Tracy Ham. Mike Pringle. Anthony Calvillo.
Since their reboot in 1996, the Montreal Alouettes have had three legitimate faces of the franchise. I’m talking about players that the team not only built the on-field product around, but also the marketing strategy. Since the retirement of Calvillo, the Als have essentially been faceless, with no one star standing out between the lines or in marketing efforts. Without this galvanizing talent and personality, Quebec football fans are struggling to find the motivation to tune in or attend football games on a regular basis.
With Mike Sherman now installed as the head coach, the focus has shifted once again to finding a quarterback who can light up the scoreboard and energize the fan base. Dare I utter the name of Johnny Football?
Indeed, Johnny Manziel’s rights belong to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but he hasn’t signed a contract. And guess who recruited Manziel to Texas A&M? That’s right. Coach Sherman had Manziel as a redshirt freshman, so there’s some positive history there. Seeing as Johnny could use as many positive role models and familiar faces around him to keep him straight, I’m betting he’d be open to playing in Montreal.
I’m not saying Manziel would dominate the CFL, or even be able to keep himself out of trouble. After all, Montreal is THE city in the league if you’re looking to get yourself in trouble (and a have a whole lot of fun along the way). But his talent and swagger are intriguing, particularly for a franchise that’s incredibly starved for offensive positivity.
The men I led off this piece with all have one thing in common – they are class personified, both on and off the field. Manziel doesn’t exactly exude those stately qualities. But maybe he’s the athlete that the league with an ageing fan demographic and the older Alouettes both desperately need at the moment.
The thing is, Hamilton hasn’t committed to any quarterback for the long haul and they clearly have been eyeing Manziel for a while now. So any price that Montreal would have to pay would likely be steep. Then again, whatever the Als would have to give up could probably be replenished eventually via Sherman’s NCAA roots and contacts.
Another listless 3-15 season is not an option for the Alouettes. They need a new face of the franchise and they need it now. Sure, the team won’t fold if they don’t make the playoffs once again. But you can bet that the fan base will further erode ever so slightly if boredom is the theme in 2018.
So am I advocating for Montreal to make a pitch for Manziel? You betcha. While he doesn’t speak French, the euphoria and excitement would begin the moment he would arrive at Trudeau Airport. Think half the reception that Didier Drogba got, which is still pretty damn good.
Just picture his first words as a bunch of microphones would be aggressively shoved into his face: I’m just a small-town kid from Kerrville, Texas.
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