January 12, 2018

O’Leary: CFL GMs weigh in on ‘Johnny Football’

The Associated Press

He’s yet to play a game in the CFL, but Johnny Manziel has become the talk of the league over the last few months. Things ramped up this week when Manziel’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, said the Tiger-Cats had until Jan. 31 to reach a deal with his client.

The conversation isn’t much different here in Banff, where the teams GMs and presidents are here for meetings with commissioner Randy Ambrosie. Over the last two days, I’ve spoken with seven GMs (we already know how the Tiger-Cats feel about Manziel and Argos’ GM Jim Popp isn’t at this week’s meetings) about the controversial 25-year-old and what his odds of success might be should he land in the CFL.

Promised that their names wouldn’t be tied to their comments, here’s what the execs present at the meetings had to say:

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“I’ll say this: If he makes it to the CFL, I think he’ll be a good player. He’s got a lot to learn and it’s going to be based on what energy he puts into this league. If you come into the CFL and you look down upon it and underestimate it you’ll struggle and look really bad. There are good players in this league. If he comes in with the mindset of wanting to be a good quarterback, one of the elite, then he has a good chance. I’m not going to predict whether or not he’s going to be the greatest player to ever play in this league but I think he has a chance to be a good one, provided he puts in the time. Because we’ve seen some good ones in this league.” — CFL GM

“Any player coming into this league at any position is going to have to adjust. To what degree, that’s to be determined. At the end of the day there’s an adjustment period, it doesn’t matter.”

On dealing with the pressure of being a big-name player:

“The expectations are so high. Anything other than a superlative performance over an extended period of time is going to be a disappointment, whether it be to the fans or the people that brought the guy in. That’s the dynamic that you know you’re getting into when you start bringing those guys in.” — CFL GM

“I guess we’ll see. It’s fun. The good thing about Johnny Manziel is that it’s talk. It’s great with the media talking about it, the fans talking about it. Any time there are people talking about the Canadian Football league in January it’s fantastic. We’ll see…there are lots of guys that come up and have success and don’t have success. Certainly he’s got all the talent. It’ll be interesting to watch, that’s for sure.” — CFL GM

“I think he can play in the NFL. I think he’s a good football player. He played in the SEC. And he didn’t just play, he dominated in the SEC, which is the best college football conference in the world. There are tons of NFL players on every team. He can play. It’s just a matter of him deciding that that’s what he wants to do and football being important enough to him.” — CFL GM

“I think if he plays up to his capabilities he can be very special. But that goes for a lot of players. The definition of potential a lot of times means you just haven’t done it yet. Watching him at Texas A&M, is he a rare player? No doubt. Does his style fit traditionally in this league? It does but that doesn’t always mean it pans out. Quincy Carter should have been pretty good up here, too. It’ll depend on him. It he comes in the right way I think the sky’s the limit and if he doesn’t, he’ll be another one of those guys. Vince Young, Quincy Carter, so on and so forth.” — CFL GM

“From what I’ve heard, yes (he could play in the CFL). I haven’t really watched Johnny (since he was in college). I’ve heard people rave about him. I’m sure he’d be a nice fit to the Canadian Football League.” — CFL GM

“I think so. I believe he does have the ability to play in the CFL. I don’t want to have a complete commentary on Johnny because the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have his rights.” — CFL GM