The 2018 CFL newsmaker of the year: Johnny Manziel

While Johnny Manziel may not have made much by the way of news for his performance on the field – at least not in a good way – there’s little question the man generated some headlines in 2018.

From the will-he-or-won’t-he of his CFL courtship, to newly-invented hoops the league made him jump through, to his agent’s outlandish contract demands, Manziel was generating clicks before he even set foot in the country. His signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats was huge news, each day of training camp a veritable Johnny Watch.

Then the trade to Montreal, the four picks in his disastrous first start, some injuries. Chuckling on the sideline was a big story, as was not showing up to practice for a few days (but still recording his podcast.) Finally, a win and declaration of something akin to contentment with the CFL after the season.

Given all that, there’s little question Johnny Manziel is the 3DownNation newsmaker of the year.

Here’s at least one story from 11 of the 12 months, further evidence that 2018 was indeed The Year of Johnny Football.

Jan. 8: Johnny Manziel’s agent breaks silence in loudest possible way

Manziel’s agent Erik Burkhardt puts out a statement through an American football reporter that expresses frustration with the CFL’s neg list system and outlines his contract demands. It does not go over well. A sample:

“So that there will not be any ambiguity in regards to financial expectations, and so the public understands how seriously Johnny is considering this move, I will tell you that we believe ‘fair deal’ means on par with what Hamilton has paid their QB in recent years, despite not having much on-field success. If we cannot reach a deal with Hamilton by this date, we will turn our focus to several other professional options readily available to us.”

Feb 11: Johnny Manziel gives first interview in two years: ‘I was self-medicating with alcohol’

The Manziel redemption media tour begins with an interview on Good Morning America in which he acknowledges alcohol issues and says he’s been diagnosed with mental health issues. He’s also wearing a “Comeback SZN” hoodie.

“I was self-medicating with alcohol. That’s what I thought was making me happy, helping me get out that desperation to the point of where I felt that I had some sense of happiness. But at the end of the day, when you wake up the next day after a night like that, or after going on a trip like that, and you wake up the next day and that’s all gone and that liquid courage and that sense of euphoria that’s over you is all gone and you’re left staring at the ceiling by yourself and you’re back in that depression and back in that hole, that dark hole of sitting in a room by yourself being super depressed, thinking about all the mistakes you’ve made in your life. What did that get me? What did that get me except out of the NFL? Where did that get me, disgraced?”

March 27: Johnny Manziel says he’s ‘going to play in the CFL’ if an NFL deal fails to materialize

For the first time, Manziel says he’s going to play in the CFL if he can’t get another NFL opportunity. From that point on, the Johnny watch began in earnest.

“If something pops up, it pops up. And if not and I don’t get the opportunity to go back, I’m going to play in the CFL,” Manziel said after throwing in front of 32 NFL and some Canadian teams.

The-25-year-old has a contract offer from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who currently hold his negotiation list rights. Manziel was the quarterback for the Aggies pro day which was well covered by the media.

April 20: Johnny Manziel’s agent says there is “very real interest” from NFL teams after The Spring League

Manziel played two games in The Spring League, a showcase for players looking for a professional opportunity. The games are sloppy and Manziel’s team loses both their contests but he does show flashes of some of the athleticism that made him successful in college.

May 19: Johnny Manziel: ‘I’ve decided to sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’

Manziel’s decision to join the Ticats doesn’t come from the team or the league but via a video from Manziel’s Instagram account shot at the Canadian border. But after months, even years, of speculation, it’s finally happening.

“I’m here today to make a big announcement for my life. I’m formally signing in the CFL. I’ve decided to sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I’ll be up here for what looks like 2 years I’m getting back to playing ball that’s what it comes down to. it’s what I’ve missed doing,” Manziel said in a video posted to Twitter.

June 1: Manziel plays in first pre-season game with Ticats.

Manziel goes 9-of-11 for 80 yards, including a string of five straight completions, and carries the ball two times for 10 yards in roughly a quarter of play. The Ticats lost 36-18.

He would play in the team’s second pre-season game as well, a June 9 win over Montreal.

July 22: Johnny Manziel involved in five player swap between Alouettes and Ticats

After weeks of speculation regarding a potential deal, Manziel is dealt to the Alouettes as part of a deal that nets the Ticats two starters and two first-round draft picks. Every player in the deal is star-crossed: Rice gets released and ends up back in Hamilton while Westerman and Williams suffer season-ending injuries. Even Washington misses time.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have traded quarterback Johnny Manziel to the Montreal Alouettes along with offensive linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice in exchange for Canadian defensive end Jamaal Westerman, receiver Chris Williams and first round picks in 2020 and 2021.

The move nets the Alouettes a potential starting quarterback in Manziel, who was stuck behind Jeremiah Masoli in Hamilton while also shoring up their offensive line with Washington, an American who has started 91 games in his eight-year career, and Rice a national in his fifth season.

July 31: Finally: Alouettes name Johnny Manziel starting QB

Just nine days after the trade, Manziel is named the Alouetttes starting quarterback by Montreal head coach Mike Sherman – a decision Manziel’s agent calls insane.

“We didn’t trade for Johnny to have him sit on the bench, so obviously, Johnny’s come over here to get reps and become the best player he can become, and we stated that process today,” said Sherman.

Aug. 3: Manziel throws four interceptions in his debut and gets roasted by Twitter

Johnny’s first start – against his old team no less – does not go well. He throws four interceptions, including on his second-ever pass, and the Alouettes get crushed. Social media, as it is wont to do, has a field day.

That said, the game becomes the highest-ever rated CFL game on ESPN.

September 13 : Johnny Manziel says he’s frustrated by lack of playing time

After Manziel suffered an injury in a game against Ottawa, the Alouettes show some signs of life under back up Antonio Pipkin and he keeps the job after Johnny returns to action. That leads Manziel to express frustration over playing time and maybe, just maybe, smirk on the sideline and Pipkin struggles in his next start.

“If the club had faith in me, I feel like I would be the guy, I feel like I would’ve been the guy after I came back from the concussion,” Manziel said. “That hasn’t happened, so I need to continue to get out here. And it’s the hardest part about missing practice, I need these reps to try to leave as little doubt as possible in my ability to play.”

Manziel was at practice for the first time this week after being sidelined by a flu bug that required IVs to replace fluids Tuesday and Wednesday.

Oct. 20: Manziel gets his first CFL win… almost

The Alouettes almost pull off a miracle comeback against the Argos for Manziel’s first career CFL win but fall short when a Hail Mary goes incomplete. The pass is thrown by Pipkin, who replaces Manziel for the game’s last play. Manziel runs off the field immediately after the game without shaking hands.

Manziel was pulled on the last play of the game as he tried to stage a desperate, last-minute comeback. Instead of letting Manziel finish the game, head coach Mike Sherman inserted Antonio Pipkin – who apparently has a stronger arm – to throw a Hail Mary. Pipken was sacked, cementing the Alouette loss. It’s their eighth straight.

Manziel left the field immediately after the final play instead of sticking around to shake hands as players usually do.

October 24: Johnny Manziel ‘hated’ in Alouettes locker room: report

A TVA reporter goes on French-language television and says Manziel is “hated” in the locker room, touching off yet another controversy. Manziel denies it, as do several of his Alouettes teammates.

According to TVA Sports reporter Charles-Antoine Sinotte, quarterback Johnny Manziel is not well liked by his Montreal Alouettes teammates.

On his show, Sinotte divulges that he has sources telling him Manziel is “hated” in the locker room and some current Alouettes players don’t want the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner to return in 2019.

Nov. 11: Manziel says he’s happy in Montreal

After a tough first season in which he would win just two of his eight starts and throw seven interceptions against just five touchdowns, Manziel said he was nonetheless happy to be back.

“I’m happy here right now. Football probably got to a point in the past for me where it was about money and I’m comfortable right now. I’m comfortable with a great group of teammates, I’m comfortable in a great city like Montreal,” Manziel told reporters during the Alouettes’ season-ending media availability.

“I’m happy being back on the field and I don’t know if that would be the situation in another league. But I’m happy with where I’m at and what’s going on and the opportunity to compete and play ball.”

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