Greg Ellis didn’t watch the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, but as soon as he heard the Cowboys picked Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin over Johnny Manziel, one thought popped into his head.
“He’s going to go through the same thing I did when the Dallas Cowboys passed on Randy Moss and took me with the eighth pick," Ellis said. "It followed me throughout my career.
“Johnny is the more exciting player playing the more exciting position. Randy Moss was the more exciting player playing the more exciting position. The Cowboys drafted what they needed last night just like they did with me.
"If Tony Romo is still your guy and you feel like you can make a run with him, then you can’t spend your first pick on quarterback. Hopefully, both kids will turn out to be good football players like Randy Moss and Greg Ellis.”
Ellis started 155 of 162 games in 11 seasons with the Cowboys. Ellis, who played one season with Oakland, finished his career with 84 sacks, including a career-high 12 1/2 in 2007 after making the conversion from defensive end to outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense.
And if he hadn’t played on the left side his entire career, perhaps he would’ve had even more sacks. After all, he still holds North Carolina’s career sack record with 32. Ellis’ first priority with the Cowboys was to stop the run -- not rush the passer.
While Ellis had an excellent career, Moss had a Hall of Fame career. Moss caught 982 passes for 15,292 and 156 touchdowns. He terrorized the Cowboys, scoring 10 touchdowns in seven games against Dallas.
The comparisons never really stopped. And they won’t stop for Martin.
Whenever Manziel plays well, the chatter about how Dallas should’ve drafted him will begin. Whenever Martin allows a sack, folks will mention Manziel. If Romo plays poorly or gets hurt, Manziel's name will pop up even more.
“I just tried to focus on my job and do what I needed to do to help the team,” Ellis said. “I’d laugh it off whenever people talked about it. I’d say, 'I’ve scored an NFL touchdown, but has Randy Moss ever gotten a sack?’"
The key for Martin, said Ellis, will be to focus on being the best player he can be -- not worrying about Johnny Manziel.
“While Randy was making millions and scoring touchdowns, I was doing my best to help the Dallas Cowboys win,” Ellis said. “I put the team first, realizing that this is the job they’ve given me to do.
“They didn’t need me to go outside the framework of the defense. The highest compliment I ever received came from Mike Zimmer. He once said I could’ve had a million sacks, but I was unselfish and willing to do what was best for the football team. It wasn’t easy.
“If Johnny is having a Pro Bowl rookie season, Zack can’t think about punishing a guy and making a highlight film, if the play calls for him to zone block. He can’t worry about the reporters and media. He just needs to worry about himself."