Though he was involved in plenty of shenanigans during the offseason and has been alleged to have signed autographs for cash, which he has denied, Heisman Trophy winner and redshirt sophomore Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was unfairly maligned by the mainstream college football media on two separate instances last weekend.
The college football media seem intent on painting Manziel as a problem child on the field, and they immediately assumed he received a “taunting” penalty for saying something bad to a Rice opponent during Texas A&M’s victory over Rice. It turns out, though, that the referee who gave him the 15-yard penalty for which Manziel got lit up by his coach Kevin Sumlin and the media were wrong. They essentially assumed–like a basketball referees that anticipates or assumes a player who had his shot cleanly blocked was fouled–that Manziel had said something bad. After the game, the Rice player Manziel supposedly “taunted,” Nick Elder, said all Manziel said after the play in question was, “what’s up nick, nice hit.”
@espn I was the one who johnny was talking too. He said “what’s up nick, nice hit.” True story
— Nick Elder (@NickElder1) August 31, 2013
Then, college football announcers blistered Manziel for what they thought was an incident in which he blatantly ignored Sumlin after he got the “taunting” penalty. It turns out, Manziel was not ignoring Sumlin at all.
“When he came off the field, basically I made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to,” Sumlin said on Tuesday. “They weren’t questions. They were direct statements that I can’t repeat right now. So what’s amazing to me is the perception that he ignored me. The worst thing that could have happened was for him to reply, based on what I told him.”
Manziel was also criticized for his “money” celebration, which is something he did all of last year and is not new, and for mimicking signing autographs. But video replays showed he was taunted first by a Rice player with the same gesture and was not the initiator.
Manziel and Texas A&M will be under a greater microscope leading up to the September 14 showdown with top-ranked Alabama. And the spotlight will get brighter regardless of whether Manziel and Texas A&M beat Alabama. If Texas A&M defeats Alabama, they will be legitimate national title contenders and may only have to defeat LSU to go to Pasadena, and their every move will be scrutinized. Should the Aggies lose, the media will be looking to see whether the team will implode. Regardless, all eyes will continue to be on Manziel–which may actually lessen the spotlight put on Alabama to three-peat and thereby ease the pressure on them should the Crimson Tide win–and the media will have to be careful not to frame Manziel as a “bad guy” if his actions do not warrant such a label.