We have our first fumble of the Randy Ambrose era.
The league announced on Wednesday that Johnny Manziel, the Heisman-winning, former first-round NFL pick, will not be allowed to sign a contract with a team in 2017, but would for 2018 if he meets certain conditions and the Ticats will retain his rights until November 30, 2017.
This feels like the league trying to have its cake and eat it too. They are showing the fans that Manziel simply won’t be allowed to walk into the league given his checkered past, which includes a domestic violence charge, but at the same time are leaving the door open for him to join the league if he meets certain, unspecified to the public, parametres.
I get that the league is trying to be proactive in not just allowing anyone to play in the CFL, and I can even support it, especially in instances that involve domestic violence or violence of any kind. But this just delays everything and keeps this story in the news for at least another two months.
But maybe that is what the league wants.
This may be cynical of me, but by keeping this from reaching a conclusion, they keep their brand in the news because any time Johnny Manziel is brought up I am sure there will be plenty of news stories, especially from American outlets, talking about this over the next couple of days and the CFL will get some huge publicity out of it.
But cynicism aside, dragging this out further doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Manziel has not made headlines for anything besides wanting to make a pro football comeback since January 2016. That may not sound like a lot, and in the grand scheme of things it isn’t, but when the guy was a near constant in the news for some form of reckless behaviour or another for years, it says something that he has kept his nose clean for nearly two years.
I am not saying that Manziel deserves to play in the CFL, so please do not take it that way. And I am also not defending Manziel or his actions over the course of his young adult life, but either let the man play or don’t. What more can he do over the next two months that he hasn’t already shown over the last two years?
Also, the timeline for the Ticats, or the team his rights are traded to, to sign him seems off. Why Nov. 30? Why not give the team with his rights longer to reach a deal, like say the start of free agency in February? I am sure he would be signed prior to that, but why impose such a short window after the season ends on November 26 to get him inked to a contract? If you are going to extend this, why not give a team a little longer than four off-season days to get a deal done?
Most fans, myself included, want this whole mess to be over — and as a Ticats fan, I hope they trade his rights to another team and let them deal with this — and the CFL came oh-so-close to putting an end to this once and for all, but they extended it just a bit more for reasons I fail to comprehend.
When it comes to missteps, this isn’t the biggest one, but it is definitely the first instance since he became commissioner where I feel Randy Ambrose dropped the ball. Instead of being definitive like he has been on every other issue that has crossed his desk, he opted for the middle road approach. A firm decision would have been best.
But at least we have an end date, right?