When Johnny Manziel said earlier this year , he definitely wasn't kidding: Scouts representing teams from more than half the league have shown up in Texas over the past two weeks to watch Manziel practice and play.
According to Yahoo Sports, a total of 17 teams sent at least one scout to watch Manziel make his official return to football last week. Manziel has been in pads practicing with his Spring League team since late March. For his first game, which , there were at least eight teams in attendance, although they might not have walked away impressed: Manziel finished just 9 of 15 for 83 yards and a touchdown in an 11-7 loss.
Of all the teams that sent a scout to watch Manziel, only one sent multiple scouts, and that team was the Raiders, according to ESPN.com. You can make of that what you will, but it's definitely worth nothing because new Raiders coach Jon Gruden was one of Manziel's biggest fans when the quarterback was coming out of the draft in 2014.
Not only did Gruden spend several hours with Manziel filming a "QB Camp" episode for ESPN in 2014, but Gruden also said that he would absolutely pick Manziel if he had been a coach heading into the 2014 draft. The Super Bowl-winning coach also compared Johnny Football to Brett Favre.
"I'd love to have him," Gruden said at the time. "It takes courage to pull the ball down and reverse field and do some of the crazy things that [Brett] Favre and Manziel do. There's going to be consequences when sometimes it doesn't work out. But it takes a tremendous amount of guts and courage to go make a play when there's nothing there instead of throwing the ball away."
The Gruden-Manziel connection doesn't end there, either. After Manziel struggled through his rookie year in Cleveland, he didn't reach out to the Browns for extra help during the 2015 offseason; instead, he reached out to Gruden. In July 2015, the two got together at Gruden's compound in Tampa to watch game film and work on Manziel's mechanics.
Now that he's the coach of the Raiders doesn't mean Gruden has stopped thinking about Manziel. During an interview with Pro Football Talk in January, Gruden was asked whose career surprised him the most following his "QB Camp" series, where he interviewed dozens of quarterbacks over the years.
"Johnny Manziel was the most disappointing, just because the outcome of his career," Gruden said. "I got criticized a lot for trying to pump him up during the draft. I really thought he has just an incredible playing style that would service him well."
Gruden then admitted that he'd like to see Manziel make a return to football.
"I was really shocked at his downfall and demise from football, but hopefully he can come back and play somewhere someday, because I sure enjoyed being around him and watching him," Gruden said.
Of course, this doesn't mean the Raiders are going to go out and sign Manziel. However, it's something that's probably worth keeping an eye on. Not only has it been reported that Manziel would be willing to take zero guaranteed dollars on his next contract, but it's also been reported that he'd be willing to spend some time on a team's practice squad, which means this would be a no-risk move for Gruden. Behind Derek Carr, the Raiders have only EJ Manuel, Connor Cook and Josh Johnson at quarterback, which means Manziel could potentially compete for the backup job in Oakland.
Although Manziel has said he would be willing to play in the CFL, he might not have to, and that's because NFL teams seem to have some serious interest in him. Besides the Raiders and the multiple other teams who sent a scout to Texas last week, Manziel also .