Written by: Jack Bourgeois
Last week Johnny Football announced that he signed a two-year deal with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The former Heisman trophy winner is attempting to make an NFL comeback after being cut by the Cleveland Browns at the start of the 2016 season. Manziel has 8 pro starts since being drafted 22nd overall in 2013. He recently got some playing time in The Spring League after being 832 days removed from the game. Johnny Manziel appeared in two games, throwing for one touchdown and running for 2 more. Now the former Aggie is taking his talents North of the border, which most consider being the right move in efforts to earning a second chance in the NFL.
Johnny Manziel has seemed to turn his life around since last being in the limelight. It wasn’t that long ago that the quarterback was repeatedly getting into trouble, being featured in a drunken TMZ highlight reel over and over again. Johnny had multiple stints in rehab and has been vocal about his battle with drugs and alcohol.
Step one for Manziel is to stay clean and healthy. Regardless of how well he plays in the CFL, if he can’t refrain from his old ways, he’ll never step foot in an NFL locker room again. He has a long road ahead of him to get back into the good graces of the league, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Several NFL stars have played in the CFL, and it’s not the place where talent goes to die like many believe. Legend quarterback’s Doug Flutie, Warren Moon, and Joe Theismann all played in the CFL at one point before getting their shot in the National Football League. Most recently defensive end Cameron Wake played for the B.C. Lions in 2007 and 2008. He combined for 39 sacks through his first two seasons, drawing the attention of several NFL GM’s. Wake signed with the Miami Dolphins in ’09 and has had a tremendous 9-year career that includes 92 career sacks, 5 Pro Bowl appearances, and 1st-Team All-Pro honors.
In other words….
To be honest, I didn’t believe it’d happen just a few months ago, but Johnny Football is making a comeback. Whether he’ll succeed or not is a complicated question to answer. His game film with the Cleveland Browns can basically be thrown out the window. He admittedly didn’t have any form of game preparation, didn’t try to learn the playbook, and often partied the night before he was supposed to play. Johnny didn’t take his career seriously, so it’s hard not to do the same with his NFL film. If you were to grade his time on the field in Cleveland, it’d be easy to write him off as a bust instantly, but is this a different man than we’ve grown to know? Can Manziel actually become a professional? We’ll find out on June 16th when the Tiger-Cats make their season debut against the Calgary Stampeders, assuming Johnny earns the starting job over fellow teammate and QB Jeremiah Masoli.
The two games he played in for the newly formed TSL were rocky but promising. He had tons of pressure in his face, allowing him to show off his quick release, mobility, and the same lack of ball security we’ve seen before. Johnny had as many WOW plays as he had head-scratchers. He was either showcasing some above average accuracy, or he was lofting up would be interceptions in any other league.
From under center Johnny rolls out to his right, avoids the sack, and throws a perfectly placed ball while falling. It proves he still has the it factor that allows him to make something out of nothing. That same it factor is what blinded the Browns into drafting him in the 1st round, so don’t fall in love just yet. That backyard football stuff doesn’t work against the NFL elites and will get him hurt at the next level. More than anything, the play gives a good representation of his accuracy. If he has any shot at a comeback, it’ll have to be displayed from inside the pocket.
In paying homage to the great Brett Favre, Johnny Manziel decides to give her the ol’ Chuck-N-Pray; throwing caution to the wind and the ball into double coverage. It’s decision making like this that will hurt any chance he has at a comeback career. To be fair, it was the man’s first football game in over two years. Call it rust, call it cobwebs, call it a bad throw, but a few mulligans have to be expected after a long layoff. The QB must improve as a decision maker once he’s in Canada. It won’t take many passes of similar fashion for all 32 GM’s to write him off and close Johnny’s NFL chapter for good.
Now, this is the kind of throw that’ll get you fired on a Sunday. No excuses, not even in Pop Warner does a QB keep his job after making a pass like that. Manziel’s biggest asset is also his downfall. His ability to extend the play often gets him in trouble because he doesn’t know when to call it quits. The play was over, yet he still proceeds to try to make an impulse throw on a play that isn’t there. His football IQ will need to improve, and he has to be able to learn to live for another down moving forward.
Nothing’s impossible, especially in this day and age. Obviously, Johnny Manziel will have to improve from the game film seen above, but he did show flashes of athleticism and improvability. The QB will need to build upon those traits, as well as refine his mental game both on and off the field. Going as far back as his Texas A&M days, we’ve yet to witness Johnny Manziel truly read a defense, go through his progressions, and thread the needle from the pocket. Luckily for him, he’ll have two years in Hamilton to get that on film. The best thing Johnny can do in order to make a comeback is to produce as much game tape as possible. If he puts down solid performances on film for scouts to cipher, he could see himself primed for an NFL backup role in a year or two. The CFL’s contracts do not allow players to leave to play elsewhere before the agreement expires, but exceptions to the rule have been made before. If Johnny Football comes out and lights up the Canadian League, there’s a chance he could get the call as early as 2019.
If players can be forgiven for domestic abuse, then certainly he deserves another shot, but it must be earned. The problem is the media circus that comes along with any controversial quarterback, similar to what happened with Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick. The on-field talent is there, but the off-field spotlight overshadows anything they do on game day. Hence, I still have my doubts as a Johnny Football supporter and believe he’s destined to be the face of the XFL in 2020, not an NFL backup.