Johnny Manziel: The villain we love

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Phase No. 7: Cloak in Doubt(s)

Watch as journalists contend the sophomore slump will cripple Johnny Football. Watch him prove them wrong.

The offseason suspension keeps Manziel off the field for the first half of the season opener against Rice. When Mike Evans barrels into the end zone in the second half, watch as Manziel’s first touchdown pass of the season is followed by a celebratory hand gesture. The celebration – an esoteric hip-hop reference popularized by the rapper Drake – bares extra significance when the context of the suspension is pondered. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Manziel in the same game further sparks the narrative.

Is this the new Johnny Manziel? Is he a monster? Has he gone renegade?

You’re still waiting for him to collapse.

All of these headlines excite you, but you’re still waiting for the collapse. You’re upset to find Manziel improves in every facet of his passing game. His encore against the Crimson Tide yielded a school record in passing yardage. His rushing numbers dipped, though, that’ll have to do.

At the conclusion of the season, notice Manziel announces he’ll enter the NFL Draft. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.

Phase No. 8: Reintroduce the Privileged Archetype

Follow Manziel as he excels in his offseason conditioning and private workouts for NFL franchises. Wonder how he scored a 32 on the Wonderlic intelligence test, tops among the highest-ranked quarterback prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft. The test measures reasoning and is used to gauge poise under pressure – but, since Manziel’s semantics off the field paint him a step shy of devilish horns, discredit this entirely.

Sift through the fluorescent lighting to spot him sitting in Radio City Music Hall. It’s the biggest stage for any talented football prospect, in the most populous city of the country. You remember that Manziel was practically baptized in publicity and pay it no mind. He’s bound to mess this up.

Mel Kiper Jr. has spent the last three decades analyzing the draft for ESPN. Few rival his in-depth intuition and he pegs Manziel no. 7 in his mock draft, going to Tampa Bay. Manziel watches calmly as Blake Bortles, a quarterback whose numbers dwarf in comparison to Johnny Football, struts across the stage as the no. 3 pick.

Two hours after the draft began, Manziel sits concavely in his seat – no longer smiling. Perfect, you think. Internet memes pour onto the web and the stock in Photoshop skyrockets. Twitter becomes a feeding ground, some claiming Manziel has been drinking (turned out to be Photoshopped). Once the free fall seemed destined to crush Manziel on the rocks below, the Cleveland Browns take him with the 22nd pick.

Manziel – millions less fortunate as a result of the slide – swaggers his way to center stage and shakes head commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand, as amiable as the day he won the Heisman.