The San Francisco 49ers are rumored to be looking into Johnny Manziel, with reports that Chip Kelly may have plans for two quarterbacks in need of a turnaround.
With Chip Kelly taking over the 49ers, the team appears to be moving in a new direction on offense. Or rather, an old one. Throughout the season it appeared that Colin Kaepernick was on his way out of San Francisco, with his fantastic play from a few years ago leveling off and Kaepernick struggling with inconsistency.
But new reports suggest that Kelly wants Kaepernick to stick around, and may have his eye on another quarterback as well: Johnny Manziel.
— NFL (@NFL) January 23, 2016
Manziel appears more likely than not to be on his way out of Cleveland, where he has burned bridges with his off-the-field antics and a seeming inability to commit to the work it takes to become starter. While Manziel has likely blacklisted himself around the league, there are some who think that Chip Kelly wants to take a chance on him.
As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Chip Kelly actually has a long history with Johnny Manziel.
“The romance — or bromance, or coachmance — began in 2010 at an Oregon football camp for high schoolers. Johnny Manziel, already a Texas legend, attended and loved everything he saw.
“Johnny Football, as he already was known, relished the idea of playing quarterback for head coach Chip Kelly, whose dynamic, warp-speed offense was the shiny new toy of college football.
“Manziel committed to the Ducks. Kelly also recruited and landed a lesser-known prep quarterback, Marcus Mariota, and envisioned using both QBs to goose the Oregon attack into the stratosphere.
“Ah, but Manziel was lured away by Texas A&M.”
Chip Kelly has spoken highly of Johnny Manziel in the past as well, including in 2014 when he noted that Manziel was “tailor-made” for the offense Kelly ran at Oregon.
If the rumors connecting the San Francisco 49ers to Johnny Manziel are true, he would be competing for a backup job at most. Last year’s starter for the 49ers, Blaine Gabbert, is very conservative and not a great fit for Kelly’s up-tempo style, but would be a safe pick for a backup.
But Chip Kelly’s main target seems to be Colin Kaepernick, who fits well the mold of a strong-armed, mobile quarterback that Kelly has utilized so well.
As USA Today writer Tom Pelissero noted, Kaepernick and Kelly have a very similar story.
“It wasn’t that long ago – about two years – that Kaepernick was helping the 49ers to a third consecutive NFC championship game, earning a contract extension, and Kelly was guiding the Eagles to a 10-6 record and a division title in his first year as an NFL coach.
“Since then have come a string of disappointments for both men. But there’s no doubting either has talent. And considering the value of the relationship between quarterback and offensive play-caller, this sure looks like a match made somewhere other than the hell they just came out of.”
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) January 23, 2016
There could be a hitch to the San Francisco 49ers rumors as well. There are reports that the Cleveland Browns could still have plans for Johnny Manziel, and it would at least partly make sense. Manziel is still on his rookie contract, so he would be a cheap backup for the Browns. The risk would be in his behavior, and if he can’t rein in the distractions then the Browns may want to cut him loose, no matter how cheap he is at the moment.
[Picture by Getty Images/Jason Miller]