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

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome