It’s the biggest rumor surrounding the NFL Draft with less than nine days before the big event. Will the Dallas Cowboys pick Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with their first round pick? With All-Pro quarterback Tony Romo signing a large contract extension at this same time last year, the initial backlash should have been expected. But that agreement was forged before Romo had major back surgery in December. The Cowboys need to think about the future.
First, let me say I am not a Romo-hater. Honestly, it’s been his stellar play that has made this team competitive over the last few years. Without him, the Cowboys would have had much higher picks in the past NFL Drafts then they have. Romo is an excellent, franchise quarterback and will retire with a number of the Cowboys offensive passing records under his belt.
Unfortunately, due to some bad luck, terrible front office decisions and a lack of overall team support, I think the window on the 34-year old’s Super Bowl chances has closed. Like it or not, the Cowboys are in rebuilding mode. But don’t get me wrong. This team is still capable of making the playoffs out of the NFC East. But that’s more about the weakness of the division than it is about the current talent level of the team itself.
Certainly, there are pieces of a great team in Dallas. Wide Receiver Dez Bryant, running back DeMarco Murray, and middle linebacker Sean Lee will be the backbone of the Cowboys next best chance at Super Bowl success. But we are in the midst of a generational shift on this team. A handing over of the torch, so to speak. Soon, Romo and All-Pro tight end Jason Witten will go the way of former Cowboy defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Either through retirement or release due to exorbitant salaries. It’s going to happen.
And with one look at the Cowboys upcoming schedule, most fans agree the worst is yet to come. Although I predicted an optimistic 9-7 season in 2014, most fans seem to think the 6-10 range is more probable. And with games against the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, and the improving NFC East; Dallas is certainly facing an uphill battle to even return to an 8-8 record for the fourth straight season. If that prediction is true, add yet another year of NFL Football onto the aging backs of both Romo and Witten.
Can the Cowboys somehow bring things together and perform past expectations? Certainly. And I think most fans are hoping for the best. But if the past 20 years has taught us anything, it’s to be cautious. Especially when it comes to our hopes. As this team has made a habit of dashing them for us.
As for the Manziel rumor, I understand the blow-back by Romo fans. The last thing you think this team need is a quarterback controversy. But the fact there isn’t any competition at that position could be a problem. But it’s definitely not the Cowboys biggest one right now. Dallas has more pressing needs. Everyone gets that. Especially if you want to win right now. But do you honestly think there is a single player Dallas could draft next month that puts us over the hump in 2014? The truth is all rookies need time. The draft is about building your future. Free Agency is about winning right now.
And drafting Manziel is more about securing the team’s future success. It’s obvious to most that Dallas’ immediate success will be limited this season. Why not use this time to build a better future? Let’s not forget this Manziel kid is only 21 years old. He’s not ready to lead an NFL team. Two seasons on the bench behind an player like Romo would do nothing but benefit him and the Cowboy’s future. And there is not set rule that says a number one pick has to play from day one. There simply isn’t. And when dealing with the quarterback position, I’ve never heard of a single circumstance where having a young player standing on the sidelines holding a clipboard wasn’t beneficial to their career.
You’d think, as even semi-longtime Cowboys fans, most of us would remember how things were after Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman unexpectedly retired in 2000. The years we toiled because we weren’t preparing for the future at his position. Did that time period not leave a scare on you as it did on me? Finding Romo from the obscurity of undrafted free agency was a blessing. And it was also down right lucky. Why are so many fans willing to ride Romo till his wheels come off without an insurance plan?
Another question many fans have been asking: Why draft Manziel in the first round? Why not get a quarterback later in the draft? Out of the 32 NFL quarterbacks expected to start in 2014, 20 of them were selected in the first round. There is a reason for that.
Finally, the prospect of bringing Johnny Football to Dallas is simply exciting. It reads like a Cinderella story. And it makes for great headlines. Born during halftime of a Cowboys game in Tyler, TX. Grows up in little Kerrville, TX. Plays at Texas A&M and is the first freshman to win a Heisman. Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Plays for his favorite team since childhood. Sounds like a dream to me. But why does his dream have to be Romo’s downfall? Why can’t it be about securing this team’s future past Tony?
Although the chances of the stars aligning to make it all happen are slim, the idea is entertaining. For me, it would mean that Jerry Jones and the rest of the Cowboys front office have finally turned a page on the past. And that they are ready for a new chapter in Dallas. Because honestly, I’m tired of reading the same old disappointing 8-8 fairytale the past few seasons. As I’m sure you are too. And though that might not be Romo’s fault, a change at the most important position on the team may just be the shake-up this team needs to get out of this regular season prison.