There are plenty of possible messages in Johnny Manziel’s tweet on Thursday afternoon, but when an out-of-work quarterback tweets at the man who is starting a brand new pro football league, well …
Isn’t this perfect? The XFL, which will start in 2020 as announced by WWE CEO Vince McMahon on Thursday, will need recognizable players. Manziel needs a job and the former Heisman Trophy winner is certainly recognizable.
There’s one possible stumbling block. McMahon made it clear players with criminal records wouldn’t be allowed in his league (and, of course, political statements such as kneeling during the anthem won’t be allowed either), a shot across the bow of the NFL. Manziel was charged with assault for an incident with his ex-girlfriend in 2016, but those charges were dropped in November of 2017 after he attended anger management classes, attended a domestic violence victim impact panel and went into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. Manziel was also arrested after a fight in 2012, when he was at Texas A&M, and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
McMahon was asked if he’d consider Manziel, Colin Kaepernick or Tim Tebow, a trio of famous quarterback who are all out of football work. When you read the answer, remember that Tebow and Kaepernick have never been arrested for anything.
“When I say the quality of human being is very important, and just as important as the quality of player, what I mean by that is, you want someone who doesn’t have any criminality whatsoever associated with them,” McMahon said. “In the XFL even if you have a DUI you will not play in the XFL. That would probably eliminate some of them, not all of them. If Tim Tebow wants to play, he could very well play.”
When asked afterward if Kaepernick would be allowed to play, McMahon said, “Why not?”
“As long as everyone abides by the rules as laid down,” McMahon said, an obvious reference to everyone standing for the anthem.
If the XFL overlooks Manziel’s past, let’s be honest: Manziel would be a great get for the new football league. He’s a former first-round pick and his fame grew to a point where he was one of the buzziest names in the entire NFL, though his play on the field rarely rose to that level. His fame came from some notoriety, but it’s not like that hasn’t been in the McMahon’s WWE playbook.
Manziel, who is still waiting to see if he’ll get chance in the Canadian Football League, has been tweeting often about his comeback lately. He hasn’t played a football game since the end of the 2015 NFL season.
Even if Manziel struggled in the NFL, he’d probably be the best quarterback the XFL could get. It’s hard to imagine Tebow wanting to play in a lesser league (he never showed any interest in the CFL, which will presumably be a higher quality than the XFL in 2020). Kaepernick also seems very unlikely, given that one of McMahon’s platforms seems to be pandering to the anti-Kaepernick backlash. There will be other quarterbacks available who can play and didn’t make it in the NFL for whatever reason, but probably not many stars. And McMahon spoke a few times during his announcement about the quality of the football being a priority. That wasn’t always the case the first time the XFL existed.
“The quality of play, this is going to be a different game,” McMahon said during his announcement. “It will be faster, and it will just be a better football game than what everyone else is accustomed to.”
Manziel would draw eyeballs like few other players who would consider the XFL. We’ll see how serious McMahon was about allowing players in if they have a spotty past.
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