It’s important to keep in mind that whenever an article is written about Johnny Manziel, the comments on it will not be tame. Half of the fans will share their love for what he brings to the table, and the other half will display their hatred.
He is football’s definition of polarizing.
On one hand, you have this kid that torched some of the best defenses that college football has ever seen. He made spectacular plays that have NFL Hall of Famers praising the ground he stands on.
On the other, you have this kid that is cozying up with Drake, living it up at the Masters, and that has a reputation of a guy that likes the attention he receives off of the field.
No matter where you stand on his ability to throw from inside the pocket, questions about his durability, and stature as a celebrity outside of the game of football, there’s one thing we could all agree on: if Johnny Football took his talents to Tampa Bay, he would sell tickets.
Isn’t that what the Buccaneers need right now?
Now, the rest of this column isn’t going to be about whether or not I think Johnny Manziel’s skills translate to the pros, or if I think he will end up here in Tampa; I’ll save that for another day.
What this is about is buzz and popularity; two things that the Buccaneers just do not have right now.
The last two coaching staffs proved to be a nightmare for the organization. After the firing of Jon Gruden, it has been hard for the Glazer family to get fans to leave the confines of their comfortable homes with cold beer in the fridge and the game on their high definition TV sets. Fans weren’t excited about the product enough to pay the price and suffer in the Florida sun.
They got a little excited last season, with the addition of Darrelle Revis, in what was promised to be the “No Fly Zone”. Instead, the Bucs got flown right out of the playoff race from the gate, starting 0-7.
There was MRSA.
There was Mike “Cave Man Gang” Williams.
But now there is Lovie Smith, a coach that we know can build a consistent playoff contender.
There are new jerseys that, while polarizing in their own right, are generating buzz and excitement in the community because it is something different.
And now there is the draft coming up in less than a month. While most people are predicting that the Bucs are going to use their seventh overall pick on a wide receiver because of the glaring need at that position, the team has been doing an awful lot of research on these quarterbacks as well.
Which brings me back to Johnny Manziel. Word on the street is that Lovie has a love for what Mr. Football brings to the table. If that is indeed the case, and Johnny gets drafted by the Buccaneers, it will immediately benefit the organization in the short term.
Manziel jerseys would fly off the shelves. Bandwagon fans (whether you like them or not) will buy tickets just to see Johnny Football play in person. Die-hard Bucs fans will come out to see if this kid is as good as advertised. Celebrities like Drake might even join the party.
Whether or not you like all of that attention is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that the organization will thrive from a business standpoint in year one. If he proves to be a success, then year two is where things would really get good.
Season ticket sales would likely be at their highest point since the Super Bowl champion era, and offensive free agents would want to come play for the Buccaneers for three reasons: they have the benefit of a Lovie Smith defense behind them, they get to live and play in the beautiful Tampa Bay area, and a figure like Johnny Manziel would be their quarterback.
Again, I don’t think the big knock on Johnny Manziel from fans in the area has much to do with his play on field. I think it is more about whether they like Manziel as a person off of the field, and the attention he’ll bring to their beloved Bucs.
A guy like him would change the franchise before he even steps on the gridiron, for better or for worse. There is risk involved, that’s for sure. No one is ever a sure thing when it comes to the NFL draft and its prospects. But don’t the Bucs need to make a splash? Where has playing it safe gotten them in recent years?
The Glazers played it safe by spending only a few dollars here and there by recruiting Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik to lead the team into the future. That failed.
They played it safe in 2009 by picking Josh Freeman, a quarterback who worked with Morris previously and who was a quiet kid that could never provide any distractions…right? Yeah, that failed too.
Next they decided to throw big dollars at need positions, regardless of scheme, and get a safe head coach in Schiano that would bring discipline back into the locker room. That failed really, really badly.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see the Bucs just make a big splash? To grab a guy like Manziel, it would make a statement that says something along the lines of “We don’t know if this is going to work. But dammit, it’s been 12 years since we’ve won a playoff game, so let’s give this kid a shot and put an effective defense behind him just in case. We have to try something different to win.”
I would welcome it, but I am unsure of how other fans would.
Change is the hardest pill to swallow, especially when it’s one that you’re not comfortable with.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: what do we really have to lose?
We’re not a playoff team. We haven’t been since ’07.
We’re not winners, either. Haven’t been since 2010.
Regardless of your position on him as a football player, I know that it won’t be easy for a lot of fans to hand over the reigns of the franchise to Johnny Manziel.
While he might not be all hype, that is a huge part of what he’ll bring to whatever franchise takes him in the upcoming draft. The question is, Tampa, would you be ready for it?
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