Montreal Alouettes head coach Mike Sherman could sense a difference in the way Johnny Manziel approached his first CFL start.
“I think he was nervous, the eyes of the world were upon him. You had half the world wanted to see him succeed and the other half wanted to see him fail. He didn’t want to disappoint anybody and I think he put too much pressure on himself and therefore didn’t play the game as loosely as he normally would’ve played. It wasn’t just him, we were terrible,” Sherman said on CBS Sports Radio.
“I give him a pass on his first one because the supporting cast didn’t support him and it was his first time, I think he was pressing a little bit too hard. And I talked to him at the end of the game, he said ‘I’m fine, it’s humbling, but I’m fine. It’s just what I needed.'”
Manziel threw a career-high four interceptions as the Alouettes were blown out by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 50-11.
“We have to make sure the decision making is right and we’re not taking too high-risk throws,” Sherman said.
Despite the poor showing, Sherman defended the decision to start Manziel after just four practices and less than two weeks since he was acquired from the Ticats in a blockbuster trade.
“He was in a Canadian scheme, it wasn’t like he was totally unaware of the waggle and the motion. He was very familiar with the mechanics of Canadian football,” Sherman said about spending training camp and the start of the season in Hamilton.
The poor performance won’t help Manziel’s stated goal of wanting to get back and play in the NFL.
“I think the most important focus for him right now to achieve any goal is to be a successful CFL quarterback. And if he’s focusing on that aspect, getting back into the National Football League, he’s probably not going to be as good as he should be here,” Sherman said.
“He just needs to focus on the best he can be in the CFL and then see how the cards play out from there.”
Sherman does feel there are quality signal callers in the CFL.
“There are some really good quarterbacks up here that can’t play in the National Football League because of height and different attributes. So there’s a lot of great quarterbacks in the CFL, he’s not there yet, he’s trying to get there. Hopefully, he will,” Sherman said of Manziel.
Ticats head coach June Jones had high praise for Manziel last December.
“I think [Manziel] would be the best player to ever play up here,” Jones told the CFL’s in-house podcast The Waggle. “He can throw it and he can run it like nobody has ever been able to do.”
“That was quite a comment by June,” Sherman said.
But the way the Als season is going, Montreal appears to need a player of that calibre to have any shot at success in 2018.