Written By: Ryan Lippert
With the NFL offseason and free agency off to a hot start, there are still two huge names without an NFL home. Colin Kaepernick and Johnny Manziel are two guys that seem to be in the news just about every day, but have not been found on a box score in quite some time. They have both been proven playmakers at the quarterback position but unfortunately, issues outside the football field have kept them off a roster. I personally don’t believe that either one of these players has done enough to overshadow their talent. With that being said, I believe that it’s time to stop thinking about the off-field issues and look at things from a strictly football standpoint!
Case for Manziel
At one time, “Johnny Football” looked like a player who was destined to be a star in the league. After winning the Heisman Trophy and being one of the most electric players ever seen in college football, Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. With the Browns, Manziel had a 2–6 record as a starting quarterback and threw for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
Unfortunately for Johnny, off-field issues ended his time with the Browns. He was admitted into rehab after the 2014 season, came back to start several games in 2015, and then was waived by the Browns following several off-field incidents before the 2016 season. After several bad situations from 2016–2017, including a court case for domestic violence, Johnny started on a quest to become sober. With time to try to better himself, Manziel has started his football comeback. After a couple failed attempts with leagues such as the CFL, Manziel found a home in the Spring League, a short developmental league that has many former NFL players involved.
During his time in the Spring League, Johnny showed that he still has a ton of playmaking ability, running and throwing for multiple touchdowns in his two weeks in the league. Now that the Spring League is wrapped up, Manziel will be hoping to find a spot on an NFL training camp roster.
Case for Kaepernick
The beginning of Kaepernick’s NFL journey was slightly different from Manziel’s. After an outstanding career at Nevada, Kaepernick was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Unlike Manziel, Kaepernick wasn’t expected to make an early impact as the 49ers already had a solid starting quarterback in Alex Smith. After playing in only three games in his rookie season, Kaepernick got his chance in 2012. He was called on to replace an injured Alex Smith in November 2012 and proceeded to light up the league! He was so good that even when Smith was cleared to play, Kaepernick was named the starter. In only his first season as a starting QB Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl where they fell to the Ravens. After 2012, Kaepernick remained the starter and had several solid seasons with the 49ers. In his career with the 49ers, he threw for 12,271 yards for 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. He also rushed for 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. Kaepernick led the 49ers back to the NFC Championship in 2014, where they lost to the Seahawks.
Unfortunately for Kaepernick, he suffered several injuries between the 2015–2016 seasons. He requested a trade from the 49ers before the 2016 season and it looked like he was headed to the Broncos. However, that deal fell through. In 2016, he started the season as the back up to Blaine Gabbert, but eventually earned the job back and started several games. 2016 was also when Kaepernick began protesting during the national anthem, which caused a lot of discourse and started a movement throughout the league. In 2017, Kaepernick chose to opt out of his contract with the 49ers and has not been on a roster since. He was recently scheduled to throw for the Seahawks, but the meeting was cancelled because he said he would continue to kneel during the anthem. Hopefully for Kaepernick, teams will continue to call and he will find a team before training camp.
Now that I have given a solid case for both of these players, the question is who will make their official NFL comeback first? If I were to make a prediction right now, I’d lean towards Manziel. While Kaepernick has the better NFL numbers to back him up, Manziel has been seen on the football field more recently than Kaepernick has. Along with playing in the Spring League, Manziel has thrown at a couple Pro Days in front of NFL scouts. Although I think Johnny will get the first official invite to a team, I believe that both of these players should be on an NFL roster by training camp. There are several backup quarterbacks that are on rosters that are not even in the same ballpark as these two from a talent standpoint. You can say what you want about off the field issues, but you can’t hide talent!