Think about Jerry Jones for a second. The chances are you're not impressed with the image. Is it the firing of coaches? Is it the way he promotes the Cowboys? The influence he has on the NFL owner meetings? Is it just his face? It's a pretty annoying face, we grant you.
We aren't fans of Jerry either. We've long lamented the 'business/entertainment' factor that has ridden roughshod over the NFL in recent years, and we've long suspected that Jones is one of the driving forces behind the degradation of the NFL's sporting integrity.
But at some point, putting all of that aside, we have to admit that Jerry isn't the guy that the media have created, particularly when it comes to the draft. He is the ultimate argument generator, the man who gets more clicks than any other owner, the guy who has become a reason all of his own. 'Because Jerry' is how many in the NFL media rationalize insane scenarios and stories that would otherwise be seen as cynical attempts to generate headlines and hits.
Want proof? Look no further than this year's draft, which will hopefully herald the end of the myth that Jerry Jones is a loose cannon who puts the 'big splash' above the needs of his team. Sure he can sometimes defy reason and pull off a Roy Williams ridicu-trade, but Jones has kept his draft-day discipline better than most NFL owners over the last 15 years.
The Johnny Football Smokescreen
Every year there's a player who teams use as a smokescreen, a guy who they have little or no interest in drafting, but who they use as a method of ensuring the guy they really want is still there. In the eyes of NFL decision-makers, keeping your intentions secret and spreading misinformation are never bad things.
Inevitably, Quarterbacks - as the most discussed human beings on earth for two weeks prior to the draft - are the go-to guys in this situation, so when a media phenomenon like Johnny Manziel comes along, you can expect plenty of BS from teams, with an all-too-willing media rumor machine that is more than happy to play along. It's a win-win situation for the media and teams.
Let's use Todd McShay of ESPN as the 'goat here. He made his biggest pitch of the draft season yesterday morning, telling the world and his dog that 'Manziel is believed to be the number 1 player on Dallas's board'.
He wasn't, Todd.
This story didn't develop overnight, however. It began months ago when Todd Archer of ESPN posed the innocuous (and valid) question of whether the Cowboys could be tempted if Manziel fell to them at no.16.
We think Archer and the ESPNDallas boys had this one nailed on from the start, and over time they posted plenty of articles with well-reasoned theses on why the Cowboys simply couldn't commit to any other QB while Tony Romo's contract weighs them down. Seriously basic stuff, you'd presume, and hardly information that isn't available to other journalists...
Story done, then. We'll just pack up our Johnny Football Cowboys jerseys to take down to the shelter... wait...that's that?
Of course there is. This is the NFL, where people will literally make up any conceivable possibility and then justify it because a) 'it's the draft, an inexact science' and b) 'it's Jerry Jones/Al Davis/Mark Davis/Bill Belichick/<insert wild-card decision maker here>'. It doesn't matter about 'facts', it only matters that journalists can pump out reams of copy with very little substance - and it's all based on the image they have created of these guys as 'unpredictable', when they are anything but.
Things took a turn for the crazy a couple of weeks back, when an un-named scout suggested in a text to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report that impulsive crazy-man Jerry Jones could ignore all rational thought and draft Johnny Football at 16:
"Just texted scout to see if he believed Cowboys would take Manziel if Manziel was there. Scout: "Of course he would." Oh boy."
We don't see much wrong with that (although if we were Mike, we'd consider getting a new scout in our contacts) because it was hardly more than speculation of other scouts' thought processes. From then on, however, the Manziel talk took on a life of it's own.
We've long believed that these stories are a product of an insulated journalistic bubble that dozens of reporters live in, experiencing nothing but NFL opinions and 'information' from 'sources'. It's easy to see how one man's 'source' can in-turn become the source for another guy's article, as in the case of Ed Werder and Mike Florio:
"From the moment the Joneses who own the Cowboys started gushing about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, we began to pay attention to the possibility that the Cowboys would be inclined to add the potential franchise quarterback a year after giving Tony Romo a franchise quarterback contract.
Ed Werder of ESPN fuels that notion, explaining on SportsCenter that, if Manziel falls to No. 16, the Cowboys could take him."Good PFT reporting doctrine followed, no link to ESPN: check. One link to your own story about Johnny Football telling us how it is probably BS: check.
But Mike wasn't finished there...
"Let’s take a step farther. We think that, if Manziel slides past the Vikings at No. 8, the Cowboys could be inclined to trade up to get Manziel."
Oh christ. This had better be good Mike. What's your reasoning for this?
"In 20 of 25 drafts, Jerry Jones has made a move with a first-round pick."
We... but... in 24 of 25 drafts Jerry hasn't drafted a first round QB? In 22 of 25 drafts Jerry hasn't even drafted a QB in any round? If you want to argue that Jones is likely to make a trade because he's done so in other drafts, that is fine, but the very same (flawed) stats would seem to indicate that an offensive player or QB are very unlikely. Let's have all of the relevant statistics (below), not just the ones that suit a particular angle.
Oh, and what about the cap hit?
"Cap considerations would make a trade of Romo difficult if not impossible this year. The cap hit would be stiff next year but not insurmountable, if the Cowboys were to move Manziel to the starting lineup and move Romo out of the building."
We can guarantee that if it suited his argument - and it may do should Romo struggle this year - Florio would decry the Cowboys for putting themselves in a position where Romo is un-tradeable. He isn't going anywhere.
They won't be able to trade him because they have back-loaded his salary to next season and ensured they are on the hook for almost $20m should they need to cut him. Jones just restructured Romo's contract this offseason to essentially guarantee two more years of Romo, and Jones, despite his flaws, isn't Woody Johnson, he doesn't make long term commitments without being sure it is what he wants.
Listen (or read), again, we need to emphasize that we're not Jerry Jones fans. The guy has proved time and again that he is not a particularly great NFL talent evaluator, and we are particularly worried by his influence on the league as a whole. We can see his fingerprints all over the NFL's misguided European expansion, for example.
That said, there are parts of this characterization of Jerry as an impulsive megalomaniac that are completely media-driven.
As we mentioned above, in 16 years, Jerry has drafted just two first round 'skill position' players (Felix Jones and Dez Bryant). Primarily, he has drafted defensive players and prioritizes the offensive line. Why do people assume he is the second coming of Al Davis come draft day, given these very relevant statistics? Well, let's do some really basic research:
|Team||Number of first round QB/RB/WR/TE since 1998|
|San Diego Chargers||6|
|New Orleans Saints||6|
|New York Giants||5|
|San Francisco 49ers||5|
|St Louis Rams||5|
|New England Patriots||4|
|New York Jets||4|
|Kansas City Chiefs||4|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4|
|Green Bay Packers||3|
Yes, that's right. Not a single team in the NFL has drafted less offensive players over the last 15 years than the Dallas Cowboys. Whoever thinks
Mike Mayock of NFL Network suggested in his mock draft that - like McShay's - had the Cowboys taking Manziel at 16 that 'this is Jerry's world, and what Jerry wants, Jerry gets'.
We don't think that 'what Jerry wants' in Dallas is anything other than a winning team. Looking at the players drafted, it actually seems that if Mayock's claim is true, then the media could have taken a quick look at the number of offensive players and QB's that Jones has drafted in his tenure, and realized immediately that the Johnny Football draft talk was very, very unlikely.
Hey, at worst, they could have listened to the guy himself:
"No doubt in my mind [Manziel] is going to be an outstanding NFL football player, but we have Tony Romo, and Tony Romo is our ticket."
Of course, nothing will stop the NFL media machine perpetuating the myth of Jerry Jones as a draft wild card - at least not while it is their own ticket to more hits.