints as a coaching intern this upcoming season.
Dozens of players former and current have honored Smith on social media but no one has been more vocal than Cardinals CB Tyrann Mathieu. That’s because Mathieu grew up in New Orleans and is tired of violence tearing apart his home city. Mathieu even claims to know Smith’s alleged murderer, who he called a coward. Mathieu, who dealt with his own off-field struggles early in his career, says it’s time for his city to change its culture.
“I think it’s really about who we surround ourselves with,” said Mathieu. “I’m not the most talented guy to come out of New Orleans. There are guys that are more talented than me, but they just gave up on themselves.”
Saints coach Sean Payton issued a call to action, pleading for the city to crack down on guns. “I hate guns,” said Payton. “I just know this: Our city is broken." Maybe he’s right. One thing’s for certain: Will Smith left us too soon.
Quick Hits: Johnny Manziel isn’t the only one with new living arrangements. Odell Beckham is posting up at Drake’s house right now. Can you imagine all the stairs in that house? … The Giants signed Kelvin Sheppard on Sunday. He logged 105 tackles for the Dolphins last year … The Giants have added former Buccaneer Bobby Rainey to their running back mix. Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen are just a few of the other backs he’ll be competing with … Four players were popped for PEDs last week. Jalen Collins, Aaron Colvin, Demetri Goodson and Andrew Turzilli are all facing four-game suspensions … Marvin Lewis, who has never won a playoff game as a head coach, agreed to a one-year extension with Cincinnati. Among active coaches, only Bill Belichick has been with his team longer than Lewis, who joined the Bengals in 2003 … Allen Hurns believes he and Allen Robinson are the best receiving duo in the NFL. There’s a case to be made for Allen and Allen but I’d probably go with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas or Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker … Speaking of Marshall, the Jets receiver won his case in civil court on Friday. Christin Miles claimed Marshall assaulted her outside a nightclub in 2012 and was seeking $75,000 in damages, but the court ruled there wasn’t enough evidence … D’Brickashaw Ferguson stunned everyone by announcing his retirement last week. The three-time Pro Bowler will make his retirement official at a press conference on Thursday … The Jets wasted no time in finding a replacement for Ferguson, acquiring Ryan Clady from Denver and immediately signing him to a restructured two-year deal. Swapping Ferguson for Clady saves the Jets a little over $3 million. That money could be used to lure Ryan Fitzpatrick back to East Rutherford … Chiefs DE Mike DeVito also announced his retirement last week. The 31-year-old decided to call it quits after suffering two concussions last season … Lance Dunbar missed 12 games last year with a torn ACL. Apparently the injury was even worse than that. In addition to his ACL, Dunbar also tore his patellar tendon and his left MCL. There’s a good chance he won’t be ready for the start of the season … Montee Ball was arrested again on Saturday, this time for violating his bail agreement. He’s already facing charges for two domestic incidents in his home state of Wisconsin … The Rams are planning to move on from Nick Foles and PFT’s Mike Florio said he’ll “definitely” be gone before Week 1. Foles could be a cheap fallback option for Denver if the Broncos are unable to land Colin Kaepernick … With the Kaepernick trade on hold, the Broncos are warming up to Josh McCown, who appears to be the odd man out in Cleveland … The NFL is still reviewing LeSean McCoy’s role in a nightclub brawl earlier this offseason but according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s unlikely he’ll face a suspension … In March, Percy Harvin said he would “definitely” play in 2016. Now it looks like he’s leaning the other way. Injuries have limited Harvin to 29 of a possible 64 games since the start of 2012 … The Saints brought Tim Hightower back last week. The 29-year-old journeyman came out of nowhere to score four touchdowns over his final four games last season, probably helping you win your fantasy league in the process … According to a high level executive from a team picking in the top half of the draft, the Titans are considering trading the No. 1 pick because they’re torn between Ole Miss LT Laremy Tunsil and Notre Dame LT Ronnie Stanley. Tunsil should come off the board quickly, meaning the Titans would probably have to settle for Stanley if they traded down … Jon Gruden’s biggest criticism of Cal quarterback Jared Goff? His taste in music.