THE COMEBACK?

Johnny Manziel has a great opportunity to rebuild his image in the Canadian Football League - if he takes it seriously

Johnny Manziel's time in a Browns uniform did not go well. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It might not be the opportunity he wanted. But for Johnny Manziel, it is the chance he needs.

The former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner is going to attempt to reboot his career North of the border. Manziel signed a two-year deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

While his new coach says he will have to beat out Jeremiah Masoli, odds are June Jones wants Manziel to start at some point, preferably sooner rather than later.

Manziel’s deal is for two years, and it really is the perfect opportunity. If he goes to Canada and dominates, he would only be 27 at the end of his contract and might spark NFL interest. If he fails? The NFL has not been an option recently and would not be in 2020. It’s also possible he just plays at a quality level and decides to stick around and make a nice career for himself in Canada.

Manziel certainly has the talent and skill set to be successful in the CFL. The league has a wider and longer field, three downs and receivers get a running start, which puts a premium on a quick passing game and mobility for a quarterback. His lack of height will not be the hindrance it was in the NFL, because the passing lanes are more open. It is a fun, exciting brand of football, and a Manziel playing at his best would be fun to watch.

But what will make Manziel succeed or fail will be the problem he has had since he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2014: a willingness to put in the work to learn his craft. Manziel always had it easy at Texas A&M. He was able to get by on talent alone. But many players making the jump to the NFL find out that’s not enough at the next level. Some adjust and improve. Others fall by the wayside. That was Manziel.

If Manziel thinks he can just show up and be Johnny Football, he will fail. The CFL has a lot of talented players, many with NFL experience. It is a different game, and learning it is not a given. Throw in all the off-field escapades, and he has a big hill to climb.

He is saying all the right things, but he did that before the NFL Draft, too, and we know how that turned out.

At his best, Manziel was one of the most dynamic college football players of the last 10 years. At his worst, he was a TMZ magnet and an ineffective quarterback. It would be great for all parties if he could succeed. It would raise interest in the CFL in the States, especially among Aggies. Manziel would also find that Canadians embrace their stars, and success there would help rebuild his image. If he truly embraces it all and puts in the effort, he could make himself relevant as a football player again.

Manziel is getting another chance, even if it is not the one he wanted. Here is hoping he makes the most of it.

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome