On Thursday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was criticized nationally for seemingly getting hoodwinked in a first-round trade with San Francisco to move down 13 spots to take a player who likely would have been available in the second and possibly the third round.
When the 2013 NFL Draft ended Saturday, Jones was as defiant and confident as ever.
According to Jones, the Cowboys are no longer the 8-8 team that finished out of the playoffs the past two seasons and should be more successful in 2013.
Jones bases his beliefs not only on what the Cowboys did in the draft, including the controversial pick of Wisconsin center Travis Frederick in the first round, but also the overhaul of the coaching staff since the end of last season.
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And — drum roll, please — a Peyton Manning-like commitment from quarterback Tony Romo to spend more time at the team’s facilities so he can be more involved in all aspects of the offense than he has in the past.
That, according to Jones, is the flip side to the six-year, $108 million contract extension, including $55 million in guaranteed money, that the Cowboys gave Romo last month.
“If Tony, for instance, would be here Monday through Saturday … from seven in the morning to six o’clock at night all over this place, then that’s better than the way it’s been,” Jones said. “We’ll have more success, and Jason [Garrett] believes that.
“Tony is going to have more time, more presence, not only in the off-season but when the season starts. ... He’s going to have more time on the job. A part of what we agreed with was extra time on the job, beyond the norm. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t have a lot of time on the job, but extra time on the job, Peyton Manning-type time on the job.”
Considering that Cowboys have won only one playoff game since Romo took over as starter in 2006, the quarterback’s infamous trip to Cabo during Dallas’ bye week in the 2007 playoffs, and the fact that critics have long questioned Romo’s off-season commitment because of frequency on the golf course, was Jones also saying that Romo didn’t do enough in the past?
“No. It’s a bonus,” Jones said. “Anybody will tell you that Peyton Manning’s involvement in what they do is a bonus as opposed to what the general commitment is of top quarterbacks in the NFL. That’s a bonus. Again, because I haven’t been in meetings with Peyton for a long time, but we’re committed and [Romo’s] committed to that type of in-season and off-season approach for these years under his contract.”
Well, however you spin it.
To let Jones tell it, it is already paying off for the Cowboys.
Jones acknowledged that Romo also put demands on the Cowboys during the lengthy contract negotiations. He wanted to make sure they were committed to upgrading the offensive line as well as the offense before he signed the contract. The Cowboys had the worst running game last season. And Romo was sacked a career-high 32 times in each of the past two seasons.
Not surprisingly, Jones defended his decision to draft Frederick because of the importance of upgrading the offensive line with a walk-in starter and anchor at center to give Romo more time to throw.
The Cowboys brought Romo to the team’s headquarters on Friday to get his opinion on San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar and Baylor receiver Terrence Williams before taking them in the second and third rounds, respectively. The Cowboys added Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle in the fifth round Saturday, meaning four of the team’s seven picks were strategic decisions to give Romo more help on offense.
“[Romo] was inordinately interested in what we were going to be doing in the offensive line,” Jones said. “It meant something to him to make the commitments that he was making, that we commit fair. It meant something to me that he commit to what I’m talking about, doing more time and that he commits to doing more time. It’s part of his job description.”
So when he talks about the Cowboys being better in 2013, Jones said Romo’s added involvement and commitment is just as important as what the team did in the draft.
“He is more involved unequivocally,” Jones said. “I’m counting that in. That ought to produce some success.”