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Opinion

Manziel fiasco makes CFL look like a joke

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel pauses during third quarter CFL football action against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Montreal on Friday, August 3, 2018. Manziel's much-anticipated CFL debut fizzled quickly Friday night. The rookie quarterback threw an interception on his first down-field throw and finished with four overall in the Montreal Alouettes' lopsided 50-11 home loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before 18,576 spectators at Molson Stadium. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson</p>

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Johnny Manziel pauses during third quarter CFL football action against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Montreal on Friday, August 3, 2018. Manziel's much-anticipated CFL debut fizzled quickly Friday night. The rookie quarterback threw an interception on his first down-field throw and finished with four overall in the Montreal Alouettes' lopsided 50-11 home loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before 18,576 spectators at Molson Stadium. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

And so with that, we now know with certainty that in addition to being a terrible human being, Johnny Manziel is also a terrible quarterback.

Of the first, there was never much doubt. That matter was settled the day in January 2016 that Manziel threw a former girlfriend to the ground, grabbed her by the neck, struck her on the head so hard he ruptured her eardrum and then threatened to kill her and himself.

There was never really much doubt about the second matter either, at least as far as I was concerned.

Manziel hadn’t played a down of pro football in three years prior to this summer and anyone delusional enough to think he was going to light up the CFL this season either doesn’t know very much about Manziel or doesn’t know very much about the CFL.

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And so with that, we now know with certainty that in addition to being a terrible human being, Johnny Manziel is also a terrible quarterback.

Of the first, there was never much doubt. That matter was settled the day in January 2016 that Manziel threw a former girlfriend to the ground, grabbed her by the neck, struck her on the head so hard he ruptured her eardrum and then threatened to kill her and himself.

There was never really much doubt about the second matter either, at least as far as I was concerned.

Manziel hadn’t played a down of pro football in three years prior to this summer and anyone delusional enough to think he was going to light up the CFL this season either doesn’t know very much about Manziel or doesn’t know very much about the CFL.

Or both, in the case of the Montreal Alouettes, who mortgaged their beleaguered franchise’s future to acquire Manziel in a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last month.

But hope springs eternal, I suppose. And anyone who’s watched TSN’s slobbering coverage of Manziel this summer could have been excused for thinking that maybe, just maybe, the guy might be able to complete a pass if given a chance.

The Montreal Alouettes mortgaged their beleaguered franchise’s future to acquire Manziel in a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

The Montreal Alouettes mortgaged their beleaguered franchise’s future to acquire Manziel in a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

It turns out he could complete a pass — to the other team. Four times. In the first half.

Manziel’s first CFL action came last week in a start against the Ticats. To say it did not go well would be like saying Napoleon did not enjoy the hospitality in Russia.

In the end, the Manziel-led Als lost 50-11 to the Ticats, a team that had won just twice in their previous six games but who Manziel made look like the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers on this day.

Manziel got replaced in the second half and his final numbers were a complete joke: 11-of-20 passing for 104 yards and four interceptions. His QB efficiency rating by night’s end was 0.0.

Now, I’ve never exactly understood QB efficiency ratings or what all goes into compiling one, but I feel pretty confident in saying that 0.0 is poor.

Put it all together and Manziel’s CFL debut perfectly encapsulated the entire fiasco this Manziel thing has become ever since CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie decided last winter that his league couldn’t survive another minute without welcoming a notorious domestic abuser into its ranks.

There was one reason — and one reason only — why Ambrosie ever agreed to let a pariah like Manziel into the league.

Manziel hadn’t played a down of pro football in three years prior to this summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Manziel hadn’t played a down of pro football in three years prior to this summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

No, it had nothing to do with redemption or giving a guy a second chance. Ambrosie couldn’t care less about any of those things, judging by the fact he has been running players out of the league all season long on the basis of nothing more than unproven criminal allegations, never mind convictions like Manziel has.

Indeed, the league’s discipline procedures have gotten so over the top this year that even the CFL Players Association — which is to labour unions what an incontinent poodle is to dogs — finally felt compelled to speak up, issuing a press release on Wednesday that pointed out there is this inconvenient thing in Canada called "due process" and urging the league to respect it.

No, the reason Manziel was allowed to play in the CFL this season despite his troubled criminal past and a four-game suspension in the NFL that he still hasn’t served is an ‘r’ word all right — but it’s not redemption, it’s ratings.

While Ambrosie nominally runs the CFL as its commissioner, it’s actually TSN, which pays $40 million a season in rights fees and is the league’s largest source of revenue, that is really in control of the CFL these days.

And so the league sold its soul for Manziel, who has done good things for the CFL’s ratings this season, even while he’s been a disaster for the CFL’s credibility.

Consider: Friday’s game between Manziel’s Alouettes and the Tiger-Cats was the most watched CFL game on ESPN ever, attracting 406,000 viewers south of the border — the biggest American audience to see a game since ESPN began broadcasting the CFL in 1980.

That’s exactly the kind of exposure in the American market the CFL has been trying — and failing — to land for as long as I can remember.

Manziel (2) is sacked by Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive back Will Hill during the second quarter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Manziel (2) is sacked by Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive back Will Hill during the second quarter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

So yeah, bravo.

But ask yourself this: what did all those first-time CFL viewers south of the border see last week?

Well, they saw a terrible, lopsided game. They saw a lot of empty seats at Stade Molson. They saw a league that will apparently allow just about anyone to start a game under centre, regardless of whether they can play or not. And they saw football’s version of the Kardashians, a guy who is more infamous than famous and who upon closer examination has no discernible talent.

In other words, what all those long-awaited American viewers finally saw last week was exactly what most Americans have long suspected about the CFL — that it’s a joke.

So yeah, bravo.

Look, I get it. Some of my best-read columns this year have been the ones I’ve written ripping Manziel. The guy remains a thing and he still attracts a lot of attention, whether it’s been on the field in Montreal, standing on the sidelines in Hamilton or making an appearance in my humble little column.

But he is that thing for all the wrong reasons and — as he proved in Montreal Friday — none of the right ones.

Mercifully, some day very soon, Manziel will return to being a thing on TMZ instead of TSN.

Like many things his life has touched, he will leave behind a CFL that is poorer for having known him.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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History

Updated on Thursday, August 9, 2018 at 6:34 AM CDT: Final

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