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Friday, May 9, 2014
Passing on Manziel right move for Jones

By Jean-Jacques Taylor


 
IRVING, Texas -- If Jerry Jones wanted Johnny Manziel, who was wearing a blue blazer and sipping on a bottle of water as he patiently waited for some team to draft him Thursday night, he could’ve had the man known as Johnny Football.

And it would've been the dumbest move the Dallas Cowboys’ owner/general manager had made since letting Jimmy Johnson leave after consecutive Super Bowl wins following the 1993 season.

Tony Romo's contract ties him to the Cowboys for at least three seasons, and the Cowboys have way too many holes to pick a quarterback who’s going to sit for several seasons.

So Jerry passed on Johnny Football with the No. 16 overall pick and selected the anti-Manziel -- Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin.

We can be pretty sure Martin isn’t a jet-setter with a penchant for sitting courtside and hanging with rappers such as Drake in his free time. Heck, Martin followed the draft Thursday night from his parents' bedroom in Indianapolis.

Sanity, it seems, has finally been restored to the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch training complex.

Raise a glass. Or a bottle.

The Cowboys have a new approach and it doesn’t matter whether we’re crediting Jerry Jones, coach Jason Garrett, vice president Stephen Jones or assistant director of player personnel Will McClay, who’s in charge of the draft for the first time.

Remember, the Cowboys released defensive end DeMarcus Ware, one of the best players in franchise history, when he declined a significant pay cut, and they let defensive tackle Jason Hatcher leave too because they didn’t want to pay age.

A couple years ago, Jerry would’ve found a way to keep both on the team.

Now, the Cowboys passed on one of college football’s most exciting players -- and a Texas native at that -- to pick an offensive lineman most folks hadn’t even heard of until a month or two ago.

Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel fell to the Cleveland Browns with the No. 22 pick in Thursday's first round.
Yes, the Cowboys still need to improve the NFL's worst defense, but the draft doesn't end after the first round. The Cowboys will probably spend their picks in the second and third rounds on defense.

But taking Martin on Thursday was the right move. It was the best move. And it was really the only move move that made sense after Minnesota took linebacker Anthony Barr with the ninth pick, St. Louis chose defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the 13th pick and Pittsburgh selected linebacker Ryan Shazier with 15th pick.

That put the Cowboys on the clock. Social media went wild with speculation that the Cowboys would draft Manziel. Folks figured the merchandising and marketing opportunities involving Manziel and the Cowboys would be too much for Jerry to resist.

Guess not.

“There’s no way any quarterback comes in here and beats out Romo -- you know that,” Jones said. “Romo’s contract as well as our commitment to him means he’s certainly going to be the quarterback for the Cowboys for several years to come -- there’s no doubt about it. I don’t care who you draft.

“That was going through our minds from the get-go. That’s why we just didn’t spend a lot of time at all in this draft considering Manziel.”

Jones has always loved acquiring baubles, whether we’re talking about Deion Sanders, Terrell Owens, Rocket Ismail or Pacman Jones. But when the Cowboys didn’t get any trade offers worth taking to move down, they didn’t overthink the situation and selected Martin.

“This was such an obvious football decision,” Jerry said. “The idea of flair, flash and show business was never a consideration.”

Those of you who have been referring to Garrett as a puppet need to stop. You don’t have to like him as a coach, but don’t act like he doesn’t influence the owner.

In the first 22 years Jones owned the team, the Cowboys never took an offensive lineman in the first round.

Actually, the franchise hadn’t taken an offensive linemen in the first round since selecting Missouri’s Howard Richards in 1981. Martin is the third offensive lineman the Cowboys have taken in the first round in the past four years.

Tyron Smith (2011) is a Pro Bowl left tackle, and Travis Frederick (2013) started and played well at center last season.

Thursday's pick was a move with foresight, because Martin can play guard this season and move to right tackle next season. Right tackle Doug Free is entering the last year of his contract, and the Cowboys would've cut him last season if he hadn't taken a pay cut.

“We believe the games in the National Football League are won up front,” Garrett said. “Look at the best teams in the league now and for a lot of years and they control the line of scrimmage. We did that for years here and won championships in the '90s.”

The Cowboys have won one playoff game since winning Super Bowl XXX.

Picking Martin will help the Cowboys escape the abyss of mediocrity; selecting Johnny Football would’ve kept them in it.