CLEVELAND — The Browns are about to throw Johnny Football away.
The team issued a strong statement Tuesday, condemning quarterback Johnny Manziel’s actions and pointing to his release in March, a move that has seemed inevitable for months.
The conduct by the 23-year-old player — rampant partying, two domestic incidents and a general lack of commitment — have been a major problem almost from the day Cleveland drafted the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner in the first round two years ago.
Last weekend, Manziel was involved in a disturbance with his ex-girlfriend in Dallas that is being investigated by police and the NFL.
"We’ve been clear about expectations for our players on and off the field," said Sashi Brown, the team’s vice-president of football operations. "Johnny’s continual involvement in incidents that run counter to those expectations undermines the hard work of his teammates and the reputation of our organization. His status with our team will be addressed when permitted by league rules."
The Browns, who drafted Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 draft, can release him as early as Monday, the day after the Super Bowl. But salary-cap implications point to the move happening March 9, when the league’s new year begins.
The expected end to his run in Cleveland will conclude two turbulent seasons for the electrifying college star known as Johnny Football, whose arrival with the Browns prompted enthusiasm and a belief by some fans that he could bring the Browns back to respectability.
Instead of excitement, however, Manziel mostly delivered disappointment.
He spent most of his rookie season behind Brian Hoyer before getting his first career start late in the season against Cincinnati. Manziel played poorly in a 30-0 loss to the Bengals and the following week he injured his hamstring. Manziel was then fined when he didn’t show for the final walk-through practice before the finale at Baltimore.
Manziel said he regretted not working harder in his first season and vowed to change. That admission was followed by him checking into a drug and alcohol treatment centre in Pennsylvania, where he spent 73 days.
Manziel returned for his second season eager to show he had learned his lessons. The Browns raved about his work ethic and it appeared he had turned the corner.
But once again, Manziel couldn’t stay out of trouble.
In October, Manziel was questioned by police in Avon, Ohio, after a witness reported a roadside confrontation. Manziel and then-girlfriend, Coleen Crowley acknowledged drinking alcohol before their argument. Crowley told police Manziel struck her and pushed her head into the car window.
Manziel was not arrested and he was later cleared of wrongdoing by the NFL, which investigated whether he had violated its personal-conduct policy.
Not long after, Manziel was stripped of his starting job by former coach Mike Pettine after the quarterback had promised he would not be a distraction during the team’s bye week. Manziel’s appearances on social media videos also bothered the Browns, who were caught between being supportive of him while also appearing to be letting him off easy.
Manziel got his job back after Josh McCown broke his collarbone, but he was ruled out of the season finale with a concussion. Manziel then failed to report to a scheduled medical treatment on Jan. 3 at the team’s training facility while his teammates played Pittsburgh. The Browns were not certain of Manziel’s location that day as a report surfaced he was in Las Vegas.
On Saturday, police were called an apartment complex where a woman identified as Manziel’s ex-girlfriend said she had been in a disturbance with Manziel, who was not at the scene. The woman said she was concerned about Manziel’s well-being. That prompted police to use a helicopter to find Manziel, who was deemed "safe and in no danger."
Police in Fort Worth and Dallas are still trying to determine if Manziel assaulted his ex-girlfriend.
Before this latest matter, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said last week he believed the team’s strained relationship with him could still be fixed. But in light of yet another embarrassing episode, it appears the Browns will move on without him.
Manziel has lost to his own team.