All aboard the Manziel express

Wanda Wiedman,
OTFB Reporter

By Wanda Wiedman / @WandaW63

It was bound to happen that Jonny Football would somehow end up in the Alliance of American Football.  The news of former first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Johnny Manziel being released by the Montreal Alouettes and his subsequent barring from the CFL sent the sports world a flutter. There was an immediate reaction on Twitter of fans not wanting Manziel in the AAF because of his reputation of not taking the beloved sport seriously.

Manziel clearly left the CFL with the door hitting him on the way out. Whatever was the cause of his barring, it seemed that his respect of the Canadian league’s contractual requirements did not line up with his. According to Benjamin Allbright, Manziel didn’t report for mandatory counseling.

So why would the AAF take a chance on a young man who seems to not understand that it takes hard work to overcome adversity?  Here in this new league that Manziel will have to dig deep and dispose of his off-field baggage if he ever wants to play in the NFL again.

The young quarterback is getting his chance again as he signed a contract with the AAF. If we look at the birth of this developmental league, it was designed for players like Manziel. The sole purpose of this league is to resurrect, develop and polish former NFL players, undrafted free agents and practice squad hopefuls to be NFL ready.

Manziel now gets the privilege to ride the Memphis Express, led by Head Coach and Hall of Famer Mike Singletary. It’s a perfect fit because Singletary is a no-nonsense leader, who expects his players to leave it all on the field.  As a coach, he will be the mentor that this young man needs to get him to fall in love with the game of football but through the eyes of a family and not just himself.

Currently, the Express is the worst team in the league.  They have the second worse offense and a horrific offensive line. What’s interesting about this whole scenario is that Manziel left the Alouettes with a similar offensive line. He was sacked so many times that he became frustrated when he was unable to move the ball. But with the Express, the potential is there.  Now that current quarterback Zach Mettenberger is out with a leg injury, Manziel looks to be the one under center.

It is uncertain as to how well Manziel will do in this league. But there is no question that he is a talented player.  He’s mobile and can move in the pocket and can be a real playmaker when he needs to be. He will need time to develop chemistry with his receivers.  But I see no problem with wide receivers Dontez Byrd and Reece Horn getting him up to speed. He will also be thrilled to have a real run game with both running backs Zac Stacy and Terrence Magee.

Manziel will need to focus on being a part of a process that promotes unity, family and hard work. This is his last chance to gain respect in the NFL.  He will need to show the League and the fans that he is serious about honing his craft and leading his team with respect, pride and a winning mentality. He needs to leave the “me” mentality in the back of the caboose and be ready to ride the Express Supertrain to a winning season. It probably won’t be this year but if he is patient, his chance in the NFL may become a reality.

 

Talk AAF with Wanda on Twitter @WandaW63

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