Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Johnny Downfall: Nobody is to blame for Johnny Manziel's tragic and mercurial descent more than himself.
But those who enabled his wayward behavior played a big role, too.
If you charted the path of Manziel’s downfall, it would start at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, run through Cleveland Browns headquarters in Berea, Ohio, and continue to NFL offices in New York.
Each entity enabled Manziel by looking the other way when he should have been disciplined. Each bolstered his sense of entitlement. And each emboldened him to do what he pleased, with no fear of retribution.
In Dallas, law enforcement officials are investigating whether to charge Manziel for committing assault on his ex-girlfriend on Jan. 29. The Dallas police re-opened the case only after Colleen Crowley detailed the alleged sordid events of that night in an affidavit to win a judge’s order protecting her from Manziel’s company for a period of two years.
Crowley’s attorney said Manziel punctured her left ear drum with a violent hit after a night of drinking and arguing.
The allegations in the affidavit were more severe than -- but not dissimilar to -- events that occurred in Avon, Ohio, on Oct. 12.
Then, police questioned Manziel after 9-1-1 calls reported him driving recklessly while appearing to argue and grapple with Crowley. Crowley told police Manziel hit her, but she was intoxicated and no charges were filed. Manziel admitted drinking during the day but was not impaired.
Stung hard by the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy domestic abuse scandals, the NFL dispatched newly appointed domestic violence czarina Lisa Friel, an expert on sex crimes in the New York County district attorney’s office, to get to the bottom of Crowley’s allegations.
Friel interviewed Manziel, Crowley and Avon police. She concluded there was “insufficient basis on which to take disciplinary action.” That same day, the Browns rewarded Manziel by giving him the starting quarterback job for the rest of the season.
I asked NFL spokesman Greg Aiello on Tuesday for an interview with Friel. I wanted to know how Friel felt about Manziel’s apparent repeat offense. I was told Friel was “not available.”
The enablers: As the Manziel story spread during Super Bowl week, everyone seemed to want to reach out to help the troubled, young quarterback.
"We wish to give Johnny as much support as he is willing to receive. We can't make anyone do anything," Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, told the Associated Press on Saturday. "Everyone's here to support you, but you have to embrace it."
Yet when the league had an opportunity to help Manziel by disciplining him for the Avon incident, it looked the other way.
And then there was Jimmy Haslam.
On Friday, the Browns owner disclosed the team had reached out “several times” to Manziel since the events of Jan. 29 but its calls were unanswered.
“We’ll do anything we can to help him personally,” Haslam told me. “And our thoughts and prayers are with Johnny and his family. We’re not worried about Johnny Manziel the football player. We’re worried about Johnny the person, and I think that’s all we need to say.”
For two years, the Browns enabled Manziel by failing to discipline him while he consistently embarrassed himself, the team, the organization and the city.
From the moment Manziel talked himself onto the team with a text message to former QB coach Dowell Loggains pleading to “wreck this league together,” the Browns treated Manziel as if he were football royalty. He received a lot of love, but not the tough kind that he truly needed.
Repeated images of Manziel’s habitual partying on social media were continually excused or minimized by Haslam, former GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine.
When Pettine finally disciplined Manziel by demoting him for two weeks after the quarterback lied about about an incriminating video on the Internet during the team’s bye weekend, Pettine was seemingly left alone on an island. No club official publicly supported him, furthering the appearance that Pettine was taking a personal vendetta against the problem child put on a pedestal by Haslam and others.
Then came the weird events in the final week. Three days after the 15th game in Kansas City, Manziel showed up to work disheveled and either drunk or hung over. He was removed from a quarterback meeting. Manziel then complained of headaches, was diagnosed with a concussion and sent home.
NFL Network analyst Mike Silver said on air on Friday, citing player sources, that the Browns lied about the concussion to cover up the fact Manziel reported to work drunk.
The Browns objected to the story and issued a statement saying Manziel was entered into concussion protocol by an independent neurologist. Silver later Tweeted that he regretted using the word “lied.”
Three days after entering concussion protocol, Manziel fled to Las Vegas for a night of partying and gambling -- reportedly wearing a disguise of glasses and wig -- the night before the 16th game. The team embarrassingly admitted it didn’t know where Manziel was but that he missed a mandatory meeting with doctors.
After the Jan. 29 incident in Dallas, the Browns issued a statement decrying Manziel’s behavior and curtly concluded “his status with our team will be addressed when permitted by league rules.”
He will be released on March 9, everyone reported, when new salary cap room allows.
Where it all began: In the book Manziel Mania, author Jim Dent wrote how A&M coach Kevin Sumlin interceded to have a school suspension of Manziel for drinking and fighting overturned on appeal prior to Manziel’s first season on the field.
Manziel rewarded Sumlin’s help by lifting the football program into national prominence over the next two years, ultimately sparking a $450 million renovation of the school’s football stadium -- truly, the House that Johnny Built.
But two years later, Sumlin’s program is in decline. Touted quarterback recruits Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray recently announced they were transferring from A&M.
On Tuesday, Allen explained his decision to CBS Sports.
"I think the culture was a big part of it, and I think that stems from Johnny's era there -- the way that they let Johnny and [others] act there," Allen told CBS columnist Dennis Dodd. "They [could] do that and still win games because they had Johnny ... and five offensive linemen playing in the NFL right now.
"A lot of people were riding off that, 'I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday.'"
With the Browns, Manziel could do whatever he wanted. But the wins never came. And now the Browns are done with him.
I wonder what the Browns would do if Manziel actually answered their calls and asked for help.