Matt Johnson: A Perspective


OTA’s have to be the melding of pro football and Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up material. For the past two weeks, it’s been practices about nothing. They’re not even in pads, some of the starters are held out, and yet people pester “the insiders” for 38 measly (not to be confused with Beasley) characters on what a particular player did.

Not to sound helplessly pessimistic, but how can people get so wrapped up in something that’s not even training camp? How can some players be anointed when they’ve not really done anything worthy of adulation?

Take Matt Johnson. I actually got a kick out of what Brad Sham, the pope of all Cowboys fans, said of Matt Johnson: he’s the greatest safety to ever play. By virtue of the Cowboys placing him on IR and giving him a roster spot when all he did was practice a few days in training camp, play a couple snaps against the Rams in pre-season, and one practice in late October 2012, Matt Johnson has to be a lock for the NFL’s Top 100.

May 4, 2012; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys draft picks Caleb McSurdy (56) Morris Claiborne (24) Matt Johnson (37) and Danny Coale (81) walk off the field after rookie mini-camp practice at Dallas Cowboys headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s interesting the Cowboys are placing their backend fortunes on an Achilles-ailed Church and a hamstring-hampered Johnson. I know Jerry Jones approaches a commander-in-chief level with the Salvation Army, but why do the Cowboys have to act like they shop there for help at a critical position that has been a thorn since Darren Woodson’s herniated disc?

Some would argue (the commenters, not Calvin Watkins) that the Cowboys gave up too much for an injured player like Matt Johnson. And that Jerry Jones is drunk, made a deal with the devil over Super Bowl XXX, personally screwed up the Super Bowl XLV seats, and was on the grassy knoll 50 years ago. In reality, the Cowboys gave up nothing more than Saint Tex Schramm did in 1960 with Ring of Honor member Don Perkins.

The fullback from New Mexico missed his entire rookie season due to a foot injury in 1960 training camp, yet Perkins is still the franchise’s fourth all-time rushing touchdown leader. While it’s true the Cowboys weren’t able to participate in the 1960 NFL Draft, they did give up their 9th round pick in the 1962 NFL Draft to the Baltimore Colts (coincidentally, the NFL’s first Dallas franchise).

Well, you say, “Big deal. Matt Johnson was a 4th round pick. No comparison.”

It is a big deal, and it is comparative to our 135th pick, Matt Johnson. In the early ’60s, when the NFL comprised of only 14 teams, the 135th pick was a tenth round pick. So, in fact, Saint Tex Schramm gave up more for Don Perkins to have him sit out his rookie year with a broken foot.

For Matt Johnson, practicing is a blessing in and of itself. For reality’s sake, it’s going to take actual game footage, possibly something in the pre-season, for fans to consider anything this redshirt rookie does a “small victory.” Morris Claiborne likes Johnson. Let’s hope Claiborne is as good of a scout as he is a Tampa-2 cornerback.

If Matt Johnson turns out to be an eventual Pro Bowler, I think the Cowboys would have made a good deal. If Matt Johnson turns out to be a wasted draft pick, then so be it. The truth is the Cowboys didn’t give up that much for him. However, with the culture of competition Jason Garrett is fostering at Valley Ranch, Cowboys fans won’t have time to sit in ashes telling sad stories.