Don’t look now, but Johnny Manziel is playing professional football again. Seriously.
Manziel is the starting quarterback for “the Zappers” of the newly-formed “Fan Controlled Football League” (FCFL), a four-team indoor entity.
Nicknamed “Johnny Football” while playing for Texas A&M as the Heisman Trophy winner, he was taken in the first-round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Browns to become their future signalcaller after being named the Sporting News College Football Player-of-the-Year. That experiment lasted just two seasons to which Cleveland severed ties with him as the league’s fiscal year began after several incidents, including being investigated for domestic abuse. On March 11, 2016, the Browns officially waived him.
The FCFL began in 2017 as an indoor association, one of five currently operated professional football indoor leagues. This league is a spinoff of the “Indoor Football League” which currently has 12 teams and pay their players $250 a game. Typically, indoor football is played as a winter/spring format on ice hockey rinks.
The FCFL had two other league names before settling on its current moniker in 2020. Whereas indoor football leagues have clubs in different cities at separate arenas, all teams and games are currently being played in Atlanta at the Infinite Energy Arena because of the pandemic without any fans.
There are several notable players in the league besides Manziel including former Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois and South Florida QB Quinton Flowers; who was on the roster of the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts before playing for Tampa in the new version of the XFL.
The FCFL season runs from mid-February to the end of March. Without any audience, it is difficult to speculate where the revenue source is coming from. Another odd aspect is the fact that actual fans control just about every aspect of this league. Before the season began, real football fans voted on items such as rule changes, the look of the uniforms, plus the drafting of each team. During live games, fans get to call the plays as well.
Teams play on a 50-by-35-yard field with seven players on each side. League investors include Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Austin Ekeler.
“We’re building something new and fresh and different, and we felt like if could break away from the mold, it would reset expectations,” FCFL CEO Sohrob Farudi stated to USA Today. “So they could come up and say, ‘Hey, I’m not going to even compare it to what I watch on Sundays because this is a whole new sport.’”
Manziel, now 28-years old, has played for Cleveland in the NFL, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Allouettes in the Canadian Football League (CFL), the Spring League, the Memphis Express of the AAF, and now the Zappers of the FCFL.
While with the Browns, Manziel played in 15 games and started just eight games and tossed 147 completions on 258 attempts for 1,675 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He finished with a 57.0 completion percentage and rushed 46 times for 259 yards and one score.
He was subsequently banned from the CFL when he missed practices, failed to show up for mandatory substance abuse appointments plus weekly sessions with a therapist. All of this was conditions he had agreed to when the CFL accepted him into their league. With the Express, he played in just two games.
In September of 2020 with the opening of the new XFL, Manziel’s name was brought up about the possibility of him playing in that league as well. TMZ approached him about a possible deal, to which he announced his retirement and stated:
“I think football is a little bit behind me…Football for me is not at the forefront of my mind.”
So, why would he come out of retirement and play for an indoor club without any fans? In a February 2021 interview in USA Today, Johnny Football said that he had joined the FCFL because he was essentially bored. In the same interview, he verbalized his disinterest in playing any more professional football in the future. So, another retirement - until Dwayne Johnson calls about a spot in the new XFL we presume?
The website for the FCFL is fcf.io.
Johnny Manziel is back... kind of— Gridiron (@Gridiron) February 14, 2021
The former Heisman Trophy winner's long and winding career has brought him to the Fan Controlled Football league, this was his very first play on Saturday for the ‘Zappers’.pic.twitter.com/eDTDGjFwng
The above tweet was Manziel’s first play during last Saturday’s game with the Zappers.
And in case you were wondering, Manziel’s new team lost their first game 48-44 to the Beasts. His numbers were 1-5 passing for 11 yards with eight carries for 67 yards and a touchdown.
“The product will keep getting better as the weeks go on,” Manziel stated in USA Today. “Feels like I’m super washed up, but still had a blast. That was the most fun I’ve had in a while. Good start even with the loss. You know, win or lose we booze on the Zappers.”
Which means Johnny Football will not be making another one of those substance abuse meetings.