Johnny Manziel is set to make his debut as a starting quarterback in the Canadian Football League. The Montreal Alouettes have announced Manziel as the starter for their upcoming match up with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this Friday, August 3rd. It’s quite the match-up, between the team that brought Manziel into the CFL & the team they traded him to.
It has been an interesting journey for Manziel and the league getting to this point. Last pre-season people were speculating about Johnny Football heading north but not knowing where he would land (including me here speculating on a link with Toronto: http://www.nflgirluk.com/2017/03/06/could-johnny-football-head-north/
A move into the league did not come to pass in 2017, but there was plenty of buzz about him being on the CFL negotiation lists. Some fans wondered how all this fitted with the CFL declaring it was strengthening its domestic abuse policies.
The CFL stated it was prepared to approve a contract for Manziel for the 2018 season provided one was negotiated and he continued to meet a number of conditions set by the league. The league then advised him and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats it would approve and register a contract but he must keep meeting the conditions to maintain his eligibility. The conditions are not publicly known.
It is fair to say that some of the fans in Hamilton were excited to see him pull on the number 2 for their team. Some wanted him to be starting instead of the incumbent Jeremiah Masoli. Masoli however had other ideas, almost breaking the CFL record for most consecutive games with 300+ yards passing. Hamilton have stuck by their starter, trading Manziel to Montreal even when Masoli recently had a dip in form and failed to throw a touchdown for two games in a row.
After the trade The Ti-Cats organisation were left offering $100 gift cards for the team store for anybody that bought a Manziel Ti-cats jersey. Whilst at the other end of the spectrum the Alouettes are busy trumpeting Manziel’s arrival: https://www.montrealalouettes.com/2018/07/30/vendredi-3-aout-alouettes-vs-ticats-5-raisons-dy-assister/
The fact that the Als took him suggested that Montreal were investing for Manziel to start. This idea was only heightened when as part of the deal the Als also added offensive linemen Tony Washington and Landon Rice before acquiring receiver Adarius Bowman. Montreal’s O has been anaemic and clearly Head Coach Mike Sherman and GM Kavis Reed have decided they needed to do something now to stop the rot following a 3-15 2017 season and a 1-5 start this year.
Lots of people with only a passing interest in the CFL will be interested to see how this plays out. One suspects the league can expect a bigger than usual audience from south of the border this weekend. I’ve heard it said this a no-win situation for the league. If Johnny does badly it’s because he was never that good, but if he does well then it’s because it’s a soft league the theory goes.
I am not convinced. If Manziel finds redemption then it might encourage other fringe players to head north who wouldn’t have before and that would be good for the league. If on the other hand he doesn’t go well but has brought in extra viewers, then maybe, just maybe some of them will find they love the 3 down game and stay – even small percentage increases can help here.
The move will certainly generate publicity. On these shores ‘American Football’ tends to mean the NFL, but even the British press are running this story. It may be a Manziel story, but even so it is still raising awareness of the CFL: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/jul/31/johnny-manziel-starting-cfl-montreal-alouettes
I’m guessing the Hamilton D will be fired up for this game. They’ve seen Johnny in practice and now they get to go against him in a live game. Maybe it will be billed as Manziel v Masoli. If it is, I wouldn’t bet against Masoli coming out of his slump. Luke Tasker should be back for the Ti-Cats for this one & that may just help Masoli out of his slump and start the O start purring once more.
This is definitely what a vociferous section of Als fans wanted. Incumbent starter Vernon Adams Jr completed 15-of-28 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown & rushed for 72 yards on eight carries to go with a touchdown in a loss to the Edmonton last week and ‘”We want Johnny” could be heard in the stands. Now those vociferous fans are getting their wish.
As Mattew Cauz noted on cfl.ca recently the Alouettes have had a quarterbacking carousel since the retirement of Anthony Calvillo five years ago: https://www.cfl.ca/2018/07/24/cauz-can-manziel-stop-alouette-quarterback-carousel/
Is Manziel the answer to that merry-go-round for the Als? Whether people are pro or anti Manziel I think everyone is fascinated to see how this will play out. As ever there is only one place we’ll truly get to know how this one goes – on the field, and as ever it’s going to be a lot of fun watching it all unfold.
A note for British fans – this one is set to be shown on BT Sport/ESPN from 12:30 am onward on the morning of Saturday 4th August.
Image originally from the Chicagotribune.com