The Spring League is Manziel’s Hail Mary for the NFL

There was a brief moment on Wednesday when it looked like quarterback Johnny Manziel was moving on to a fledgeling football entity called The Spring League and finally putting an end to the endless, will-he-or-won’t-he saga that is, for many Ticats fans, long past its expiration date.

No such luck.

Manziel’s extremely well-documented “Comeback SZN” will indeed get its start in The Spring League, which charges players $350 to apply to play – yes, apply – while dangling the (extremely) remote possibility of a lucrative pro career. It had its inaugural season in 2017, and will play a four-game season in Austin, Texas from March 28 to April 15 this year. Manziel is from nearby Tyler and played his college football at Texas A&M and just single-handly vaulted The Spring League into relevance. Did they make him pay the $350?

Players, needless to say, do not get paid. But what they do get is one more desperate attempt to showcase their talent in front of NFL scouts whose job it is to unearth that diamond in the rough by any means necessary. It’s a two-week long Hail Mary.

Which makes it perfect for Manziel, who is doing absolutely everything he can to get one final shot at the NFL. This week has been the official start of the Comeback SZN Media Redemption Tour which has featured interviews on Good Morning America and a Barstool Sports podcast and featured an acknowledgement of mental health issues, poor judgment and some light apologizing.

If Manziel can show he’s back on the straight-and-narrow, then demonstrate decent football skills in The Spring League, perhaps he can parlay that into an invite to an NFL training camp or, hope against hope, an actual contract offer. The blueprint, such as it is, isn’t hard to follow.

There are risks, of course. An injury in what amounts to an unpaid internship would be catastrophic, though likely not as bad as a woeful performance against players who have, quite literally, paid for the privilege to be there. The media circus will unquestionably follow him, as it always does, demonstrating yet again what a colossal distraction Manziel will be for anyone that signs him (including the Ticats, by the way.)

But it only takes one NFL owner hell-bent on selling tickets or a general manager who likes to see his face on ESPN – Manziel generates attention like few forces in the sporting universe – to get a deal done. Like everyone else in The Spring League, what does he really have to lose?

The alternative is, of course, committing himself to two years in the CFL and that is, at least for now, an even less attractive alternative than The Spring League. The quality of football, coaching and – this is new – even they pay is vastly superior in the CFL but the time commitment is not ideal. Nor likely the idea of sitting on the bench and having to actually earn a starting job.

But that doesn’t mean the Ticats are done with Manziel.

The team put out a statement shortly after the news emerged (on Twitter of course) of Manziel’s plans that wished him well, the kind of obtuse sentiment that led some to believe the team was issuing a don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-in-behind decree. Not so vice president of football operations Kent Austin clarified in an interview with TSN1150.

“We understand that for Johnny, this is the next opportunity for him to put on the uniform, put on a helmet and play the game that he loves. It’s just a couple of exhibition games so we wish him well in that endeavour,” Austin said. “We’ll continue to monitor that, scout it, watch it like everybody else and continue to have an open dialogue with him and his agent going forward.”

Indeed, there’s nothing here that precludes Manziel from playing with the Ticats in 2018. Off-season workouts don’t take place until late April and rookie camps don’t open until May 16 so the timing still works. If anything, the team will get another chance to evaluate where Manziel is physically and mentally while holding the trump card of his CFL rights.

Hamilton is already well set up for the season without Manziel. They have a proven starter in Jeremiah Masoli and two backups with some CFL experience in Vernon Adams and Bryant Moniz. All have some connection to their head coach. If Johnny doesn’t show, they’ll be just fine.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1526 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

48 Comments on The Spring League is Manziel’s Hail Mary for the NFL

  1. Good luck, Johnny !! I think he needs some growing up. But, nothing but positive vibes…

  2. I wish Manziel would offer some praise to the CFL even if it’s insincere. His lack of any positive comments about the CFL, it’s players or Canada is itself disrespectful and as such, I’d rather he’d not get an opportunity from the CFL at all. Good riddens.

  3. So when he crashes and burns in this spring league the cats can finally say good riddance to this man !

  4. Tinhead 296 // February 14, 2018 at 8:10 pm //

    Hopefully this is the end of all this soap opera BS.
    Just crash and burn Manziel, or ride off into the sunset.
    Good riddance.

  5. When it initially seemed a possibility that Manziel could come to Canada I was excited as I was a big fan when he was in college. I actually continued to pull for him in Cleveland. However, I have grown tired of his bull crap. He has shown the CFL and the Ti-Cats no respect at all. Additionally, his Agent is dumber than a bag of footballs. Neither have shown any respect or class.

    I don’t want a player that believes he is doing the team a favour just to talk to them. I actually don’t want him to sign with Hamilton now. Good luck in the Spring League – better hope they create Summer, Fall and Winter Leagues too.

    • Reality bites. He is doing the team a favour. He proved it by selling out his hoodie stock. If 1% of his 1,800,000 twitter followers bought a $190 cats jersey I see on their website that would be $3,400,000 In just two years Texas [email protected] paid for a 500M USD stadium upgrade on the extra revenue MR. Football produced. Sex, and fame sell. The LA Galaxy did the exact same thing by overpaying for mediocre Fifa football player David Beckham but made it all back with ticket sales and more. Now the entire MLS does that and TFC is 3rd on the MLS rich list by overpaying for 3 such players known as Designated Players or DP’s which is off Cap.

  6. Actually his short tenure in the spring league – 2 games – will be a excellent time to see where he is at football wise for any CFL team that may be interested in signing or trading for his rights. If he bombs then nothing will happen with the CFL or NFL. If he plays lights out he may get another NFL shot or he can still sign a CFL deal if interest is still there. Time will tell.

  7. someone needs to do a graphic of austins lips firmly attached to manziels ass. I’m a ti-cat fan but I can’t stand either one of them any more

  8. If these guys are paying to play, they must be pretty sad sack players – he could be in danger if his offensive line is 3rd rate or he could play some food football but against what could be sub par competition.

  9. Wrong Drew…Masoli is not proven. Pro football is full of QBs in this situation some went ahead and built on their success and others didnt.

    no matter what anyone says you just cant know until he proves last year wasnt an aberation.

    Am I worried that he could backslide..a little

    • Dave. If Manziel is signed by Hamilton they know he has talent and as much as the sports media including 3 down nation believe he will be on sidelines for min of 1.5 years carrying a clipboard for Masoli that willnot happen. Nor will the cfl want that to happen.
      Too much money involved for all the teams if Manziel is starting. Not saying first couple of games but within 3. I see mazoli helping Manziel learn the game and Masoli picking up from Manziel talent. They will respect and work well together.

    • Not sure why there would be a huge concern – though you are right that until he has an extended time as starter, it could go either way.

      Keep in mind that he was stuck in the Austin pass happy offense where because of his previous year gaffes, Austin refused to bench Mathews and play Masoli. I seem to recall one start before the playoffs then beating the Argos. During the EDF, up until the 90+ yard completion to Ellingson, Masoli had more yards than Burris put up.

      With eight starts the following year, still in the Austin offense – he was 0.500 including taking away the completion string record from Maas in the win against Edmonton.

      New HC that has a balanced attack who is working with him on a limited playbook seems to have resulted in fewer INTs. Lots that can be tweaked/improved but how much can one expect from the interim HC that only was with the team three weeks before taking over?

  10. First compliments to drew for the article. He hit a lot of the high points. Johnny Manziel only has to show case his potential. In other words show he can still play after 2 year absence. As drew said he just made a lot of money for the spring league by signing up. He will do the same in cfl if he does not get picked up by nfl. The nfl would like to see a committed changed Manziel. 2 games may not be enough so he could be cfl bound to show his commitment to football which would be the 2018 season. I do want him to do well and be signed by nfl team.

    • As there are comments about talent not being the issue plus the NFL teams have had a lot of time to work out Manziel … the question is – what about the spring league is more convincing than an NFL team working him out?

      Time will tell … but so far, if NFL teams aren’t concerned about the talent – it is not clear to me that the spring league provides enough.

  11. Any who think that the NFL will just have to see his potential in 2 games are as delusional as is Manziel.

    He will be viewed for why he’s doing this over the CFL – as someone who has an almost narcissistic view of himself – and who’s looking for an NFL gig with the least effort.

    • fannotacoach // February 17, 2018 at 12:11 am //

      It’s two weeks, four games. Austin said a “couple” but he meant few.

    • FoodieFoodnerd // February 17, 2018 at 2:57 am //

      “Almost” narcissistic view of himself??

      This is exactly what he wants, only that least amount of effort will also apply to his study and practice habits if a team from either league is foolish enough to fall for his male bovine feces yet again.

      Magically cure his multiple substance addictions, add a good 10-15 years to his maturity, instill a work ethic and some character, give him 2″ – 4″ in height, bulk up 40 lbs of muscle, clone Mike Evans to catch his wild jump balls and double his speed to that of pro level linebackers.

      He still has never learned even a high school or college level playbook, much less a professional one.

      That’s the other primary reason he’d rather pay $350 than earn $150K to dupe his way back into more NFL money.

  12. Dave naylor hit it on the head today Johnny Manziel sees himself as starting quarterback not backup. The nfl team that signs Manziel would have to know that he would be in line for the starter role. Reason being the tremendous amount of press/ media coverage will be overwhelming. The fans won’t take long to start up the “Johnny” call.
    More money to have him play and do well as a comeback story. The same will happen here in cfl if Hamilton. June Jones already knows his talent and sees him as a starter in his run and shoot offence. There won’t be anyone better than Manziel as he came from that system. He will pick up the cfl nuances very quickly. One day the sports media who believe otherwise should explain to us why. They just mention others had some difficulty. However they did not come up into a run and shoot offence where Johnny football became a legend playing same

    • If talent is not an issue where JM in a run and shoot offense brings the legendary success – why haven’t any losing NFL teams signed him to be an automatic star in their run & shoot, under rules he already knows?

      Or does it go back to the “talent is not the concern”?

      • Yes off field issues which are being address in the media.

        • Then the question is will any NFL teams see the short spring league schedule as proof enough that the off field issues are over and done with.

          I suspect part of the reason other coaches suggested the CFL was that eighteen games gives more proof.

          Or maybe a bottom tier NFL team will figure out that building a run & shoot offense around Manziel is a reasonable bet.

          Time will tell.

  13. Colossal waste of time, Drew!
    How about stories focusing on the players who ACTUALLY WANT TO BE HERE!
    Isn’t that your job?

    Manziel is a media circus clown – why are you still degrading this fine web site with stories about him?

  14. Hey Drew, how about those Patriots? Think Gronk will retire? The Butler should have done it but didn’t (have the chance), eh?

  15. until @cfl salaries rise to equal @nfl salaries people stop being insulted when players in a hi injury sport prefer @nflpa ..Will you call the @ohiou Canadian QB a traitor or a hail mary if he takes a UDFA contract from @bengals nearby @athensohio ? No, you will call him a hero

  16. on the humility and respect issue. Manz is showing humility by admitting his mistakes on tv and seeking treatment.Terry Bradshaw suffers from depression and wishes he had spoken up about it during playing days. Top Fifa football goal keeper Tim Howard has Tourette Syndrome. Manziel is has said very little about the CFL other than his agent saying he respects June Jones and Austin. Respect is a two way street. Why should he compliment the CFL when he has been attacked by Drew and CFL fans instantly when the leak of his tryout came out as arrogant, loser, girl beater, washed up, alcoholic etc. What would you do if you were attacked like this before you could even say anything? The fact he has not lashed back and been mostly silent speaks volumes of his maturity.

    • Gee one would think one would kind of mention mental health issues or investigate that when ACTUALLY HAVING A NFL career. Now MAGICALLY he he has had revelation and sought out mental health diagnosis this past year , funny how he mentions that NOW that he has been told 500k a year is NOT going to happen !!! Jonny is a pathetic attention seeking walking human cancer, that just once and forever nees to go away , I am certain the diagnosis was done by some reputable GENIUS LIKE T.v’S doctor Phil, lol …….

      • FoodieFoodnerd // February 17, 2018 at 3:29 am //

        Johnny Footnote used that “lost in the sauce” during his last so-called apology and promises he’s truly changed this time, as in past tense, no longer.

        Now he’s shilling it as a current brag along with his idiotic comeback “szn” (sic) crap, as another raised middle finger to anyone foolish enough to think he even needed to change.

        That he’d rather pay $350 than earn $150,000 should be a glaring red flag that he still wants everything handed to him, and he has zero intention of staying on course longer than two weeks.

  17. A great way for one of these football tourists in the spring league to catch the attention of an NFL scout would be to separate Manzeil’s head from his body. And the bonus would be we would have to hear about Manziel anymore…but then what would Drew have to write about.

  18. Can we get back to talking about players that are actually in the league?

    • Breeze its no different than talking about any player on the neg list or a free agent cats are considering but not yet signed. Lets talk about RG3 he is still on the neg list. He must be retiring because the NFL stands for Not For Long as new defensive coach Jerry Glanville quipped years ago in the 90’s

  19. Bleeding Green // February 15, 2018 at 10:10 am //

    Being an alcoholic & having mental health issues, especially at young a young age, is embarrassing and hard to talk about. Though he hasn’t admitted the alcoholism or isn’t ready to (I believe he is but that’s another issue) I do agree with you. 3Down and the media in general has done nothing but drag his name through the mud and that has to be hard on a young guy. I would have gone mental by now, or at least fallen off the wagon. I never saw it from his perspective. Great comment Benedict.

  20. The dumbest thing Manziel has said and I’m paraphrasing – I realize that I was an arrogant, disrespectful, immature jerk before – without realizing that he is still an arrogant, disrespectful, immature jerk.

    • I am sorry he treated you like that. You must have some sort of personal experience with Mr. Manziel that was bad. One of his Browns team mates Andrew Hawkins now with ESPN said a few days ago that Manziel is such a great guy he calls his 5 year old son every year on his birthday and they have not been team mates since 2014. Kyle Shanahan coach of 49ers said as his OC Manziel was humble, did everything he was told to do, and never acted like he new it all. That was in a 2016 interview with CBS sports line. Go ahead google it. LEt us know how and when Mr. Manziel was a jerk to you because I can’t find anything like that.

  21. AS I currently am in the USA Jonnyb football has Zero interest in the CFL unless it get him a NFL shotm in a year or less,he plainly has said its NFL or bust form him /// no mention ever of CFL in his vocabulary when talking to media down here. Jonny is a pathetic JOKE!!!! He is trying to play ANY card to rekindle interest and sympathy!!!! What is he going to try next —– I had a misdiagnosed brain tumor that caused my mental health issues , that caused me yatta yatta yatta ——–. He is covering his skanky ass already by doing the if I STAY on my meds gig, ever notice anything related to Jonny Football always centers around medication //substances —it was not my fault —- aliens abducted me thinking in his pathetic twisted mind, and not his lack of character and saying look no matter what the circumstances I WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN ACTIONS !!! What a total unreformed / unrepentant addict still caught up in finding excuses for himself. With ANY luck at all, some wanna be NFLer like him will hammer him so hard in the spring league he wont wake up for a month and it will be done !!! already ,

    • I am sure everyone that reads the above knows who has a “twisted pathetic mind” on this site.

      • Don’t kid yourself, John2. Most of us are thinking along the same lines as getfit51. As an ex-linebacker, I would love to introduce Manzeil to the turf with extreme malice. He’s the kind of prima donna who inspires his own left tackle to leave just a little bit more room than necessary in the gap.

        • He is and always will be a team player. You will hqve to wait to get the reaction of his team mates. I am sure with his opening up to his issues publically he will be well respected and most will want to be part of the. Comeback story.

  22. Agreed. Having seen first hand struggles with mental health I have nothing but good wishesforJM.
    However I wonder about the advice he receives from his handlers/ agent. Public persona in sports is usually well sculpted. Where is the public service/anti violence against women etc media stuff ? You would think it would go a long way to creating a poisitive image and making teams feel more confident in rolling the dice on him

  23. getfit51. Until the CFL pays the same as the NFL it will be everybody’s goal to get to the nfl including this guy:
    Ohio University roster 12 Nathan Rourke Height: 6-2 Weight: 209 Year: Sophomore Hometown: Oakville, Ontario High School: Fort Scott CC
    Position: QB Winner of the Bahamas bowl 2018
    What will you and Drew say if he is drafted #1 in Cana draft by Montreal but accepts a UDFA contract from Bengals near his college? Will you guys call him a traitor, skanky, NFL Hail Mary? No you will call him a true Canadian hero and wish him the best. American FIFA football fans are not mad Christian Pulisic bypassed his hometown Philadelphia Union to play in Germany where he is a star at the age of 19. Americans don’t have any delusions that the MLS is special or better than the German Bundesliga. It is what it is. As a MLS Football fan also I will tell you the MLS is doing all the right things to reach parity with the German Bundlesliga faster than the CFL will ever reach parity with the NFL. Randy A. would be smart to take a sit down in NYC with MLS Commissioner Garber because MLS was near bankruptcy in the late 90’s just as the CFL was but has rebounded much faster since then.

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  25. With Manziel going to the Spring League, the CFL has lost an opportunity to market his so-called comeback season. Now whether that is good for the league or not in the long-term is another story.

    While the chance now goes to the Spring League, the funny thing is that league will have almost no exposure. Last year, the games were broadcast free on Facebook which about 1000 or so watched per game. This year, the league has a deal with a new paid streaming from Turner Sports. Good luck getting anybody to sign up for that just to watch 3 weeks of football.

  26. Where’s JaMarcus Russell?? lol

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