By Dastan Haghnazari
Johnny Football has been on “break” from the NFL. Since his last game with the Browns, he made himself into not only a better athlete but also better person. It’s #ComebackSZN as Manziel affectionately refers to as his attempt to rejoin the NFL. As a fan of Manziel at A&M and a Ohio native, Manziel seemed liked the savior Cleveland needed. In the Super Bowl Era, the Browns have never been a good team, but they came closest to their best during Manziel’s reign. Johnny Football was given a talent from above that has yet to be matched by any college player. Johnny is the only player to receive the Heisman Trophy as a Freshman and his impressive ability to make plays out of thin-air is unreal. Also his physical speed, strength, and decision-making were amazing to watch. After the Browns drafted the best quarterback to come out of college, everything fell apart in the life of Manziel.
Manziel’s alcohol and drug problem overshadowed his fantastic (relative) level of play in the NFL. He retained his physical attributes, but the Browns organization failed him as a player and a person. Manziel was never given the system necessary to run an NFL team. He had a weak receiving core, poor protection from the o-line, running backs that couldn’t relieve pressure, and a defense that couldn’t hold its own. Manziel was a victim of the Browns poor preparation for an all-time great, but this was not the worst of his problems. His off-field problems raised concern within Cleveland’s staff but instead of supporting their first-round pick, they benched him in favor of a terrible backup player. Any of Manziel’s fantasy owners knew that whenever he played, he was one of the best options to start.
During Manziel’s tenure with the Cleveland Browns, he had a completion percentage of 57.0%. At first glance, this number may not seem too impressive, but for a dual-threat quarterback placed onto a team with poor protection and receivers, Manziel does a fantastic job of rebooting the Cleveland offense. Manziel’s completion percentage is better than legends including Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, Otto Graham, Doug Flutie, Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw, and many other Hall of Fame players. In 2015, Manziel threw for a total of 1500 yards; yes, a small number for any starting quarterback, but Johnny Manziel only started for six games and got in three more within the final minutes of a game. If Manziel were to play a full season as a starter that year, he would obtain an estimation of 4000+ yards of total offense and 19 touchdowns, unprecedented numbers for a Browns quarterback. If Manziel were to throw for this amount of yards that season, he would’ve ranked 13th in the league, just behind Russell Wilson… but he was never given the opportunity.
Johnny Football found himself in free agency the following year, where a CFL team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (redundant yes, tigers are cats), offered him a contract. Manziel has quietly been anticipating an NFL return, and there are many teams that could use his new love for football and his natural greatness. There are so many teams that lack a solid starting quarterback where Manziel could step in and save the team.
Upon the retirement of future Hall of Famer Carson Palmer, the Cardinals have Blaine Gabbert as their starting quarterback per the huddle. Gabbert has established himself as a below average quarterback, with an 11-34 record overall. Arizona also provides a monster of a running back in David Johnson, and a strong receiving core led by veteran Larry Fitzgerald. Manziel’s explosive, aggressive play style would revitalize Arizona’s relatively slow passing offense and bring a scrambling element that the aging Palmer couldn’t provide.
The Broncos are currently lacking at the quarterback position and are trying to decide which of their three quarterbacks fit best within their system. For years Denver has run a very simple offense created for pure athletes to simply outperform the opposing team. Demaryius Thomas and Peyton Manning led the charge with a large group of hard-nosed running backs to take off pressure, but the Broncos have been in quarterback hell since Manning’s retirement. Johnny Manziel fulfills the quarterback role that could be the centerpiece of Denver’s offense, and he combines the facets of Siemian’s, Lynch’s, and Osweiler’s game that Denver likes and adds a better rushing game to top it off.
There are two other teams that could utilize Manziel’s abilities: the Chiefs and Browns. The Chiefs only have one quarterback currently on their roster and could use a backup. The Brown’s pitch to Manziel would have to include an apology, but it would put him in a situation to prove himself. The Brown’s are slowly building a better team but sit on over 112 million in unused cap-space. If the Browns were to push for Manziel, he wouldn’t receive a large sum of money, but they could make some more signings to better his surrounding players. The Browns are clearly a forgiving franchise, as we saw them add Josh Gordon back to their roster after all of his off field troubles over the years.
Manziel’s free agency will hopefully end soon with a return to an NFL franchise. The position in today’s NFL is readily filled with access to many good quarterbacks. In the following offseason, Manziel will need to prove to teams that he is the same player that he was at A&M and that his party lifestyle outside life will no longer affect his NFL career.