Oct. 6, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive tackle Zack Martin (70) celebrates after running back Cierre Wood (20), not shown, scored a touchdown in the third quarter against the Miami Hurricanes at Soldier Field. Notre Dame won 41-3. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Zack Martin Pick Further Suggests Expert Narrative On Cowboys Needs Updating

Some folks are surprised today that offensive lineman Zack Martin is a Cowboy and quarterback sensation Johnny Manziel is not. Some folks earnestly believed, with a conviction born of absolute certainty, that with the Cowboys on the clock at No. 16 and Johnny Manziel still in the green room, there was no way the Texas A&M lightning rod wouldn’t have a star on his helmet this season. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones – the Arkansas gambler, the black gold wildcatter, the spotlight seeker, the marketing master with an eye on future ratings for America’s Team – was gonna make it happen.

And it was never going to happen. The whole Big Splash narrative on Jones is so 2010. That’s just not who he’s been the past few years.

“The worst mistake you can make is over-drafting for need and leaving really, really good players on the board.”

What the TV talking heads who yap incessantly about Wacky Jerry fail to recognize is the Cowboys have changed the way they do things since hiring head coach Jason Garrett before the start of the 2011 season. One of the most impactful achievements of Garrett’s three-year tenure has been to clearly define and implement a new organizational philosophy. One that builds through the draft. One that more realistically (and more ruthlessly) evaluates its existing talent. One that spurs growth through relentless competition. One that protects its cap space. One that doesn’t reach for need on draft day.

Build through the draft: Sure, the NFL is a “quarterback-driven league,” but your offense is only as good as your offensive line, and Martin is the third offensive lineman taken with a first-round pick in the past four drafts. He is one of only three offensive linemen taken in the first round of Jones’ 26-year ownership. The first one was taken during Garrett’s first year as a principal in the war room. This team doesn’t trade out of the first round anymore.

Ruthlessly evaluate existing talent: Remember how pumped Jones was to sign guard Ron Leary as an undrafted free agent in 2012? In the past, he falls in love with a player like that. Today, he sees Leary for what he is, and when a premium talent at the same position falls unexpectedly in the draft, he pounces. Remember perceived “pet cat” Phil Costa, the undrafted free agent center from 2010? Same deal last year. You earn your spot on the Cowboys with your play, not the owner’s affection.

Relentless competition: Martin’s position flex means he can challenge right tackle Doug Free as well as both guards for playing time. The five best linemen are going to start. We know going in that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith and All-Rookie center Travis Frederick will earn spots. The Martin pick makes four players competing for three positions. The theory is, everyone ups the intensity and plays better. The theory is sound.

Protect your cap space: A rookie first-round bust is particularly expensive, and linemen tend to be safer picks than skill position players.

Don’t reach for need: The Cowboys don’t draft in a vacuum – 31 other teams are making independent decisions that result in a constantly evolving assessment of the available talent. If defensive end Anthony Barr or undertackle Aaron Donald are on the board when the Cowboys select Thursday night, perhaps Martin isn’t a Cowboy. That’s not how it broke, though. Build your board, then have the stones to trust it. That’s how a team gets good and stays good.

Garrett has repeatedly and very publicly reiterated various principles of the organization’s philosophy for more than three years now. He’s done it in nearly every press conference he’s ever given. All head coaches avoid giving direct answers to direct questions. Garrett’s aversion style is to offer a precise and often times enthusiastic synopsis of the organizational principle that relates to the direct question. It’s fascinating to watch, and it’s usually informative. Consider this interaction during the predraft press conference on Tuesday:

Question: How will your hopes for a healthy Anthony Spencer affect your strategy during the draft?

Oh, I think you try to be independent of that. You try to help your football team. You know, we certainly have needs. Every team has needs – it’s been mentioned here a number of times in this press conference. We’re going to look at the draft board and try to take the best players. Guys who can help our football team. And you target guys at certain positions, but the worst mistake you can make is over-drafting for need and leaving really, really good players on the board. So we try to have discipline that way just like every team in this league does, and we’ll do that on our defensive front, all across our defense, and throughout our team.

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t interested in making a big splash on draft day. The goal is to acquire good football players and challenge them daily in a competitive environment. When a professional organization has a $100 million quarterback on the roster, and is looking for impact players to help it over the hump, it does not invest a first-round pick in a developmental signal caller who comes packaged with a 24/7 media circus and may or may not be better than the established backup. That’s Wacky Jerry.

That’s so 2010 Jerry. Get with the times. The Martin pick suggests this organization is less concerned with overnight ratings, and more about long-term winning.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Dallas Cowboys Johnny Manziel Zack Martin

  • Earl Robertson

    I was totally wrong thinking that Manziel wouldn’t be there at 16! But I wasn’t wrong knowing cowboys wouldn’t pic him because of Romo there was no way they could have. This is the bed Jerry has made so he has to sleep in it. But building the O line is a smart move now just have to hope Romo back isn’t chronic which he is going to have to be real lucky for it not turning out that way

  • David

    This was a well written article on Dallas. There have been plenty of average to good not great QB’s to win the SB. There really has not been any teams with bad defenses or O-lines to win won though. The list of Trent Dilfers to recent Russ Wilson is fairly long and Dallas needs to follow those models of Great defenses and run games if they want to come close to a SB again.

  • PaulTX

    For whatever reason, Garrett is getting what he wants. And he might turnout to be better than an 8-8 coach after all.

    • Old Frog

      Not just Garrett. SJ, JG, and McClay – the new triplets in Dallas.

      • PaulTX

        I think it was an easy choice. Let’s just hope they don’t pull another Escobar tonight.

  • Matty ice

    Solid pick at16 & they still need more offensive lineman but it’s time to get some defense some hungry guys that want it I say linebacker and defensive line are two main positions too focus on cornerback as well

    • David

      DE and OLB is what they need to address in the next two rounds. I think they can wait on the DT’s until the 7th round. Now if a safety like Joyner is available after they get a good DE in the 2nd, I would not object to that either..

      • Matty ice

        I agree DTs are a bit of a need tho still have to address it but not so high so agree on that but they must hit the lottery on a few of these guys or were in trouble this coming season that defense was the worse of worse so my beliefs are they can’t get any worse some of these second and third day guys may be asked to start right away or play more than usual guys of that round to play so they have to draft solid guys.. None of these William & Mary guys!!

        • David

          I dont think they need to hit the lottery at all. I can guarantee you at least two qb’s go before them. So now thats 13 guys left. I can almost also guarantee you at least two wr’s in Lee and Robinson go ahead of them as well. So now thats 11 picks left in front of them. I am guaranteeing you again that at least 3 to 4 O-lineman and 2 DT’s go in front of them. So thats 5 more guys on the conservative end going in front of them and 10 or so total. Now throw in a RB maybe two and one of those guys we need will be available.

      • Matty ice

        Man I sure hope your right because it’s slim they get a stud there we need a stud off the edge or were in trouble I think we have to apply pressure on the qb or our secondary looks like the jv high school unit they have to get at least two guys who can get to the qb in my opinion they have to come in waves at a team I would think they go d end with either ealy or lawerence or chricton I’ve even heard jeffcoat name mentioned & I think that’s way to high for Jeffcoat Martin is another guy id like there I think the cowboy nation would be happy with those guys not jeffcoat in the 2nd or third..

        • David

          Hey I coach a JV team and they were better haha. No in all fairness I just dont know if there are any “studs” left to rush the passer..At least not a walk in one. And like I said below I think Dallas can get either Kony, Crichton, Lawrence or Tuitt in the 2nd round. Dallas has the 15th pick and I listed below of all the positions that will go ahead of them.

          • Matty ice

            Haha call some of them up dallas could use them…and ok I just seen who u listed there I like any of those guys but then again we are talking about the cowboys but they have to be smart enough to get this defense at least to middle of the pack in rankings this coming year for us to get something going we can’t continue raking in the 30s in defense or we will be 8-8 or worse..

          • David

            I agree but unfortunately I think the defense ceiling is middle of the pack unless they get a top safety. Their current safeties will never allow this defense to be the great defense it will take to make an SB let alone win one IMHO..