Nick Saban on Johnny Manziel: 'He has an NFL future'

Scott Halleran

Manziel put up 562 yards of total offense against the Alabama defense.

Some NFL coaches, analysts and pundits may be skeptical of Johnny Manziel's potential future in The League, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban disagrees. After the Crimson Tide's 49-42 win over Texas A&M Saturday, Saban, who was worn out from trying to find a way to stop Manziel all afternoon, made his feelings clear to Sports Illustrated's Peter King.

Saban paused a moment, put his bags down and made eye contact to make sure his point would be understood. "I think Johnny's a unique player," he said. "Many people have said about these guys, like [Robert Griffin III], that they're not really NFL-style quarterbacks. But yet they're all doing pretty well in the NFL.

"I think when somebody's as instinctive as [Manziel] is, and as fast as he is, and as athletic as he is, and he's developing into a pretty good passer-I mean last year he really developed as a passer-I do think he has an NFL future."

Saban has reason to believe in Manziel. A year after the then-redshirt freshman compiled nearly 350 total yards and two passing touchdowns in an upset win over the Tide, Johnny Football came through with an impressive encore. In addition to rushing for 98 yards, he completed 28 of 39 passes for 464 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Alabama may have escaped Kyle Field with a victory, but it wasn't because Saban's team was able to slow down Manziel and the Aggies. A&M put up 628 yards during the game, an all-time record for any school against a Crimson Tide defense.

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When it came time for the postgame handshake, Saban told Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin, "You just took 10 years off my life."

For an opposing quarterback and offense to put up that many yards and points on a Saban-coached defense is fairly astonishing. Since the start of the 2008 season, when Alabama really took off under its current head coach, only four teams have scored even 30 points in a game against the Tide, and none have accomplished the feat in the last two-plus seasons.

After watching Alabama-Texas A&M, King is convinced of Manziel's NFL abilities. He spoke to a few NFL GMs who aren't believers yet, and most of the quarterback's detractors list his size -- 6'1, 210 pounds -- as his main deficiency. But with smaller quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees  having plenty of NFL success, that argument could be a bit off. And considering the trend of mobile quarterbacks running professional offenses, Manziel's skill set is certainly in demand.

While King, and many others, were blown away by Johnny Football's game against the Tide, Mocking the Draft's Dan Kadar was more impressed with one of the third-year sophomore's teammates: wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans dominated, catching seven catches for a touchdown and a school-record 279 yards.

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