It had been a while since the football world has heard from former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel until he had breakfast during Super Bowl week with New Orleans Saints Head Coach, Sean Payton.
When news of this breakfast — and its suggestion of the Saints’ interest in Manziel — broke, speculation soared. Sean Payton and the Saints are expected to begin scouting for a replacement for Drew Brees in the coming seasons. Despite Brees’ incredible statistics, the 38-year-old quarterback is reaching a long and successful career’s end.
The Saints’ dynamic and pass-oriented offense may retire with Drew Brees and be replaced with a new offensive structure that might better fit his replacement. It is perfectly understandable that Payton would be meeting with and considering quarterbacks with vastly different qualities from Brees.
What is truly shocking is Payton admitting to his interest in getting to know Manziel as a potential Brees replacement. However, in a statement on the Saints’ website, Payton officially discredited any serious talks between him and Manziel to bring the former quarterback onto the Saints this season. Nevertheless, Payton did not dispel the idea that Manziel could be a possible candidate in the future.
Payton is typically characterized by a good kind of absurdity. For example, he is notorious for risky play-calling, such as the famous onside kick to open the second half of Super Bowl XLIV. But in this instance, there is nothing good about Payton’s absurdity. Entertaining the idea of someday replacing Drew Brees with Johnny Manziel is more than simply absurd. It is reckless.
The most obvious red flag in considering Johnny Football is his troubled past. Hewas cut from the Cleveland Browns early in 2016 after various issues with the law, which included threatening his girlfriend, getting into fights and substance abuse.
What are Manziel’s 2016 highlights? A dismissal of his domestic violence case in December and his alleged achievement of sobriety without seeking professional help.
If Manziel were to join the Saints, they would go from being led by one of the most morally upstanding quarterbacks to one of the most ethically challenged figures in NFL history.
By merely entertaining the idea of giving Manziel a chance, the Saints could be perpetuating a twisted culture of forgiveness that unfortunately pervades professional sports. Athletes are given second chances that no other normal person would receive.
This is not to say that second chances are not an incredible opportunity to rehabilitate a fallen figure; C.C. Sabathia announced he would enter an alcohol rehabilitation center at the end of the 2015 season and was back in full force in 2016. Josh Hamilton was the poster child for overcoming substance addiction until his relapse in 2015. Michael Vick seems not to have incited any dogfights since his conditional reinstatement to the NFL in 2009.
However, this begs the question of whether Manziel deserves another chance.
Perhaps it is too early to say — if Manziel can prove he can stay focused on football, then maybe he has grown out of his reckless lifestyle. But even if he did, the Saints are not the team for him. Manziel needs an on-field mentor, which Drew Brees might not be capable of being if he retires before Manziel re-enters football.
It is also futile to argue whether — under the assumption that Manziel stays clean — his skill set would work as a New Orleans Saint. The Saints’ offensive strategy is an unclear mess and most likely will be for the foreseeable future until Brees retires and Payton can examine what kind of quarterback is available on the market in real time. In this offensive instability, Manziel would not be a viable candidate.
The Saints should pass on Manziel because he would not be a good fit on the Saints’ unstable offense. However, the Saints passing up on Manziel due to his many transgressions against the law would make a statement against the NFL’s status quo, an absurd idea on par with Sean Payton’s Super Bowl play calling.