Johnny Manziel is searching for his second chance in the NFL, and the Minnesota Vikings should consider giving it to him.
History shows that the Minnesota Vikings selected linebacker Anthony Barr with the No. 9 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and traded back into the first round later that night to nab quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32 overall.
General manager Rick Spielman has received high praise for both of those picks, especially the Barr selection. The former UCLA Bruin has been named to three consecutive Pro Bowls and has risen to the elite ranks of the linebacker position.
If it hadn’t been for a catastrophic knee injury to Bridgewater, Spielman may have hit a grand slam in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
But many people forget that Plan A for Spielman did not necessarily include Anthony Barr or Teddy Bridgewater.
Reports suggest it could have included Johnny Manziel.
This article from NFL.com released on May 8, 2014 says Spielman opted to give new head coach Mike Zimmer a defensive player with the No. 9 overall selection, but the report also suggests Manziel was in the cards.
General manager Rick Spielman could have taken Manziel at No. 9, but opted to give coach Mike Zimmer the talented, but raw, pass rusher Anthony Barr of UCLA. Perhaps Spielman was gun-shy after reaching for Christian Ponder in 2011.
Another opportunity to get Manziel presented itself for the Vikings when Philadelphia attempted to trade the No. 22 overall pick and Manziel was still on the board. While Cleveland wound up winning the Manziel sweepstakes with the trade, Minnesota also participated in the bidding war for the former Aggie.
NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported Thursday that the Vikings tried to trade with the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 22 to draft Manziel, but the Cleveland Browns made a better offer. The Vikings rated the Texas A&M signal-caller as the top quarterback on their board, according to team sources.
That’s right. According to Breer’s report, the Vikings had Manziel on the top of their QB rankings in the 2014 draft class.
Manziel’s career in Cleveland did not go as planned. He played in 15 games and started in eight in his two seasons with the team, earning a 2-6 record and posting a 79.4 passer rating. “Johnny Football” was cut prior to the 2016 season has not suited up for a game since.
Cleveland’s decision to cut Manziel may have had something to do with his on-field performance, but it’s generally believed that the decision stemmed mostly from his partying and drinking habits. He spent a month in rehab when he was with the Browns, but that apparently wasn’t enough to shed his tendencies.
After two full seasons of watching the NFL on television, Manziel is still not giving up. He has begun what he calls “#ComebackSZN” on his social media accounts, where he posts multiple videos each day of himself working out in an attempt to play football again.
Manziel recently appeared on the Barstool Sports podcast Pardon My Take and opened up about his behavior in the two years after being drafted by the Browns.
“I never really gave Cleveland a chance,” Manziel said. “I felt like I had a sense of entitlement, like I was owed to be drafted higher or go somewhere where I wanted to play, but in reality, I had no control over that.”
“If I hadn’t gone through what I have the past few years and shot myself in the foot and made my situation so bad, I wouldn’t have been able to learn. I’ve been a hard-headed person my entire life and everything I heard in Cleveland went in one ear and out the other because I was focused on the wrong things.”
Manziel was also interviewed by ABC’s Good Morning America, in which he revealed that he has quit drinking and is taking medication for bipolar disorder. While Manziel noted that the diagnosis of bipolar disorder does not excuse his actions, he said he does believe he can keep up with his new way of life.
Clearly, Manziel is executing proper procedure to fight his way back into the NFL. He recently accepted an invitation to participate in the Spring League, an annual scouting event that consists of four teams playing two games apiece. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport, several teams will have scouts in attendance and the timeline would allow Manziel to participate in OTAs if invited by a team.
Johnny Manziel reports to the Spring League on March 28, and the season ends April 15… in time to attend a team's OTAs if it works out. More than 20 teams are expected to attend practices and games to scout him and others.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 14, 2018
But why the Minnesota Vikings, and why now?
The Vikings just hired Manziel’s offensive coordinator in Cleveland, John DeFilippo, to be their offensive coordinator. DeFilippo praised Manziel plenty during their time in Cleveland, saying Manziel “has a lot of traits that good quarterbacks in this league have. It’s just a matter of getting better at them.”
No, Manziel wasn’t exactly spectacular on the field in Cleveland. However, in his defense, it was Cleveland — where quarterback careers go to die. Manziel and DeFilippo actually led the Browns to their most recent home win. No quarterback has succeeded on the Browns in at least a decade, so why would anyone expect differently of Manziel?
Minnesota’s quarterback situation is certainly in flux at the moment. The only rostered quarterback under contract right now is practice squad luxury Kyle Sloter. However, the past three seasons have presented the Vikings will three different solid re-sign options as a starter between Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, and Case Keenum. Minnesota has also been linked to Kirk Cousins, the former Washington Redskin who is expected to receive the largest contract in NFL history this offseason.
Regardless, the most likely scenario for the Vikings appears to be selecting one of those names to be a starter. This leaves the backup role open. Manziel, having played for DeFilippo before, could be a solid backup option for the Vikings. Or, if the Vikings don’t feel like handing Manziel the No. 2 role, he and Sloter could battle for it in training camp. Sloter dressed as the No. 2 quarterback in eight games for the Vikings in 2017.
If Manziel has changed his mindset the way he says, he certainly won’t be expecting to re-enter the league as a starter. The scenario is a win for both sides — the Vikings get a young quarterback with high potential that already has experience with the new offensive coordinator, while Manziel slides into one of the best situations for himself to succeed again in the NFL.
General manager Rick Spielman has a lot of work to do this offseason to settle the quarterback position. It would behoove himself and the Minnesota Vikings to at least consider the man he once had at the top of his quarterback draft board as a backup option for Minnesota.
H/T to Adam Patrick, who wrote this article for The Viking Age on Johnny Manziel a few days ago.