Manziel Taunt Overblown

Johnny Manziel taunting overblown by Kevin Sumlin's ESPN grandstanding

Johnny Manziel taunting overblown by Kevin Sumlin's ESPN grandstanding

Johnny Manziel throw
Johnny Manziel couldn't return without getting caught up in a ridiculous taunting controversy. Photo courtesy of Texas A&M
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Kevin Sumlin's handling of Johnny Manziel reeked of ESPN grandstanding. Courtesy photo
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Johnny Manziel's return brought out more than 86,000 to see Rice. Photo via TAMU News
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Rice University certainly didn't embarrass itself. Photo by Andrew Richardson
Texas A&M Alabama Manziel
Who cares what Johnny Manziel does with his hands when he's not throwing the football? Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Johnny Manziel throw
Kevin Sumlin tunnel
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Rice football cheerleaders
Texas A&M Alabama Manziel

Johnny Manziel apparently committed the first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the history of college football in Saturday's game against Rice.

He's surely the only Texas A&M player to ever soil the great university's name by mildly taunting an opponent. No wonder why Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin put him in timeout, treating the Heisman Trophy winner who torpedoed the Aggies onto the SEC map like a petulant preschooler.

"Well that wasn't very smart," Sumlin huffed to ESPN cameras about the most ridiculous Johnny Manziel controversy yet. "And he didn't go back in the game either. You hope at this point that he would have learned something from that. That's why he wasn't going back in the game no matter what happened."

 Sumlin's doing Manziel a disservice by throwing fire on a little incident that ESPN already tried to blow up into one of the great moral failings of our time.

Okay, Coach. Grandstand much?

Look, I've always liked Kevin Sumlin, from well back into his still-underrated University of Houston coaching days. And what he did in Texas A&M's first season in the SEC is one of the all-time great coaching jobs ever.

But Sumlin's doing Manziel a great, needless disservice by throwing fire on a little incident that ESPN's announcing team already tried to blow up into one of the great moral failings of our time.

And for a coach who long defended Johnny Manziel's off-field antics, it reeks of finally playing to the cameras and the fools who are dying to see him scold Johnny Football.

Yes, Manziel barked gleefully at a few Rice University defensive players and pointed to the scoreboard after throwing his third touchdown pass of the second half (out of only eight passes overall). Yes, it cost his team 15 yards in an eventual 52-31 sloppy win for the seventh-ranked team in America. Yes, he didn't need to do it.

So what.

Manziel didn't do it a critical juncture in the game. He didn't really hurt his team in any truly tangible way. And it's absurd to suggest this one measly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty indicates that Manziel is completely out of control.

Johnny Manziel witch hunt 101
Of course, ESPN's game announcing crew stridently advanced all those notions in the wake of the great taunt. ESPN's voices declared that it shows Johnny Manziel's "lack of class,"  that he has "no thought of consequences" and that it's like he cluelessly "lives in a little bubble."

No, it's like he's a 20-year-old college kid who is enjoying playing college football again.

Manziel lived through an autograph "scandal" this summer that included tons of breathless reports (many from the Worldwide Leader) and almost nothing the NCAA apparently could prove. He's routinely dissected and probed more than any Miley Cyrus twerk. Heck, he'd been turned from Johnny Football to Johnny Halftime in another absurd NCAA ruling.

 In almost two years of Johnny Football, a meaningless 15-yard penalty is the stupidest thing you've ever seen? Have to call BS on that one. 

The man deserved to let loose a little. And give back a touch of what he's been getting.

Manziel dutifully wears a white visor and flips a white towel over his shoulder to watch the first half the NCAA barred them from playing in. Even as every camera in the stadium and everyone in the crowd of 86,000 plus that endured the heat cranes to get a look at him.

Rice University did coach Dave Bailiff more than proud by how hard and offensively well it played against a true national championship contender. But the Owls players also rightly gave Manziel some grief over his love of signing autographs for some shady characters.

There were plenty of air signatures at Kyle Field Saturday. They were flashed at Johnny Manziel and he did some right back. Manziel even rubbed his fingers together over his head, which some took as a sign that he was jokingly asking for cash.

Sumlin didn't object to any of it, until the referees elected to call a mild penalty, opening the door for some ESPN indignation.

"God damn, that's the stupidest thing I've ever seen in my life," Sumlin reportedly barked at Manziel as he trotted off the field.

Really? In almost two years of Johnny Football, a meaningless 15-yard penalty is the stupidest thing you've ever seen? Have to call BS on that one.

This was simply a moment for Kevin Sumlin to look tough on TV. Texas A&M's coach is now playing to the cameras just as much as Johnny Manziel. He's suspending defensive players for meaningless games, making sure everyone is back for Alabama September 14.

Sumlin — who stood strong during all those Johnny Manziel party stories and rightly insisted it was all no big deal — has now fallen into the trap of acting like fools on TV think a big-time college football coach should act. It's a sad transformation to see.

Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin are both nobody's puppets. One of the reasons Texas A&M football is suddenly so fascinating — and so good — is that Manziel and Sumlin stood together and scoffed at all those ridiculous preconceived notions that lord over the game.

Now Sumlin's given in and thrown his quarterback under the bus a little — all to please the TV wolves. Texas A&M's coach didn't have to make the taunting penalty a bigger story than it already was destined to be. He sure didn't have to make it worse by once again declaring Johnny Manziel off limits to the media and refusing to let the Heisman winner who's done so much for Texas A&M (and Sumlin) speak for himself after the game.

This is a rare weak, grandstanding play from Kevin Sumlin. And you can be sure it's going to hurt Texas A&M in the end more than Johnny Manziel's silliest penalty.