We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2016 regular season in the Canadian Football League. It’s been an eventful year so far, one that’s seen the Calgary Stampeders establish themselves as the favorite, the Saskatchewan Roughriders struggle badly, and the East Division look entirely up for grabs.
The season has served up plenty of compelling storylines to chew on. All of which makes it a little odd that, for a few days this week, the biggest story in Canadian football was a failed American quarterback who isn’t playing anywhere right now.
That’s the power of reputation and celebrity, both of which Johnny Manziel has more than his share of. What the former Browns starter doesn’t have, at least right now, is much of a future in pro football. But that could change, and more and more fans are wondering if a stint in the CFL might serve as a starting point.
It’s an intriguing idea. But could it happen? Let’s work through the key questions.
Could Manziel actually come to Canada?
Technically speaking, sure. Manziel’s Canadian rights are owned by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and there’s nothing in the rulebook that would prevent them from bringing him aboard if both sides could agree to a deal (or sending his rights to some other team that wanted him).
Of course, Manziel has far bigger problems right now. The former Heisman Trophy winner washed out of his first crack at the NFL thanks to a combination of on-the-field struggles and off-the-field issues. That latter category includes rumors of out-of-control partying, a suspension for substance abuse, and an indictment for assaulting his ex-girlfriend. In recent public appearances, he reportedly hasn’t looked like he was in any sort of playing shape.
So clearly, Manziel has some significant questions to answer before he’ll be playing anywhere, and it’s quite possible that we’ve seen the last of him on a football field. But speculation over his future flared up this week in part thanks to CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge, who appeared to leave the door open to Manziel playing in the league in comments made to ESPN. Orridge’s words were framed as suggesting that Manziel would be welcome in Canada, a characterization he later denied. And the Tiger-Cats say that they’ve had no contact with Manziel of his camp.
So if all of this is largely speculation and what-if scenarios, why were so many people talking about it? A big part of that is no doubt based on Manziel’s fame, even if it’s largely been of the train wreck variety lately. But there’s another piece here, and it has to do with some CFL history at the quarterback position.