When the Dallas Cowboys aren’t making any headlines with their performance on the field, they somehow manage to always stay relevant simply because the owner, president, and general manager (and probably unofficial head coach) Jerry Jones loves to talk and be heard.
On Tuesday, Jones was asked if he would be willing to bring a young but risky quarterback into the franchise on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. His response essentially was: Yes, as long as he has great upside.
With the blunder of a QB carousel that the Cowboys went through after aging franchise QB Tony Romo went down not once but twice this season, Jones obviously wants to make sure he doesn’t have to witness another disaster like this ever again or at least not anytime soon. With that being said, popular names such as Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel have been thrown out as possible additions to the team.
RGIII and Manziel have both expressed interest in playing for the Cowboys and Jones has commented on many occasions that he is a fan of both players. Considering the idea that the Washington Redskins have clearly moved on from RGIII as Kirk “You Like That?!” Cousins has proven to be a better quarterback and the idea that the Cleveland Browns have just about reached their breaking point with Johnny Football after his latest ridiculous incident, Jones must either be feeling really giddy or nerve-wracked as he will likely have his pick of the popular litter. Since Romo is nearing the end of his career, whomever Jones picks may very well be the successor to Romo. I am here to break down the potential upsides and setbacks Jones and the Cowboys may have choosing either QB:
It seems like such a long time ago since RGIII, probably one of the most dangerous rookie QBs to ever play in the NFL, had taken the league by storm. Being a QB with track speed, he was a nightmare matchup for any team, especially since the read-option was still a fairly new concept to the NFL. Had he not suffered that knee injury against the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, he very well could have been a Super Bowl champion that year. Fast-forward to today, RGIII is now just Robert Griffin and is simply another guy playing quarterback in the game.
- Character/Commitment: Compared to Manziel, Griffin is virtually a choirboy. Coming from a strong family background, he has never been known to be a troublemaker off the field. If Jones decided to bring Griffin in, he would not have to worry about him becoming a distraction.
- Already Proven/Experience: Griffin has already proven to be a really good quarterback and at his best (at least from what we’ve seen), he is way better than Manziel. Being in the league for some time now, I wouldn’t doubt that he’s gotten the sense of what it takes to be great at this point in his career while Manziel is still trying to figure that out.
- Confidence: Griffin hasn’t been the same since he tore his ACL in his rookie year. When he fooled the nation into believing that he would indeed be ready to play the following season, he got exposed as a terrible pocket passer. Everyone who defended him tried to use his health as an excuse, but eventually that excuse wore itself out. I saw games that Griffin played in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, and he looked healthy to me. Yes, he did not run with the same determination and recklessness that he once had but the bigger problem seemed to be that he looked like a deer in the headlights when he had to stand in the pocket and actually play like a quarterback. Personally, I think his confidence is still shaken since the injury. In the time he did play, Griffin looked timid to use his athleticism – the thing that made him so dangerous in his rookie year. As a result, he was forced to become one-dimensional and could not beat opponents that way. If Jones wants to get the most out of this addition, he will have to find a way to get Griffin’s mojo back.
- Contract situation: Before this season started, Washington exercised Griffin’s fifth year option, which would give him a little over $16 million for the 2016-17 season. If Washington decided to cut him loose right now, they wouldn’t owe him a penny. For Jones, that is a lot of money to pay for a backup who may not even see the field next year. With salary caps being what they are, I’m not sure Jones would pick him up if he knew he could get another QB like Manziel for less than half of that price.
There is no doubt that Jones was pleased with his team’s performance last season. Jones appeared to have proven once again that he knew more about football than everybody else with his drafting of G Zach Martin, who heavily contributed to Romo and RB DeMarco Murray having the best seasons of their careers. While Martin may have been the Cowboys’ top priority and has turned out to be one of the better guards in the game, further down that same draft board in that draft was Manziel. If Jones couldn’t get or didn’t want Martin, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have drafted Manziel? Now he has a chance to get Manziel without having to waste a draft pick on him. Together, they could finally “wreck the league” (a phrase that seems to have a double meaning at this point considering Manziel’s antics off the field), as Jones would have envisioned.
- Flashes of greatness: While Manziel’s numbers won’t wow anyone, he has had moments throughout the season where he looked as if he could possibly become a star quarterback. Now Manziel still needs to play more for a better evaluation, but he clearly looked much better this season than he did last season even without having many weapons and the biggest weapon, WR Josh Gordon, being suspended for the season. Having still not played a full season as a starter and being benched every other week doesn’t help his chances of growing, but if Romo goes down with another injury early on next season, who knows what Johnny could do with better WRs and the highly proclaimed “best offensive line in football.”
- Buzz/Jersey Sales: Even with all of the problems that may come with Manziel, no one can deny that he has certainly created a buzz in Cleveland of all places. Last time I checked, LeBron plays in that same city and even he doesn’t have people talking the way Manziel does (at least not anymore). Before Manziel arrived to the NFL, who cared about what was happening with the Cleveland Browns week after week other than Browns’ fans? Whether it is positive or negative attention, it is still attention that Manziel brings and Jones sure loves himself some attention. While there probably is a market for Griffin’s jersey sales, it would be even bigger if Manziel was signed, as he is the more popular player at the moment.
I’ve decided to name only one setback, but it’s probably the biggest one with Manziel.
- Lack of commitment: From physically fending off obsessive fans to entering rehab to now sneaking into Sin City under the guise of Billy Football, Manziel has found just about every excuse one can find to discuss something other than football when it comes to him. Manziel is one of those players that think his career ended on draft day – as if the very next day he was going to go into the hall of fame. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the NFL is where the best of the best play. Everyone was the ‘big guy on campus’ (except for kickers because that never happens) on the high school level. Getting to the NFL level is not the end of the journey. Excuses that Manziel wasn’t getting enough starts and so he became disinterested and distracted with his celebrity status are not good enough. Now if the Cowboys get him, whose to say he won’t get distracted when he starts playing and living in Dallas? I’ve never been to Cleveland or Dallas, but from what I’ve heard, Cleveland is nowhere near as interesting as Dallas. Getting back to the point, when Manziel gets there, he is still going to be a backup and when the distractions are much closer to home, is anyone going to believe that he will be disciplined enough to refrain from becoming a distraction himself? Jones may love Johnny now – from a distance – but we will see how long that love lasts when he’s on his team and Jones has to defend him week after week for something other than football.
Overall, both QBs are big risks for Jones to take on. One is a big risk to put on the field while the other one is a risk off the field. If I were Jerry Jones, I think Robert Griffin III would be slightly less of a risk to take. At worst, Griffin would be riding the bench while collecting easy paychecks for only 1 year and then he could get rid of him. With Johnny however, he will be collecting paychecks while riding the bench and making the Cowboys relevant for the all the wrong reasons. Either way, Jones will get what he pays for. Theoretically, wouldn’t you rather pay for the damaged premium good (Griffin) instead of the damaged (and I’m not talking about physically) cheap good?