CLEVELAND — Johnny Football has been tossed aside.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel, the scrambling, Heisman Trophy-winning college star who hasn’t come close to matching his hype in the NFL, was released Friday by the Cleveland Browns following two turbulent and troubling seasons.
Manziel’s unceremonious exit — the team sent out a brief statement with a few stats and no comment — ends a drama-filled stay in Cleveland for the 23-year-old, who faces an uncertain future on and off the field. For the first time since he started throwing a football as a kid while growing up in Texas, Manziel isn’t a wanted player and he’s contending with possible criminal charges for a recent domestic incident in which his ex-girlfriend claimed he struck and threatened to kill her.
The Browns drafted Manziel in the first round in 2014, hoping he could not only be their long-term solution at quarterback but revive a sluggish franchise.
Instead, he was a two-year headache that wouldn’t go away.
Cleveland couldn’t handle any more lies, parties or distractions.
Manziel entered the NFL amid fanfare and with a party-boy reputation, which only grew thanks to nearly constant exposure on social media. While he was with the Browns hardly a week passed without there being a photo or video of Manziel, usually with a drink in his hand, out having a good time.
But he paid for all those late nights in bars and clubs as Manziel hasn’t developed the work ethic needed to succeed and he wound up spending more than 10 weeks following his rookie season in a Pennsylvania rehab treatment facility specializing in alcohol and drug abuse.
The Browns supported him as long as they could, but his decision to skip the team’s season finale against Pittsburgh — he was injured at the time — for a trip to Las Vegas and a second domestic incident in three months was more than the team could tolerate and they dumped Manziel, who went 2-6 as a starter.
The Browns had been expected to waive Manziel on Wednesday, when free agency opened and the league began its new calendar year. The team, though, waited to see if they could find a team interested in making a trade, that way they wouldn’t have to pay Manziel the $2.1 million he’s still owed for the next two years.
But nobody wanted to give up anything for Manziel, who was in Vegas last weekend and has been spotted in nightclubs around Los Angeles the past few days.
Manziel played in 14 games for the Browns. He passed for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.