Johnny Manziel has been all over the news since the 2015 NFL season ended, and for all the wrong reasons. He’s reportedly trashed a rented house, been seen boozing and close friends suggest their friend may not survive the party scene he’s fallen into. His own father has gone public with his fear that Manziel may not live to see his 24th birthday.

Oh, and Manziel is currently facing domestic abuse charges for an alleged assault on his former girlfriend.

Manziel Wants to Play

Despite it all, the man once known as Johnny Football still has a desire to return to the NFL, per his lawyer, Jim Darnell. Darnell suggested Manziel has an eye on the 2016 NFL season, but realizes it may be more realistic to plan a return for 2017.

Major Obstacles

That sounds great, but Manziel still faces some serious obstacles. The first, which is obvious for any player – let alone a quarterback that is to lead a team and be the face of a franchise – is to stop the partying and distance himself from the entire drinking/drug scene. That could be tough for Manziel to do in just three month’s time in order to get ready for a new season, and there probably just isn’t enough time.

Not only would Manziel need to stop boozing, he’d likely have to go back to rehab to truly prove he’s ready to mature and take responsibility for his wild behavior. Even if he does that, a true rehab stay would last weeks if not over a month and that would lead Manziel to an attempt at latching on with a new team in July at the earliest.

That may be too big of a risk for anyone to take on. Manziel would be fresh out of rehab and the fear of a relapse or taking on too much with a new team, new city, new playbook and new expectations would be all too real.

Add on Manziel’s pending court case, any potential jail time and a suspension that could be handed out by the league, no matter the case result, and Manziel is about as toxic as a player gets right now.

Realistic Path

If Manziel is serious about playing again, he first needs to be serious about being an adult. He needs to first get his life back on track by going to rehab, taking it seriously, and put rehabbing his mental and emotional health, as well as his public image, ahead of everything else. It’s clear that being a star in college and the NFL has weighed on him and outside of achieving fame, earning more money or being successful, he needs to take time to figure out if this is the right career path for him.

He can’t do all of that in just three months and even if he somehow could, no NFL team is going to buy that he’s turned a new leaf in such a small amount of time.

Instead, what is best for Manziel is to scratch the 2016 season, enter rehab immediately and once he’s mentally and emotionally stable, get back to training in a sound environment with good people around him that care about him. He can slowly build back trust from there, gain confidence and regain the competitive chip and swagger he once had and clearly lost over the course of two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

Interested Teams

If Manziel can do all of that, we could then start getting serious about where he could play come next summer. Perhaps even late in the year, if he’s done all the right things, he could latch on with a team needing help at quarterback or sign a futures contract to start training with a team that makes sense for him.

He originally was set up to have a ton of great options after leaving the Browns, but he’s gone in such a downward spiral that most of the teams needing help under center have already signed or drafted a new quarterback. The only teams that desperately need an answer at the position right now are the New York Jets and maybe the San Francisco 49ers. However, in a year’s time, it’s very possible teams with shaky situations or older veterans like the Chargers, Cardinals, Vikings, Bills, Redskins or Chiefs could express some interest.

The other harsh part of Manziel’s reality is that he hasn’t proven much on the field yet. He’s flashed some nice athletic ability and appears to be a bit of a gamer, but his off field antics have thus far over-shadowed any of his upside. If he bides his time, gets better in every way he can and is ready when an opportunity arises, however, there is still a chance his story could end up being a positive one.

Then again, if Manziel doesn’t change or attempts to do so too late, we may not be running into problems with a small number of interested teams, legal issues or whether the timing is right. Manziel may just run out of opportunities, altogether. The clock is ticking, and while the NFL well isn’t dry just yet for the 23-year old, it’s getting harder and harder to see the water at the bottom.

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