I was out driving around Sunday afternoon and while flipping around the dial, I came across what had to have been a five-minute mash-up on ESPN Radio of the network’s analysts verbally assaulting Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for his antics in the Aggies’ opener against Rice. Guys like Trevor Matich and Lou Holtz and Robert Smith, all heaping scorn on the Heisman Trophy winner.
I switched over to Fox Sports Radio, only to find columnist Jen Floyd Engel lamenting the shenanigans of A&M’s modern-day Rosa Parks. I then hit up SiriusXM College Sports, where hosts Chris Childers and Rick Neuheisel were discussing Manziel’s theatrics.
The common conclusion of all these pundits went something like, “Kevin Sumlin needs to get Johnny Football in line.”
I have a hard time understanding the outrage. Is Manziel a brat? I’ll let his testicle-thumping exploits with his pops speak to that. But that’s his problem, not mine, and there's plenty of overlap in the Venn Diagram between schmucks and elite athletes.
Honestly, if you’re Sumlin, I don’t know why you’d want to change a thing about how your quarterback operates between the white lines. Manziel played magical football in 2012. In limited action so far this year, he doesn’t appear to have lost a step. If A&M truly wants to compete for conference and national titles, having a locked-in Manziel is a must. Why mess with success?
But the silly part of all this hysteria is the idea that Sumlin has any real power to do something about this, even if he wanted to. (Like, ya know, suspend him.)
In the last year or so, Manziel has transformed from a relative unknown into a maroon-clad golden goose. The business of sports has always revolved around selling stars, and A&M has parlayed the first freshman to ever win the Heisman into a boatload of money and exposure - $37 million worth of it in one year, according to the school itself.
The line separating Texas A&M football and Johnny Manziel doesn’t exist right now. That was never more clear than when Manziel’s eligibility was put in question last month by the NCAA. Even though the amateurism cops never had the goods on A&M’s cash cow, that didn’t stop the school’s chancellor, John Sharp, from pushing an idiotic conspiracy theory with an eye on keeping Manziel in the clear. (Sharp also made sure to remind the school’s boosters and fans, who will be needed to fill an expanded Kyle Field, that he had gone to bat for “#2.”)
But that’s the kind of power Manziel now wields at A&M - a grown man who’s supposed to be in charge has no problem playing the fool in front of the country on the QB's behalf. Now imagine the heat that Sumlin would take if he tried to “take a stand” with Manziel, as these crotchety pundits would have it.
It may say “head coach” in Sumlin’s e-mail signature, but there’s no mistaking who’s really in charge of A&M football at the moment. For now, Manziel owns College Station.