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Distinctly different paths lead to same conclusion

ByeJohnnyFootballBy DERON SNYDER

ESPN reported over the weekend that Detroit Lions star wideout Calvin Johnson decided to retire.

Other weekend reports suggest that Cleveland Browns star bust Johnny Manziel also decided to retire.

The only difference is Manziel doesn’t realize it.

Johnson will go down as an all-time great, the Lions’ franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. No NFL player has accumulated more receiving yards and receiving touchdowns since Johnson was drafted in 2007.

The five-time Pro Bowler is only 30 years old, but his body is battered and his desire has waned. Detroit fans are experiencing an unwanted case of déjà vu, harkening to the early retirement of Hall of Fame halfback Barry Sanders. The two best things the Lions enjoyed over the last four decades ended abruptly and prematurely.

But at least they left good memories and major accomplishments behind.

Manziel will leave Cleveland fans with nothing but questions, regrets and viral videos over two wasted seasons.

The latest in a slew of unfortunate incidents occurred Saturday morning in suburban Dallas. We’ve reached the point where no one is surprised when Manziel appears in the news for drunken behavior, domestic disputes or run-ins with fans. We’re subconsciously braced for the worst – Manziel harming himself or others – with little hope he’ll reverse course.

For the second time in four months, Manziel is under investigation for an altercation with a girlfriend. No charges were filed in October and no arrests were made Saturday. But according to a police report, the woman in Dallas was so worried about Manziel’s mental and physical well-being, authorities used a helicopter to search for him.

The department “will deploy all useful personnel or tools available to fully investigate any call,” Fort Worth police spokesman Cpl. Tracey Knight told reporters. “Especially when there is a concern for health or safety of a person.”

Who knows where it will end for Manziel? The next time a helicopter is deployed, he might be in a white Bronco. 

If Manziel wants an NFL career, he has a strange way of proving it. It’s troublesome enough that he’s drinking again, less than a year after leaving an alcohol and drug treatment center. He reportedly has been seen at two Dallas bars and a Dallas nightclub the last few weeks. Worse, he’s being ratted out by liquor clerks, with one in Fort Worth reporting the quarterback bought a bottle of Don Julio Tequila.

There are no limits to his bad judgement. He doesn’t have enough sense to at least send a flunky to the liquor store.

The Cleveland Browns can’t make a move until Feb. 8, but they should jettison the troubled QB at one second past midnight. Any thought of trying to recoup their loss via a conditional draft pick should’ve been discarded the moment Manziel reportedly donned a disguise to party in Vegas on the eve of the season finale.

His exploits have sparked a campaign among some Browns fans on Twitter, using the hashtag #JFF to advocate for a “Johnny Free February.” They vow to not mention No. 2 this month or until he’s no longer on the team. Like management, fans’ patience has expired, too, replaced with worry in many instances.

NFL coaches and GMs can handle concerns about the quarterback staying healthy and reading defenses. But they have no time for concerns about the quarterback staying sober and reading his name in police reports.

If Manziel displayed the talents of a Russell Wilson or an Andrew Luck, maybe he’d be worth the risk. But not after showing just brief flashes of the scintillating play that earned the Heisman Trophy. He has been on a self-destructive path ever since and is the only person who doesn’t see it.

Conversely, Johnson knows exactly what he’s doing, especially if he follows through and walks away from $16 million next season. He might decide to suck it up and suffer one more painful, dismal year in Detroit, concluding it’s a fair trade-off.

But what is Manziel ending his career for? The right to drink with no repercussions? The thrill of partying like he’s still in college? The ability to enjoy celebrity without putting in any work?

People call him a punk, a troublemaker and worse. But it’s actually sad to watch someone waste their talent and opportunity to shine. We see it all the time, in sports and the arts, in business and politics, people falling victim to their vice of choice.

Much better to go out like Johnson – on top and on your own terms – instead of backing out like Manziel.

He’s ending his career before it really got started. And everyone realizes it except him.

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