MEMPHIS, Tennessee – The Memphis Express is not fortunate enough to be a quarterback in the six matches it has played so far in the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football.
So when Johnny Manziel, 26, Texas A & M's legendary quarterback and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, became a ready-made option for the AAF at the beginning of March, Memphis' ears are are scraped. (Manziel's contract was terminated by the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL after Manziel "breached the deal that made him eligible to play in the league.)
AAF uses a unique system that gives each of its eight teams rights over the players within their allocation footprint. In the case of Manziel, Texas A & M players are awarded to San Antonio commanders. But the commanders relinquished their rights over Manziel, putting him at the disposal of the team with the lowest victory percentage.
This is where the Express came in. Team 1-5 wasted no time claiming Manziel.
So, how does Manziel integrate with Memphis? Pretty good, for the moment. The Express is desperate for consistency at the quarterback position. Christian Hackenberg was a bust (277 yards and no touchdown) for 10 quarters and found himself stuck in the third week in favor of Zach Mettenberger.
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"We have a guy (Manziel) who, in our opinion, can do great things for us," said Express President, Kosha Irby, at The Commercial Appeal late Saturday. "We are proud to be a league of opportunities, be it with people trying to raise or restart their careers, but we also want to put the best players on the field to help out. Express (Manziel) is a very talented player We have seen an opportunity and we think it will be a reciprocal situation. "
Mettenberger started off in a half against the Orlando Apollos (120 yards and two touchdowns), but got mixed results in his next two starts. Saturday, Mettenberger injured his ankle. Brandon Silvers was called and was 23 of 37 for 242 yards and a score in a loss of 22-9.
Head Coach Mike Singletary still admits he's still looking for chemistry. Express shifts have been fired 10 times in the last two weeks.
Maybe a more mobile quarterback, like Manziel, could help solve these problems. Former Cleveland Brown and Allouette has 474 rushing yards in 75 races (6.3 yards per game) and one touchdown in 23 games as a professional quarterback.
Apart from what Manziel can do on the ground for the Express, he will almost certainly give the team a boost at the box office. Memphis announced crowds of 11,980 and 13,621 people in two home games. This is in the middle of the pack in the FAA.
"It's going to be fun," said Irby. "(Manziel) coming to Memphis will create a lot of buzz, we see it as an opportunity to draw for us with a man of his appeal, but above all we want to find ways to win football games. (coach Mike Singletary) will tell you this, we will put the 11 best people on the field at a time, which will allow us to reach our goals.
"Everyone has to win their place and it can take time."
The Express returns to the field at 7 pm Sunday against the Birmingham Iron, a team that they lost to 26-0 on the road in the opening of the season with Hackenberg at quarterback.