The Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, and the art of laying up

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 22: Zack Martin #70 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 22: Zack Martin #70 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

As Jerry Jones decides who will lead the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, here’s a flashback to a 2014 draft decision that reveals two very different outcomes.

Offensive guard Zack Martin was the only member of the Dallas Cowboys selected to the Associated Press 2019 NFL All-Pro Team. Since his first-round selection of the 2014 NFL Draft, Martin has contributed to an offensive line that has powered three rushing titles in six seasons.

Martin was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team, AP NFL All-Pro First Team, and the Pro Bowl following his rookie season. Since then, he has not missed a Pro Bowl selection and has earned three more First Team and two Second Team selections to the AP All-Pro Team.

Martin, center Travis Frederick, and left tackle Tyron Smith have led an offensive line averaging 2,154 rushing yards per season since Dallas made him the 16th overall pick in 2014.

Of course, there’s nothing sexy about a hardworking college tackle turned guard. Martin won’t appear on ESPN’s SportsCenter for throwing four touchdowns and rushing for three more.

Picking Martin was the safe choice, as Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy reported Jerry Jones saying during that draft you don’t get to do special things in life by making major decisions right down the middle.

Regarding the 2014 draft, Jerry Jones refuted rumors that Stephen Jones snatched a draft card with Johnny Manziel’s name from his father’s hand. Jones did admit, however, that he alone wanted the star quarterback from Texas A&M, and in 2017, Stephen Jones recounted the draft day events that occurred nearly three years earlier.

According to Stephen Jones, his father and himself identified three players that would preclude drafting Manziel: Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, and Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. Stephen also reminded Jerry of Martin.

When the Cowboys pick arrived, the three players on Jerry’s list weren’t available. Jerry campaigned for Johnny Football, but no one in the room approved. Jerry then proposed trading their pick, but other teams hadn’t called. Stephen described Jerry as not happy.

The Cowboys owner asked why no one else wanted to take Johnny Manziel? Stephen responded by telling Jerry they needed to select Martin. And they did.

So, the Cowboys owner continuously blamed for contaminating the team with his poor decision-making couldn’t get the player he coveted. Still, the war in the Cowboys war room wasn’t over, at least not for Jerry Jones.

Just before the start of the 2014 NFL season, Don Van Natta, Jr. quotes Jones reaction to choosing Martin in ESPN the Magazine:

"“I am still so damn mad… I get madder, every day, about missin’ [Manziel] … When we were on the clock, I said, if we pick the other guy – any other guy – it would be a ticket to parity, more 8-8 seasons … If we had picked Manziel, he’d guarantee our relevance for 10 years.”"

The elder Jones would go on to tell his son that he would have never bought the Cowboys had he made the kinda decision that they made with the selection of Martin. And that the team laid up for this one.

To make matters worse, the Cowboys lost their opening game to the San Francisco 49ers 28-17.  Dallas quarterback Tony Romo threw three interceptions. But America’s Team went on to win the next six games. And behind Romo and the offense, the Boys finished the 2014 season 12-4 and missed a trip to the NFC Championship Game, losing in the divisional round to the Green Bay Packers 26-21.

Meanwhile, while Martin was playing his All-Pro rookie season, Johnny Football appeared in five games for the Cleveland Browns. He started only two contests in 2014. After losing 30-0 in Week 15, Manziel suffered a hamstring injury in Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. He’d completed just three of eight passes before getting hurt.

In his second NFL season, Manziel appeared in ten games. As a starter, he won two games and lost four, completing only 57.85 percent of his passes. And that summarizes Johnny Football’s NFL career.

Two players. One decision. Two very different outcomes. Now Jerry has another important decision to make, and the scariest part is Jerry’s erstwhile conviction about Manziel. In July 2014,’s Mike Coppinger captured the elder Jones still proclaiming Johnny Football’s greatness.

"“But Manziel is special. I know him personally. I know that he is going to be a success in the National Football League. And it was a hard decision. And it is one that I will probably for the rest of my career think about.”"

Did Jerry Jones truly know Manziel personally? If so, was he aware the alcohol and drug abuse revealed by Vanity Fair’s Bryan Burrough, who in October of 2016 refers to Johnny Football as the biggest bust in the history of the National Football League, placing him ahead of former San Diego Chargers first-round bust, quarterback Ryan Leaf.

Burrough’s article chronicles tales of Manziel abusing alcohol and substances long before the NFL draft. That abuse continued as a professional, helping to end his career with the Browns after a total of 14 games.

In February of 2019, Manziel was banned from the CFL. And just last month, two weeks before Martin was the only Cowboy selected as an All-Pro, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck was asked to explain why Manziel had not been drafted into the league. His answer was simply that there were better players available.

Next. 2020 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys full-seven round mock 1.0. dark

If you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan and you’re still concerned about what happened with Johnny Manziel, take solace in the fact the team drafted a potential Hall of Famer instead. The bigger concern should be with Mike McCarthy set to become the next head coach for America’s Team, will he have the ability to tell Jerry when to layup?