Johnny Manziel didn’t see any playing time in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ season opener, but his coach believes Manziel on his way back to the NFL.
Manziel went to the CFL to try to get back in the NFL, a door that has been closed to him since he partied his way out of the league with the Cleveland Browns. The former Heisman Trophy winner is certainly fascinating and let’s be honest: We’d all watch if he somehow made it back.
Tiger-Cats coach June Jones believes he’s on that path. It’s fair to be skeptical of Jones’ words — he’s not going to trash Manziel, who signed with the team this spring — what the former Atlanta Falcons coach had to say was interesting.
Manziel has been “a good teammate”
Jones told ESPN.com’s David Newton that Manziel has been impressive, and that he should be in the NFL.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised the last three weeks what a good teammate he is, how smart he is, how he sees the game,” Jones said. “He should be playing in the National Football League, and I believe he will when he gets through with us.”
If Jones believes Manziel should be in the NFL, why didn’t he play at all in the opener? Manziel is stuck behind starter Jeremiah Masoli, the former Oregon Duck who threw for 3,177 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Apparently he hasn’t earned playing time ahead of Masoli yet.
But we’ll take Jones’ word for it that Manziel has been a model player so far.
Manziel’s coach thinks it will take two years for NFL return
Jones told ESPN.com he thinks it’ll take Manziel two years to make it back to the NFL because they’re “waiting to see that he’s taken care of his off-the-field problems.” Manziel is only 25 years old, so if Jones ends up being right, that’s not the worst thing.
It’s also best to not get too excited. There has been no real sign over the past few years that any team is interested. Just because some University of San Diego receivers asked him to throw at a pro day and NFL teams happened to be there, that doesn’t mean the NFL wants Manziel back. Though, because it’s Manziel, that workout drew a collective freakout from the media.
But, again, it’s a good story. Jones probably isn’t lying that Manziel has been on his best behavior (“He’s humble,” Jones told ESPN.com. “He’s growing up every day.”), but Manziel still needs to show something on the field. Teams aren’t going through the trouble for the undisciplined, inconsistent quarterback we saw with the Browns.
What’s Manziel’s next step in CFL?
To get that chance, Manziel needs to rise on the depth chart. He has been away from football since the end of the 2015 season, so it’s not surprising it’s taking some time. Manziel had his moments in the preseason. He was 12-of-20 for 88 yards and a touchdown in the preseason finale. Manziel will have to impress in regular-season games, and based on Jones’ praise, his chance will come at some point this season.
Just because Manziel is playing in the CFL doesn’t mean the NFL will open its doors for him. But he has to start somewhere, and based on what his coach says, it has all been smooth sailing so far.
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