Memphis Gets Manziel

The Memphis Express, fresh off their 22-9 loss to the Salt Lake Stallions, have announced the addition of former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to their roster.

Nominal Express starter Zach Mettenberger was injured on the first play on Saturday, and Brandon Silvers did okay in relief. However, the team seems to feel that he is not the long-term solution (four more games for a 1-5 team). If Mettenberger has to miss extended playing time, the Express could turn to Manziel, not only to potentially boost their play on the field, but to also bring some fans to the games.

That’ll Be a No From Us

In the territorial allocation system of the AAF, the San Antonio Commanders held the right of first refusal for the former Texas A&M star. But with Logan Woodside firmly entrenched as the starter – he was Offensive Player of the Week last week – GM Darryl Johnston passed on Manziel and wished him the best.

For Memphis, the signing of Manziel gives them something to give the team some notice as they likely play out the string in a disappointing first season under Coach Mike Singletary. Early season struggles of Christian Hackenberg, as well as a lack of defensive identity, have led the team to the worst record in the league through six games. Should the Birmingham Iron win today, they will also officially be eliminated from playoff contention.

Third Time’s the Charm?

Manziel is now giving his third league a try after flaming out of both the National Football League and the Canadian Football League. After being drafted 22nd overall in the 2014 NFL draft, he had two mostly forgettable seasons. He played in 15 games (starting eight), throwing for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Off-field issues marred his tenure in Cleveland, and he was released after the 2015 season.

After failing to find a team in time for the 2016 season, Manziel resurfaced in the CFL, signing a two-year deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He sat on the bench for six games prior to being traded to the Montreal Alouettes. In his first start for Montreal, he (in)famously threw four interceptions in the first half, and the Alouettes lost 50-11 to the Tiger-Cats.

In his next game, he was concussed on a run during the third quarter, and subsequently missed the next four games. He returned later in the season, and played in a total of eight games, throwing for 1,290 yards, with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was expected to compete for the starting job again for the 2019 season, but was instead released from his contract and barred from the CFL for failing to live up to some terms of his contract.

“Johnny Football” Rides Again

So in his third league, on his fourth team, Manziel will again try to find his football glory. He replaces Birmingham Iron running back Trent Richardson as the “most famous” player in the AAF, and it remains to be seen if his presence can entice fans to come out to the remaining games of a team that is likely to not be favored in any of their remaining games, though three of the remaining four will be played in Memphis, where attendance has been… okay (12,801 average through two games).

How soon Manziel plays – if he ever does – remains to be seen, but I don’t think the league would sign him only to have him stay on the bench. The Week 9 games against the San Antonio Commanders will likely be a packed house, as well as shown on CBS, which tells me that the league would probably want him to play in that one, especially since the Express really have nothing else to play for at this point.

In a league struggling to gain the attention of the sporting public, this could be a last ditch effort to get the attention that they’ve been craving. Whether it pays off on the field for Manziel – in getting back to the NFL – or the Express – in winning another game this season – remains to be seen.

Until next time…

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