Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Respect the General (Why Kevin Sumlin Deserves More Credit Handling Johnny Manziel)

"I think it's important now, based on where he is, that his focus is to try to be our quarterback and a student-athlete. That's his biggest challenge right now. It's not his challenge to be here. That's me. Like I said before, this is college football; it's not pro football. That will be coming, but certainly, right now, we don't think that it's the right time."

After reading Kevin Sumlin's words on Johnny F. Manziel and why Manziel didn't address the media, I'm even more convinced that he's the right coach to handle him.

While everyone's over-analyzed and overreacted to Manziel's debut, I've chilled. As I've stated, I'm cool with him and his personality. Now I want to see how he plays, not discuss his character to death over every little thing.

(By the way, we need to stop associating character with on-field demeanor. Plenty of stoic athletes were terrible people and plenty of boisterous ones were fine citizens off it. The two don't always correlate and shouldn't, especially in football when you need a bit of crazy on the field.)

But I don't hear too many bring up a point I made in my Manziel piece. Sumlin is handling him with the right amount of freedom, restraint and protection. He's striking the perfect balance of letting Manziel be himself without stepping over whatever boundaries Sumlin has between the lines.

Sumlin's handling of Johnny F. last year was brilliant in not letting him talk to the media until right before the Heisman ceremony. Some coaches practice the same thing with freshmen but since Johnny F. was setting records, it was a good way to have him keep a low profile and let his game talk.

Johnny F's offseason was wild but I've yet to see anything like that since fall camp started. Sumlin and Texas A&M went out of their way to protect him during the NCAA investigation and it speaks to more about saving a young man from himself while allowing him to be young. It's a smart strategy and that's why I admire the true general instead of focusing on his young captain.

From what I've seen the last few years, Sumlin's a no-nonsense guy. His teams light up the scoreboard, win games and he doesn't let his players run over him. He almost reminds me of an offensive-minded Mike Tomlin in that both seem cool and relate well to their players but fierce and in control at the same time.

It's the same reason Jimmy Johnson was the best coach for 1980's Miami. He defended his players publicly while being a strict disciplinarian who demanded excellence. Johnson wasn't seen as a soft coach and we all know how rowdy/dynamic some of The U's players were. As the "30 for 30" documentary showed, there was one clear general steering the ship and it was Johnson.

JJ protected his players and so does Sumlin. If you think Manziel was out of control Saturday, then why not give Sumlin credit for pulling him out of the game? Blowout or not, he sent a message that having too much fun in a blowout debut wasn't worth risking a big hit.

"What you don't want to do is kill that emotion and that passion because I think it's what separates Johnny from a lot of different players. What we can do is sit down and say, 'Hey listen, that same emotion and that same passion can be used positively, and here's how you've got to do that.'"

Giving Johnny F. too much credit to do what he wants undermines Sumlin's authority. Ironic how folks assume Johnny's doing that when the media is doing that for him. By questioning Sumlin's discipline - something that has never been brought up at Houston or last year - it's showing that we don't want Sumlin to be fair but discipline him to please us outsiders.

In fact, it's similar to how Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly is handling Yasiel Puig. All of it reminds me of somebody telling a parent how to handle their kid without acknowledging how the parent may already be doing that.

Now Sumlin's doing the right thing by not letting Johnny F. talk to the media. So you tell me, who's running that ship? The fun-loving Captain or General Sumlin, especially after this quote.

"Why isn't he out here talking? I don't think right now that him coming here and saying a word is going to change some people's opinion about who he is," Sumlin said. "... It's my job as a coach to prepare him and it's my job as a coach to keep his energy positive and try to channel that energy and emotion and make it positive. And at the appropriate time, he'll be able to speak for himself."

Sign says it all to me.
Perception is everything but sometimes we need to see what's in front of us.  Say what you want about Manziel, but don't ignore that Sumlin is in control and doing right by his player. He's doing the best job handling a superstar and for that, he should be praised.

*all quotes from Kevin Sumlin's Tuesday meeting with the media.

1 comment:

  1. I bet Sumlin doesn't want to be compared to Jimmy Johnson. Johnson might have been a disciplinarian at practice, but he was by no means a molder of men.