Johnny Manziel won a Heisman Trophy, kept a country of football fans on the edge of their seats, was drafted in the first-round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and he’s only 25. Sadly, the team that called him at No. 22 overall in the draft that season was the Cleveland Browns, so Manziel’s professional career came to an abrupt stop before it even got started.
Manziel wasn’t exactly set up for success with the Browns. The team executives talked openly and negatively about Manziel, and the former Texas A&M superstar hasn’t found himself another team since the 2015 NFL season.
In the interim, Manziel has continued to make the news, normally for nothing good. For example, Johnny Football was eventually cut from the Browns while under investigated for domestic violence against his former girlfriend. Manziel ended up having the charge dropped.
In 2016, as a free agent, Manziel was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
While with the Browns, Manziel started eight games, winning two of them (which is, you know, two more than the Browns will win this season, and one more than they’ve won since the beginning of last season). Manziel completed 57 percent of his passes in those eight games.
Now, after missing the past two football seasons, Manziel is looking to make a comeback, and he’s found a team that’s interested. And, no, it isn’t the Browns. It isn’t the Buffalo Bills. Not the Cincinnati Bengals or the Chicago Bears or the Denver Broncos or the Indianapolis Colts or the New York Jets or any of the other NFL teams that desperately need a new quarterback. None of them see the potential yet.
Instead, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League are looking to host Manziel while he makes his return to professional football. And yes, Manziel is serious about finding his way back into professional football—serious enough that he is willing to go to Canada to try and make it happen (something that guys like Tim Tebow were never willing to do). And talks have progressed to the point that the Tiger-Cats have brought the potential signing to CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie for his approval (apparently Manziel’s reputation precedes him to the point where the commissioner has to approve his signing, even though the Tiger-Cats already own Manziel’s CFL rights).
“[The eligibility process] has included an ongoing assessment by an independent expert on the issue of violence against women, a review by legal counsel, and an in-person interview of Mr. Manziel conducted by the commissioner,” said Ambrosie in an official CFL statement. “As well, Mr. Manziel has been required to meet a number of conditions set by the league.”
Apparently, the domestic violence issues which were dropped, was enough to trigger an independent review of Manziel. I guess beggars can be choosers.
“As a result of this process, the Commissioner has now informed Mr. Manziel and the Tiger-Cats he is prepared to approve a contract for Mr. Manziel should one be negotiated,” continues the statement. “The process that led to this decision does, however, continue. Mr. Manziel has been informed he must continue to meet a number of conditions in order to remain eligible. These conditions, while extensive and exacting, remain confidential.”
But, hey, he made it through, how do you like that? Maybe Ambrosie just put on his big, tough commissioner cap for the publicity. After all, the CFL doesn’t get much. When does their season even run? Are they playing right now? Honestly, before hearing about this story, I had never even heard of the Tiger-Cats.
The CFL could use the publicity of a guy like Manziel. While, sure, he hasn’t been in the NFL in two years now, and it’s been even longer since he was making all ten of the top ten plays every weekend with the Aggies, but Manziel is one hell of a player, and there are still plenty of people out there that want to see what he can do on the field (myself included). No, I’m not going to watch a single Tiger-Cats game, even if there is nothing else on TV, but I would love to see his highlights.
Now, the Tiger-Cats and Manziel just need to work out a deal.
“We appreciate the CFL and Commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s due diligence in this matter,” the Tiger-Cats announced in a statement. “We also recognize Johnny Manziel for thus far demonstrating the attributes necessary to continue his career in our great league. We will have no further comment at this time.”
Manziel made a good bit of money with the Browns on that first round rookie contract, but I have a hard time believing he’ll be holding out for much from Hamilton. Let’s face it: no one goes to Canada for the money.
The next big question is whether Manziel can be good up in Canada, and I’m not just talking on the field. If he kills it in the CFL and keeps a clean off the field record, he could get another NFL shot. After all the stupid mistakes he continually made, it’s hard to remember all those Russell Wilson comparisons he was getting from general managers and scouts back in the day.
Basically, if he can treat the CFL like his last lifeline back to the NFL, he could have a nice rising from the ashes story that America loves.