It’s Not (Entirely) Your Fault, Johnny.

by Ryan McCarthy, BBM Staff Writer

“Good Will Hunting” features an iconic scene between Matt Damon, playing the title character, and Robin Williams, playing Dr. Sean Maguire. Sean is trying to help Will Hunting fight his past. During a session, Sean tells Will that whatever happened in his past is not his fault. Will fights Sean constantly telling him not to mess with him, but Sean repeatedly tells him, “It’s not your fault.” Will finally starts to sob vociferously and falls into Sean’s arms, coming to the realization that what happened in his past is indeed not his fault.

It was a rough day for Johnny... (Photo Credit: Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Enter Johnny Manziel, who would make his CFL debut this past Friday night. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is attempting his professional football comeback by playing in the CFL. Manziel was traded from Hamilton to Montreal on July 23 and was expected to light a fire in an anemic Alouettes offense. Manziel would have a nightmare of an evening, though, throwing four interceptions in the first half. Were all those turnovers all his fault, though? Let’s go through some deconstruction.

First interception: On Montreal’s second play of the game, Hamilton LB Larry Dean showed blitz but dropped back in coverage. Manziel telegraphed his throwing and Dean was right there to pick off Manziel. This was on Manziel, but Dean did a spectacular job of disguising the blitz.

Second interception: Manziel’s improvisation and escape ability helped him avoid a sack, but it couldn’t avoid his pass going off the tips of RB Tyrell Sutton and into the hands of Hamilton DB Jumal Rolle. Sutton should have helped Manziel by making the catch and saving the drive.

Third interception: Trailing 28-3, the Alouettes went for it on a third down and two. Manziel rolled to his right. Sutton, who Manziel faked to, was open after shedding his block. But Manziel’s underthrew the ball and was picked off by Rolle again. Manziel is at fault by not recognizing that Sutton was open for a potential first down.

Fourth interception: The Alouettes managed to get a positive drive going into Hamilton’s red zone. But on second down, Manziel was flushed out of the pocket and threw a desperate pass, but into the arms of Hamilton DB Mike Daly. He’s culpable, but the offensive line needed to protect Manziel better.

The Alouettes played more conservatively on offense to start the second half and Manziel did not commit any further turnovers. But with the score 47-3 and the offense unable to generate points, he was supplanted by Vernon Adams in the fourth quarter. Manziel’s final stats: 11/20, 104 yards, 0 TD, and four INT.

Manziel was amazingly humble during the post-game press conference, putting an enormous amount of blame for the loss on himself. But does Manziel deserve all of the blame for his disastrous debut? No, there are others who deserve their share, most notably head coach Mike Sherman and GM Kavis Reed.

Sherman’s initial venture into the CFL has been rough: the Alouettes are currently 1-6, last in the East Division, and last in most offensive statistical categories. One reason for this is turnover at quarterback; Manzel is the fifth different quarterback to play this season. Sure, Sherman has past history as he recruited Manziel to play at Texas A&M and he knows Manziel’s skillset. But rather than allowing Manziel to continue to learn the nuances of the CFL, Sherman thrusted him into the starting role EIGHT DAYS after the team acquired him. That’s telling of Sherman’s desperation for a win, maybe even to save his job. Reed, meanwhile, has failed to address personnel issues on the offensive line, which has allowed a league-worst 25 sacks. Having a potentially electrifying player means an increase of ticket sales at the box office and in merchandise booths, but Manziel can’t showcase his unique talents if he doesn’t have solid protection.

I want Johnny Manziel to succeed, especially after all of his struggles away from the field. But in order for him to succeed, he needs help from his coach and his GM. Alouette fans, and football fans in general, hope that help will come sooner than later.

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