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The reason Johnny Manziel’s CFL team traded him? Jeremiah Masoli

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The former Ole Miss QB was keeping Johnny Football glued to the bench.

Johnny Manziel’s NFL comeback tour was supposed to jump off in Ontario this summer. But just two months after signing on with the CFL, the quarterback is already changing teams: on Sunday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced they were shipping Manziel to the Montreal Alouettes as part of a five-player trade.

Why would a franchise in Canada deal a high-profile quarterback who at one point led the NFL in jersey sales? Because a former Houston Nutt transfer won’t let go of the top spot on the depth chart.

Former Ole Miss signal caller Jeremiah Masoli has been so dominant that Manziel didn’t so much as record a stat during the Tiger-Cats first five regular season games. Masoli, who recently tied a CFL record with nine consecutive 300-yard passing games, currently ranks second in the league in passing yards and is completing 66.7 percent of his tosses.

Before Manziel signed on with the CFL, Hamilton (and former SMU) head coach June Jones said Johnny would be “the best player to ever play up here.” Fast forward six months and Jones was saying there was no scenario in which Manziel would start over Masoli. From every report, that was no fault of Manziel’s; Masoli has just been that good.

This isn’t a story about Johnny Football’s descent. It’s a story about Masoli’s unexpected rise.

This time last year, it was Masoli who was stuck on the bench. Inconsistency and inaccuracy had kept him from holding down a starting spot since joining the league in 2012. His career had become a cautionary tale of how off-field mistakes could derail superstardom.

Masoli was a burgeoning star under Chip Kelly at Oregon until a pair of 2010 arrests got him booted from the team. Houston Nutt, who in 2010 was looking for a starting QB after Jevan Sneed’s premature departure to the NFL, happily waved Masoli over to Ole Miss as a grad transfer. Masoli’s arrival buoyed hopes in Oxford, but those quickly came crashing down after the Rebels, helmed by Masoli, blew a 21-point halftime lead in the infamous loss to Jacksonville State and finished the season 4-8.

All those losses overshadowed what was actually a solid season for Masoli, who was one of the few playmakers on Nutt’s offense. Despite a limited supporting cast and lifeless coaching staff that would be fired a year later, he scored 20 touchdowns and finished seventh in the SEC in total offense.

Still, he went undrafted by the NFL in 2011 and ended up with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, who soon traded him to the Tiger-Cats. He spent the next four and a half seasons toiling on the depth chart before Jones, nine games into his first season as head coach and still looking for his first win, tapped him to start. Hamilton won six of their final 10 games and Masoli became a breakout star.

“Jeremiah was on cue when he got his chance,” Jones told The Canadian Press in May. “He never had one game where I even thought about putting [former starter Zach Collaros] in, he just kept getting better and better. That’s how it is sometimes in life. You’re in the right place at the right time and Jeremiah was.”

Speaking of right places, Manziel’s trade to Montreal puts him in a better situation. The 1-4 Alouettes have been through three quarterbacks already this season, giving Manziel a good shot at making an early entry to the starting lineup. Even better, his head coach will be Mike Sherman, who recruited him to Texas A&M in 2011.