Football Over Flash: Cowboys Pass on Johnny

Take it back. Apologize even. At the very least lock it up and promise not to utter it ever again.

You know who you are. And what you said.

The stuff about Jerry Jones only caring about money and marketing. The part about the Cowboys being style over substance. And the notion that – with Johnny Manziel on the board at No. 16 in last night’s NFL Draft – the owner wouldn’t be able to resist the draft’s shiniest object because, after all, he’s not a precious “football man.”

You were wrong. Jones and the Cowboys made a prudent football decision in selecting Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin over Manziel. Zack Lineman might not have the ring or marketing opportunities as Johnny Football, but the pick will make the Cowboys a better football team next year. And that’s what this draft should be about, after all.

When Manziel slipped all the way to No. 16 with the Cowboys on the clock, fans sat on the edge of their seat. Social media oozed with “Johnny Cowboy” banter. But, as I’ve said since February, there was no way the Cowboys were drafting Manziel.

Too much invested in Tony Romo. Too many other holes to fill.

I know it’s trendy to join the dog pile screaming about Jones and his desire for the Cowboys to be popular. But if you really know Jerry you realize it’s not about money for him anymore. He’s got billions. What he wants is another ring. Another championship for him and his ego to call his own.

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Jerry’s already credited as being one of the NFL’s great all-time carnival barkers. Now he desperately – defiantly – wants credit for being a shrewd football man.

Last night – to the surprise of many – he took another step in the right direction.

“There’s no way any quarterback comes in here and beats out Romo – you know that,” Jones said at Valley Ranch after the selection of Martin. “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. This was such an obvious football decision. The idea of flair, flash and show business was never a consideration.”

For Jones’ critics, that’s gotta sting. Admit it, the Cowboys owner is making moves to win football games, not a popularity contest.

Now, about the football decision. The Cowboys had three defensive players – Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald and Ryan Shazier – ranked ahead of Martin. He’s a solid, no nonsense player in the mold of linemen Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. He watched the draft from his parents’ house in Indianapolis for crying out loud.

Still, safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor had to be tempting. After Day 1 and a premium pick, the Cowboys have done nothing to help their all-time worst defense from 2013.

They did, however, signal that 2014 will be about football over flash. And to the chagrin of a lot of folks, that’s got to be considered progress.

A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.

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