For Texas A&M, it had been much too long residing outside of the football elite. Making matters worse, in 2012, A&M prepared to enter the SouthEastern Conference, home of the big boys. Aggie-haters rubbed their hands waiting to witness the weekly sacrifice to LSU, Alabama, Georgia, et al. But then……………….Johnny Football happened.
In 2012, Texas A&M unearthed a living, breathing football savant. In a sport that can feature 90+ players on a squad, ONE kid carried an entire football program on his shoulders. Aggie fans and alumni will forever cherish the glorious ride they shared with Johnny in 2012 ~ a Heisman winner, a win over Alabama, and a sign of glorious days to come; “Johnny Football” (coolest nickname ever?) was/is bigger than life, and never had an Aggie been so beloved. And then………..(*sigh*) the football season ended, and the silly season began.
When a person gets drunk, you see the extremities of their true personality without inhibition. For Manziel, the intoxication of fame and a little gold man exposed the warts caused from a lifetime of privilege, arrogance, and entitlement. In short, we found out that Johnny Football is kind of an a-hole. But man, that a-hole can ball.
When you have one performer who is so clearly responsible for the success of your operation, how much slack in the line do they deserve? And at what point do you pull the plug & make the highly dubious decision to remove a “star” from the team?
This is the dilemma of Kevin Sumlin, head coach at Texas A&M. He seems to be a man of principle (slowly becoming an extinct quality in college athletics), and he seems to be a man who has had his limits stretched to a point of breach. But how in the hell can you fire Johnny Football? For that matter, could you even make that decision, or would boosters and other muckety-mucks make that impossible? This kid, warts and all, is the bell cow – his Heisman run alone has been valued at $30M+ for the university. That puts a few bricks in the building, as they say.
Have you ever had this discussion with upper management? Could you have that discussion? A bonafide all-star performer with the ability to make or destroy an entire program. There’s no better example right now – Manziel is a gifted athlete and competitor looking for a fight with the world…eventually, he’ll lose that fight, but how long do you ride his wave of success?
It seems to be a matter of “when,” not “if” Johnny self-destructs – as he continues his frustrating combination of buffoonery and brilliance, his loyalists will begin to wane and a good man (Sumlin) may feel tempted to do what seems utterly impossible – fire Johnny Football.
John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer)