It actually can be a beginning.
Manziel's waiver relieves the Browns of what had become a giant burden and distraction.
It also can be the start of an era that truly does -- as coach Hue Jackson said -- take a stand about a player's approach, behavior and professionalism.
It can be the start of an era in which players no longer are enabled in ways that drag a team down. It can be the start of realistic expectations on and off the field, with meaningful and real consequences if the actions are not appropriate.
For nearly two years, the Browns tried to pretend Manziel's presence did not hurt them. They took extraordinary steps in that regard, from shrugging off numerous social media missteps to protecting Manziel from unwanted attention after rehab to even bringing in a fellow Texas guy in quarterback Josh McCown to mentor him in his second season.
So much was about Johnny.
Manziel's response was to talk one way about proper actions and tamping down the hype and then act another way. Nobody was smoother with questions or in front of the camera, but the actions never matched the words.
When the team did nothing serious in terms of discipline after Manziel's first in-car argument with his former girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, the Browns sent the wrong message with an opportunity to send a strong, positive one. It's hard to forget the team's statement a few days after the Avon, Ohio, incident became public that Manziel had been "A-plus in the building."
Only when Manziel abused the privileges and thumbed his nose at the team by lying about a social media bye-week video and traveling to Las Vegas the weekend of the season finale did enough become enough.
And only when Manziel got into another argument with Crowley that led to more police involvement and a grand jury investigation did the franchise finally release a statement saying he was harming the team.
Manziel has every opportunity to get his life together. That will be up to him. He went to rehab once. If he needs that again, that is up to him.
His NFL future, though, is tenuous without a change in attitude and behavior. It's hard to really know whether Manziel can make it in the NFL because his on-field experiences in Cleveland were overwhelmed by the off-the-field distractions.
Manziel has to decide whether he truly wants to be an NFL quarterback and put in the work required to do so.
The best thing for the team, meanwhile, is not to purge itself of Manziel's memory. It's to dive deep into what happened during the past two seasons, examine the reasons and take steps to ensure such missteps never happen again.
Figuring that out might be the most important analytics study this team will conduct.