Johnny Manziel, who is still somehow only 25 years old, had a nice performance in the final CFL preseason game on Saturday. His coach, June Jones, said he looks a little rusty, but if you’ve been following along, you know that all indications are that the player who won the 2012 Heisman Trophy is still in there.
Which opens up a whole new set of old questions.
Manziel’s lifestyle has been the dominant story of his career, pushing underground all of the real and interesting questions about his ability — even under ideal circumstances — to play quarterback in the NFL. It goes without saying he is a unique talent whose abilities don’t easily conform to NFL systems, or systems in general. Entering the league, he faced all the questions typically faced by athletic quarterbacks with questionable mechanics, and on top of that Manziel is small by the standards of NFL quarterbacks.
Manziel simply didn’t play enough in the NFL to even begin answering those questions before addiction and mental illness wrecked his career. He has 246 pass attempts and 46 runs in the NFL. He completed 57 percent of those passes and averaged 4.1 yards on those runs. He has seven touchdown passes and five interceptions.
There are no conclusions to be drawn from any of that. It’s always been easy to imagine how Manziel could be a star, and equally easy to imagine how he’d go the way of Vince Young. But in the four years since Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, nothing that has happened on a football field has indicated much one way or the other.
That continues in the CFL, where Hamilton Tiger-Cats coach June Jones is saying the stuff everybody has been saying about Manziel since his first training camp in Cleveland.
“You saw him out there. He’s still a little rusty,” Tiger-Cats coach June Jones said. “But he’s a competitor. He knows what’s going on. He’s seeing what’s going on. He’s able to execute real quickly. You guys can see what he can do. He can make a difference. I think he’s going to be a very good player in this league.”
He’s a competitor.
He executes quickly.
You can see what he can do.
Yes, yes, yes, we know. It feels like we have always known that, since the beginning of time. But what of it?
Phase one for Manziel is proving he can stay sober and reliable. So far so good on that. He’s off to a great start.
But after all these years, there’s still a giant question: Can he play?