The Cowboys Should Have Drafted Manziel
Tony Romo broke his collarbone in week 2 of the NFL season this year and since that time the Dallas Cowboys have done their very best to create a convincing campaign that Romo should be the league MVP by unceremoniously losing four straight games. An arguable Super Bowl contender before the start of the year is now playing unarguably at the level of an expansion team in large part due to the quarterback play of Brandon Weeden and as of Sunday Matt Cassel.
Brandon Weeden, who began his career in Cleveland, has all of the outward moxie of a third-string quarterback who failed forward into the role of being a second-string quarterback on a Super Bowl contender. Before Romo’s injury, Weeden looked to do his best to remain invisible on the sideline for fear of having to play a meaningful down in a game that actually mattered. Short of the obligatory camera shot of Romo, the offensive coordinator, and Weeden gazing at a tablet or notebook of game photos on the sideline, there was no proof that Weeden was even on the team. That all changed of course in week 2 when the Cowboys were in Philadelphia to play the Eagles.
Weeden became the starting quarterback and proved that maybe it wasn’t Cleveland. Maybe Weeden at quarterback was a terrible idea even for the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones assured Cowboys’ fans and the rest of the NFL that we would not see a more “gifted” passer than Brandon Weeden. Perhaps that was just Jerry being Jerry after a little Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Weeden’s play during his time as the starting quarterback was sobering for Jerry Jones and his Cowboys. So much so they traded for Matt Cassel. The same Matt Cassel who was buried in Buffalo behind Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel.
It would stand to reason that if you struggled to stay on a team that boasted an unproven starter in Tyrod Taylor and a proven inept second string quarterback, EJ Manuel, that you were probably not the most qualified person to grasp the reins of a team expected to contend for the playoffs. On Sunday, Cassel did everything that was expected of him and then some. He was responsible for as much as the Giants scoring on Sunday as Eli Manning. Lofty expectations even for a quarterback as qualified as Brandon Weeded. Jerry Jones at least figuratively reached for the bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label along with the rest of Cowboys Nation on Sunday, knowing their season was slipping away one errant pass at a time.
Imagine now if Jerry Jones had turned in the slip of paper for the 16th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft with Johnny Manziel instead of Zack Martin. I know what fans will say. Zack Martin was a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season and Manziel has spent as much time in rehab as he has on the field. The Cowboys have depth on their offensive line, something they obviously don’t have at quarterback. They could conceivably move backup Ronald Leary from left guard to right guard in a world where Martin isn’t a Dallas Cowboy. Manziel has shown why he fits in the long line of quarterbacks playing in Cleveland spotted by glimpses of being the NFL version of Johnny Football.
Manziel’s play in Cleveland shouldn’t be shocking or entirely unexpected. The Browns have long been the final resting place of highly regarded or once successful quarterbacks. Tim Couch went 22–37 as a starter, Jeff Garcia 3–7, Vinny Testaverde 16–15. Colt McCoy 6–15, Bernie Kosar 53–51–1 and even the outlier in the argument to win a Super Bowl you have to have a quarterback, Trent Dilfer could only manage a 4–7 record in Cleveland as the starter. That’s right. The Trent Dilfer only 4–7! Why would Johnny Manziel be able to do any better? He wouldn’t and that shouldn’t be a knock against him as much as the Browns. Look at those who have come before him and failed. Manziel has had off-field issues but so did Dez Bryant when the Cowboys selected him in 2010. Five years later Dez stays largely out of trouble and has become a leader on the Dallas Cowboys. Besides, since when has Jerry Jones shied away from a player with some character issues? Hello, Greg Hardy.
Manziel would not have the pressure on him in Dallas to be the starter that he has in Cleveland. The same pressure that has caused so many previous Browns’ quarterbacks to wilt. He would have time to learn the game and in this instance would give the Cowboys a better chance to win than either Weeden or Cassel. The Cowboys may have their quarterback of the future in Manziel or may not or think if they had drafted Teddy Bridgewater. The Cowboys know their future quarterback isn’t anyone currently on their roster so even if Manziel never became “Johnny Cowboy” the team would not be any worse off than they are now. Zack Martin is a great right guard but in the end right guards don’t win football games. Especially when the person he is assigned to protect isn’t worth the effort it takes to protect him.