Skip Bayless never missed an opportunity to fawn over Johnny Manziel. But the Fox Sports host thinks he missed a chance to help him.
Earlier this week, Netflix’s Untold: Johnny Football was released, providing a captivating look into the career and life of Manziel. But as Awful Announcing’s Joe Lucia wrote, the story feels incomplete. It details Manziel becoming Johnny Football and his ensuing downfall, but stops short on answering questions about the next chapter of his life.
In the documentary, Manziel describes rock bottom as the moment he bought a gun and planned to commit suicide, a story that caused Bayless to reflect. According to Bayless on his The Skip Bayless Show podcast, he saw Manziel around the same time that the former quarterback hit rock bottom, but missed an opportunity to help.
In 2018, Bayless was asked to do Cold as Balls with Kevin Hart and Manziel was there on the same day to tape his own episode of the show. Cold as Balls features Hart chatting with various sports personalities in the post-game cold tub. To prepare for the show, Bayless recalled doing pushups in the green room to ensure he would look “halfway decent” without his shirt on. While Bayless was getting pumped, Manziel came to his room to say hello.
“He didn’t look very good,” Bayless said. “He looked a little pale. A little weak. A little warn. And I was shocked.”
“We had some adult small talk. ‘How’s the weather’ kind of talk. ‘How you doing’ kind of talk,” Bayless continued. “He was on his best behavior. He was talking to the adults. But as I look back on that moment, I look at it as a quiet cry for help and I wish I’d been listening, but I wasn’t. When I went down to tape my episode with Kevin, Johnny stayed.”
Bayless said Manziel remained in studio to watch his full conversation with Hart, despite the fact that the former quarterback was already finished taping his own episode of Cold as Balls.
“I know Johnny looked up to me,” Bayless claimed. “I know Johnny appreciated the fact that I was mostly in his corner, up until the Draft. And I just wish I’d known enough to sit down and actually have a heart to heart with Johnny. Maybe I could have helped. I’m pretty good at that if I know help is wanted and or needed. But I didn’t see it. I didn’t listen to my instincts.”
We’ll have to take Bayless at his word that Manziel looked up to him, but it’s certainly feasible to believe the former quarterback at least appreciated his commentary. Even when Manziel’s stardom was at its peak, Bayless was his biggest advocate, claiming the quarterback would eventually succeed LeBron James as Cleveland’s most popular athlete. Like many who were in the quarterback’s corner, Bayless wishes he was there to help Manziel through his downfall, believing he missed an opportunity to do so.
PSA: If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and needs help, the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline can be reached at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).