With the release of back-up quarterback Kyle Orton being made official on Wednesday, the Dallas Cowboys end a continuing saga of question marks surrounding this position all offseason. Now that the dust has finally cleared, it paves the way for former 2012 first round pick Brandon Weeden to take over those duties. And with starting quarterback Tony Romo coming off major back surgery in December, the back-up position is more important than ever.
But what if this release would have happened before the NFL Draft in May? Would Dallas’ top pick, which was offensive guard Zack Martin out of Notre Dame, have been any different? One media expert believes so. In a recent chat with fans, Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com answered that very question:
“Let’s say the Cowboys did this back before the draft. Wouldn’t their philosophy have been different regarding the quarterback? I believe so. I don’t think they regret not taking Manziel because we’re using hindsight of what we know now and not what we knew then.”
As the Cowboys first round pick approached in this year’s draft (16th overall), both pundits and fans alike expected Dallas to draft Texas native and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel out of Texas A&M. Instead, the Cowboys front office choose the aforementioned Martin, leaving Johnny Football falling down the board until the 22nd pick by the Cleveland Browns.
Now that it is clear Orton will no longer play for Dallas, the Cowboys have lost someone they consider to be the best back-up quarterback in the NFL. And due to his age (30), Weeden has never been considered a viable candidate to eventually replace Romo as a starter. If Dallas had known that Weeden would be forced to back-up Romo in 2014, would they have drafted Manziel? I believe so. And it all falls back to the Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
Here’s what Jones told the Dallas Morning News last month when asked if it was hard to pass on Manziel:
“Well, it was. Yes, it was. First of all, I couldn’t believe he had fallen there. And secondly, we had spent a lot of time, I’d spent a lot of time. He’s the kind of player that can be that kind of difference-maker. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be a successful player. We have in Romo what I consider to be the better quarterback. But there’s also the future, there’s also insurance if you don’t have him. If anybody could have adjusted to Manziel’s style, we could have because we’re a lot like that with Romo.”
I believe if Orton was out of the picture during the draft, his absence would have tipped the scales in Manziel’s favor for Jerry. That means this offseason, the media circus would have descended in Dallas and a quarterback controversy would top the national headlines. But hindsight is 20/20. The careers of both Martin and Manziel will shape the way Cowboys fans talk about the 2014 NFL Draft from here on out. The only question is whether it will be the draft Dallas dodged a bullet…or just another Randy Moss incident.