Johnny Manziel views the CFL as a route to an NFL return but a number of personnel men have their doubts about his ability to get back to the four-down league.
Ricky Ray, Jeff Garcia and Doug Flutie, who many have compared Manziel to because of similar size and styles on the field, are the most recent quarterbacks to make the jump from the CFL to the NFL. All using multiple prolific seasons to even be brought in by NFL teams. Exactly the chance Manziel craves.
As the Heisman Trophy winner and former first-round NFL pick begins his eagerly anticipated CFL career as a starting quarterback, what do talent evaluators south of the border want to see from Manziel?
“Obviously, Manziel has to take care of his off-field stuff. On the field, he needs to be accurate, show arm strength, playmaking ability, finish drives and score points,” one NFL scout said.
Added another: “Need to see that he’s a leader on and off the field, handle the locker room, be a pro’s pro and take charge. Get the team to rally around him and turn them around.”
The Alouettes have the worst record in the league at 1-5 and rank last in points scored (92), net offence (1,523 yards) and sacks allowed (23). Manziel’s knack for scrambling and making plays on the run could infuse energy into what’s been a mostly lacklustre offence. If the 25-year-old signal caller can lead the Als to newfound and consistent offensive success it would go a long way in the minds of NFL franchises.
But the off-field issues that led to Manziel’s banishment from the NFL are still a concern. Manziel partied hard and admitted he didn’t put in the required work to succeed after the Cleveland Browns drafted him 22nd overall in 2014 to be the future of the franchise. The way Manziel left the NFL has not been forgotten.
“I don’t want to see anything from him,” an NFL executive said. “I didn’t think he was that good at the NFL level. If he loves football he should hope to play in the CFL and stay there forever.”
Manziel had pedestrian numbers in eight NFL starts going 2-6 while passing for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns, seven interceptions and recording a 74.4 passer rating. He sat out the last game of the 2015 regular season in Cleveland, but Manziel was actually in Las Vegas. The Browns released Manziel in March 2016 and more than two years after he’s a professional starting quarterback again.
“Some teams may keep it alive but pretty sure most have thrown in the towel on him,” another NFL personnel man said.
Manziel must be more consistent and last longer the last Heisman Trophy winner to start at quarterback for Montreal, Troy Smith in 2013. A little over two months after signing with the Alouettes, Smith started and beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 36-5. He went 2-1 to finish that season but after going 1-5 the following year, Smith was released. That was the end of Smith’s football career.
The hype and attention around Manziel is going to become bigger as he steps into the starting spotlight. How Johnny Football deals with the increased focus and performs under the bright lights again will show NFL people whether he even deserves another NFL opportunity.