Yes, the Cowboys were close to drafting Johnny Manziel. How close?
“I want you to know that almost as I was handing in the card, it was that close to putting that Manziel card in. It was that close,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday on NFL Network, via Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I looked over to my son, Stephen . . . and I said, ‘I took the right pick. [Zack Martin] was the top player by three players on our board at the time that we were sitting there looking at [Manziel]. . . . The question was, ‘Could we make it work with Tony Romo during the period of time that we are going to have Tony?’ And by the way, my expectations are that Tony will be our quarterback several years to come as we move along.”
It’s easy for Jones to say that now. In fact, it’s necessary, given that the Cowboys didn’t pick Manziel. But if Manziel had been the pick, how many years could the Cowboys have parked him on the bench behind Romo? And how relentless would the questions have been regarding Manziel’s elevation to starter?
“Manziel is special,” Jones said. “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 have for the rest of my career think about.”
Jones won’t have to personally confront the decision until 2016, when the Cowboys are due to visit Cleveland. If Romo’s back problems have forced him to retire by then and if Manziel has become a quality starter, Jones will be thinking about it a lot.