By: David Connors @connors_david
Johnny Manziel is a former Heisman winning quarterback from Texas A&M University. He showed off incredible talent with 7,820 yards and 63 touchdown in only two years. He added 2,169 yards on the ground while playing against SEC talent. He became the first freshman and fifth player in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000. The dual-threat collegiate star played his way into becoming a first-round draft pick, even though he was considered undersized for an NFL QB. Unfortunately, due to poor decisions and limelight antics, his time in the NFL came to a sudden halt.
Earlier this year, Manziel was released from his contract with the Canadian Football League for violating the condition and was given a lifetime ban from the league for his actions. There are many speculations that Manziel got himself removed on purpose. Due to Canadian privacy laws, we may never know; nevertheless, a few days later, AAF chairman Tom Dundon announced that Manziel would workout and be vetted for an opportunity to play in the startup league.
Only a few weeks passed when, a few days ago, the AAF announced they are signing the former first-round draft pick. Due to his collegiate affiliate of Texas A&M, Manziel was allocated to the San Antonio Commanders, who waived their right to sign him citing stability at the position. Due to these circumstances, the Memphis Express got the next opportunity to sign Johnny Football by virtue of having the worst record in the league. Memphis recently lost their starting QB Zach Mettenberger to a horrific leg injury, and were eager to swoop up Manziel after backup QB Brandon Silvers failed to make a good impression. That’s right, Memphis Express fans, you get Johnny Manziel.
The Express Sign Johnny Football!
Weeks after Manziel first worked out with the AAF for an opportunity, it was finally announced he would sign with the budding football league. The Express just lost their starting quarterback and offensive spark for the season. They were an obvious landing spot for the new talent.
The Express actually targeted a 6’0”, 210 lbs QB with their first pick in the inaugural QB draft — Troy Cook, who showed off impressive dual-threat ability. However, the University of Tennessee at Martin prospect did not make the final roster. At the very least, the Express had a plan to go into the season with a QB with a similar style of play. However, Memphis instead chose to roster 3 “big arm” QBs who are over 6’3”. Even though Mettenberger has managed to get the Express into the end zone, the team still struggles to sustain drives. This offensive staff has failed to get much out of its talent, and quite frankly, their play calling is predictable. They had a chance to have a 6’ mobile QB, but decided to cut him in favor of more prototypical QBs. I have serious concerns that this coaching staff will be able inspire or optimize their new weapon.
The team as a business was given a gift with the arrival of Johnny Football. Their 1-5 record is uninspiring, and the play on the field is rough to watch at times. With Mettenberger down early in the Salt Lake City game, the Express were not doing anything to encourage fans to spend their money. Fortunately, now there is an electrifying figure stepping in as the team’s QB, and he is sure to create fanfare. The media and viewers will be interested to see how he performs. The former Heisman trophy winner was even on the cover page of both Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine, and just like many others, I will be watching Sunday Night as this former celebrity makes his debut against the Iron defense on the NFL Network.
Johnny Football joins the Express
Now that we observed Johnny’s outlook on the Express, what kind of effect will the city of Memphis have on Johnny? We are talking about a player who has shown incredible talent at the collegiate level and has demonstrated quality starting snaps for the Cleveland Browns. Talent has never been a concern when it came to scouting his tape. The worry has always been Manziel’s personality, leadership, and his off-field activities.
Manziel went from being a first round starter in the NFL to having his Browns jerseys being sold for $1.99 at the team store. His partying and drinking spun out of control quickly, and the team that invested a lot into him could no longer rely on him, leading to his time in the NFL being short lived. Since then, Manziel has popped up in the CFL on the Hamilton Tiger Cats. As the Tiger Cats’ QB, Manziel struggled with only 5 TDs and 7 INTs. Is Manziel done? I do not think so.
His struggles remind me of a RB for the Buffalo Bills named Marshawn Lynch. Lynch was once a top tier RB that dropped off dramatically, even losing his starting job to Fred Jackson. However, a midseason trade to Seattle Seahawks allowed Lynch to perform like a top RB again. His rejuvenation led to a memorable wild card run against the Saints that is still played in highlight reels so many years later. The point is I do not believe Manziel's struggles in the CFL were due to his lack of ability but his lack of motivation. He wanted out and into the AAF. The Express coaching staff has not shown to be a top group in the AAF, but if Manziel has the fire back that made him a Heisman winner, it will not matter. If Manziel thinks there is a real pathway from Memphis back to the NFL, he will turn some heads with his ability.
Will Johnny be successful?
Has Johnny Manziel matured since his shenanigans and mishaps? Is he the same guy that claimed he does not have to watch tape? Was the violation of his CFL contract more immaturity or a strategic plan to get to the AAF? Only time will tell. However, Johnny Football is a rare talent who made mistakes when he was first thrusted into world of money and fame. He is a lot older now and deserves a second chance. This may seem like a strange move strategically for a team that decided to steer away from a dual threat QB and lean towards more prototypical guys, but from a front office perspective, he will generate intrigue in a team that has done little to generate it to this point. The talent is there, and I cannot wait to see if he can turn himself around and become the the team leader many thought he could be.