One guy is a major distraction who will bring a circus atmosphere, and has genuine questions about whether he really is even committed to football anymore. The other is Colin Kaepernick.
This weekend, Johnny Manziel said that he had spoken to teams, and Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz believes he will get a second chance. (Truthfully, we are probably at about the fourth chance). Meanwhile, Kaepernick remains unsigned even though many coaches have said he is still a good quarterback.
So, we are taking it to the group discussion. Who will get signed first?
RYAN GLASSPIEGEL: It’s basically a question of which happens first: A series of quarterback injuries in training camp/preseason/beginning of the season, or a rogue owner like Mike Brown or Jerry Jones just deciding to give Manziel a shot. If there are injuries across the board, Kaepernick is going to be more apt to get a job, because he’s somebody who could come in right now and not necessarily be Joe Montana or anything, but at least he started most weeks last year and wasn’t atrocious. It’s still kind of crazy the Seahawks didn’t sign him as a backup. This is kind of a cop out answer, but I’ll predict Kaepernick gets a job first and that they are both at one point signed to a roster this season.
STEPHEN DOUGLAS: Of course Johnny Manziel will be back in the NFL before Colin Kaepernick. Seems pretty black and white to me.
KYLE KOSTER : This is difficult because the empirical data suggests the answer is clear-cut. Colin Kaepernick has proven he’s one of the best 32 quarterbacks on the planet. Don’t ask me, ask Chris Long. He’s a dual-threat option with a track record of taking teams deep into the playoffs. His baggage, however, is of considerable heft, although unjustly so. One could make the argument it’s less troubling than the risk Manziel is carrying around as an unproven, untested and undersized entity.
On paper and with clear eyes, Kaepernick should get the call first. But the ultimate decision will fall to general managers operating in the real world and with hazy assumptions about both what Kaepernick truly is and how a fanbase will receive him. To echo some of what Glasspiegel said, it will take a rogue owner making an unconventional choice for either to be signed. Deep down, I believe the resistance to Kaepernick will blink first, solely because winning takes a backseat to even the most divisive issues. If Manziel had show even a glimpse of competency, my answer would be different. That said, I’m not holding my breath for either to get a positive phone call anytime in the near future.
JASON LISK: A sinister part of me is rooting for Manziel to be signed before Kaepernick for maximum chaos. It would lay bare any excuses of backup quarterbacks being a distraction, or talk about quality of play (since Manziel’s off-the-field exploits, if anything, clouded how bad he was on the field). That said, I just don’t see how you sell that as a franchise. Manziel never demonstrated a willingness to do anything but party, and the evidence that he has changed is scant. He would get the starting job and immediately do something to bring public attention. Kaepernick, meanwhile, has played at a high level and I think fits the mold of what you want in a backup–other than the howls from a percentage of a fanbase that will immediately result. I would be stunned if Manziel was signed before Kaepernick, but then again, it’s the NFL. Anything’s possible.
RYAN PHILLIPS: Kaepernick has to be back first. I mean, right? He’s actually done something in the NFL, whereas Manziel was a joke. Based on skill alone, Kaepernick would be one of the better backups in the league, but I get that there’s some off-field stuff teams don’t want to deal with. But that exists with Manziel as well. Other than Tim Tebow, I can’t think of a bigger distraction you could bring to a roster right now than Manziel.
JASON MCINTYRE: There is no chance Johnny Manziel is on an NFL roster at any point in 2017. He is the definition of a train wreck. He never displayed any quarterbacking ability in the NFL, though one could argue he was in Cleveland, where nobody has had luck in years. The Kaepernick angle few bring up: The minute he’s signed, he is THE story of your team. Media, fans, everyone will have an opinion. And he’s your 3rd string QB! It will be a distraction for players – all they’ll be asked about – coaches and front office from a media standpoint. It will drown out anything else the team has done in the offseason. But if injuries mount, and a team takes a chance on Kaepernick at the end of September or October, it’s a much safer play from the distraction perspective. Games trump the noise. College football stories will emerge. The NBA season will begin with its own drama.
LISK: I’m not sure there are many teams where Kaepernick should actually be the 3rd string QB, and if that’s the case, sure, don’t sign him. But I mean, the backups for most teams are worse than him. Manziel, meanwhile, would be a true project, and certainly not a signing you could pencil in to even make the roster.