Just when you thought former Browns’ first-round draft pick quarterback Johnny Manziel had quietly gone into the night, he is back on the sports page.
The new XFL will kick off in the spring of 2020, and amongst their eight clubs are two franchises located in the State of Texas: Dallas and Houston. Both teams are unnamed at the present although merchandise is for sale on the XFL website that displays “XFL Dal” or “XFL Hou.”
Manziel was recently a signing guest at a sports card show in Houston. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, Manziel told them that he would like to play for one of the two Texas clubs, preferably Houston.
Houston will play at “TDECU Stadium” and is the home of the University of Houston Cougars football team. It was built to accommodate 40,000 fans but has a design feature that will allow the stadium to expand to over 60,000. June Jones has been named head coach whom was a coach for the hometown Houston Oilers (NFL) and Houston Gamblers (USFL).
The Dallas entry will play its home games at “Globe Life Park” located in nearby Arlington and current home to the baseball Texas Rangers. The park’s former name was “The Ballpark at Arlington” and can seat over 48,000. Although the XFL and baseball season coincide, the Rangers are building a new ballpark adjacent to Globe Life Park which is scheduled to open in 2020. The Dallas head coach is former Oklahoma Sooners’ head man Bob Stoops.
If Manziel, now 26 years old, does indeed participate in the XFL, it will mark the fifth professional football league in which he has played. In the history of pro football, he is the lone player to participate in that many professional leagues as a player.
He was the 22nd player taken in the first-round of the NFL draft in 2014 by the Browns in which two seasons later he was released. He remained out of football until the last place Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League (CFL) signed him to a two-year deal in 2018. Hamilton was coached by Jones.
After six weeks into the regular season and not playing a single snap, Hamilton traded Manziel along with two offensive linemen to the Montreal Allouettes for two players plus two first-round draft picks. Manziel finally won the starting nod in Week 15. Before the following season, the CFL announced that he was banished from the league. Part of his involvement and signing a CFL contract were certain conditions he had agreed upon before his acceptance into the league. At some point during the season, Manziel quit doing most of them such as regular therapist appointments and weekly drug tests.
Last year, Manziel participated in the Spring League held in Austin, Texas. The beauty of this situation is that it presents to every professional football entity players that still have football left in them. The bad portion is that none of these players get paid, plus they have to submit an entry fee and get themselves to and from Austin.
When the Alliance of American Football (AAF) began play this past February, his signing on March 16, one month into the season, was greeted by front page news. Manziel played in his first game for only two series. On April 2, the AAF was dissolved.
Television partners for the XFL include ABC, ESPN, FOX and FoxSports1 (FS1). Four current NFL venues have been rented for home games including StubHub Center (Los Angeles Chargers), CenturyLink Field (Seattle Seahawks), Raymond James Stadium (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and MetLife Stadium (New York Giants/Jets).
Eight “Summer Showcases” have been scheduled in June and July for a player invitation-only process in order to evaluate the available talent via workouts. The Dallas event was held June 7 to which Manziel was not involved.
If Manziel did indeed sign with Houston, it is located just down the road from College Station, home of the Texas A&M Aggies in which Manziel played his college football and won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and was a two-time First-Team All-SEC.
There may be a snag with signing with the XFL, though. League policy at this moment states that none of their players can play which have a criminal record. In 2016, Manziel was accused of making threats to this then-girlfriend and some physical violence against her. Charges, however, were never brought and he was cleared in November of 2017.
In an April 9, 2019 podcast on Pro Football Talk, XFL commissioner Oliver Luck was asked about whether his league would consider Manziel as a possibility. His answer:
“If he is able to meet our standards and if our coaches think he’s one of the top quarterbacks out there that can help us. Certainly we have no reason not to believe he couldn’t be in the mix. But again it’s really up to our coaches in terms of the quarterbacks they wanna take a look at.”
Here is another interview with Luck below who mentions Manziel at the 5:12 mark: