(SportsNetwork.com) - The harshest of Johnny Manziel's critics didn't think it would be this bad.
The lightning rod that is "Johnny Football" was an abject mess in his first NFL start, completing 10-of-18 for 80 yards with two first-half interceptions as Cleveland's playoff hopes nosedived in a similar trajectory to Manziel's stock with a 30-0 setback to the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
"There were flashes but they were brief," Browns coach Mike Pettine said in a laughably kind review of Manziel's performance.
Seemingly every Bengals defender got a chance to flash the former Heisman Trophy winner's signature money-sign celebration to the FirstEnergy Stadium crowd, essentially mocking Manziel for his inability to get anything done offensively.
"Of course, he kind of brought that on himself," Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry quipped.
The Browns made the switch from the limited Brian Hoyer to Manziel to provide a spark in an effort to keep their fading playoff hopes alive. However, that spark was never fanned.
In his first 30 minutes, Manziel was 4-for-9 for 22 yards and a 12.0 passer rating and things never really turned around as Cleveland, which has lost three in a row, totaled 107 yards of total offense and had six three-and-outs.
"I saw the field fine today, but when it came down to it, I just need to throw the ball and let it rip, and I didn't do a very good job of that," Manziel understated.
About the only positive you could take from Manziel's performance was the fact he didn't make any excuses.
"Nobody wants to win (in the locker room) more than I do, and it's tough to come out there and lay an egg like that," Manziel said. "I'm not using the rookie excuse. I needed to play better."
Taking accountability was a first step but anyone who was surprised this happened to Manziel wasn't paying attention in the offseason.
The disastrous debut already took place in the summer months, and this was just the next logical step in what has been a terrible rookie season for him.
If you really want to know just how bad Manziel's first few months as a pro went consider this, at least two organizations trying to pump up their own young quarterbacks coined the term "anti-Manziel" to describe them.
Sources close to both the Eagles and Vikings used it to trumpet Nick Foles' understated leadership style, as well as Teddy Bridgewater's willingness to work before the campaign began.
The Browns, meanwhile, watched as their young QB jetted off to Hollywood, Sin City or the Lone Star State every time he had a free moment.
The knock on Johnny from those close to Texas A&M was always his work ethic, with far too many whispering that he showed up on Saturdays content to let his athletic ability spell the difference.
And too often it did.
A lot of observers harp on Manziel's perceived sense of entitlement, and it's an issue but not for the reason you may think. The fact that Manziel's family is well off is inconsequential, the entitlement that hurts the rookie is his previous success with the Aggies.
Manziel assumed the NFL was going to be just as easy as college and no matter how many people got in his ear, he laughed it off. After all, he had heard the same narrative at Texas A&M and it wasn't true.
The wake-up call came Sunday.
Alabama may be a big deal, but it's not the Cincinnati Bengals.
"All week everybody wanted to make the game about (Manziel)," Gilberry said. "We just took that out and focused on what we do. We were able to come out and put on a pretty good show."
"Everything was about Manziel all week," linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was penalized for taunting Manziel at one point, added. "We just focused on us. We focused on what we needed to do to stop the kid and stop their offense."
Manziel was inaccurate, looked painfully slow against NFL defenders, and his mechanics were as sloppy as advertised.
"He didn't play well. He looked like a rookie, played like a rookie," Pettine admitted. "I know a lot of it was we didn't play well around him, but he made some obvious mistakes that typically a veteran quarterback won't make."
"I never felt overwhelmed out there," Manziel countered. "It was never too difficult."
Unless Manziel accepts it's going to be difficult moving forward, he's in deep trouble.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," Manziel claimed. "This organization drafted me, and I think going into it I even knew one bad start, I'm not going to be written off forever."