Robert F. Kennedy often gets the credit, but it was George Bernard Shaw who was the originator of this quote: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
So in regard to the Cowboys and the upcoming NFL Draft, why not Texas A&M lightning rod Johnny Manziel?
Why not Johnny Freaking Football, or JFF for short?
There is no question that improving the defense has been the focus of the Cowboys’ off-season, let alone the NFL Draft.
Owner Jerry Jones and vice president Stephen Jones have said as much on a number of occasions over the last few months.
They have followed that up by concentrating on defense during this past week’s pre-draft visits.
The Cowboys need help up front with the departures of Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher to go along with the iffy status of former Pro Bowler Anthony Spencer, who has yet to recover from microfracture knee surgery.
To that end, the Cowboys paraded a host of top national defensive line prospects through the team’s headquarters earlier this week.
Those prospects included Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, Arizona State defensive end Davon Coleman, West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke, Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley and Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton.
It all makes sense.
And it’s a correct plan of action when you consider the Cowboys’ struggles on defense the past two years.
But when it comes to the Cowboys’ draft, history has taught us that there are three rules to live by:
• Drafting the best available player.
• Drafting for need.
• And WJW, or Whatever Jerry Wants, which usually comes with a wow factor.
And this is where JFF comes into play.
The Cowboys most certainly won’t move up into the top of the draft to get Manziel.
They have too many needs and it would cost too much.
But let Manziel start to slide and Jones’ eyes will start to widen. Then, all bets are off.
From a pure football sense, there is no need to take a quarterback in the first round.
Tony Romo is entering just the second year of his $108 million contract extension and coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
The Cowboys are in a win-now mode with Romo and need to find him as much help as possible rather than drafting his eventual replacement.
But Jones is also in the business of selling tickets and selling hope to an increasingly disillusioned fan base.
To be honest, the Cowboys have done nothing so far this off-season to make anyone think this team will be better than the 8-8 squads of the past three years.
In fact, they are actually worse on paper, though they are clinging to the hope that healthy unknown players will be more productive than unhealthy stars.
More productive is one thing. Being good enough to make the playoffs and an eventual run to the Super Bowl is another.
You need great players to win and, to be honest, the only impact players on defense the Cowboys are eyeing with the 16th pick are Donald and Barr.
And there is no guarantee that either will still be on the board when it’s the Cowboys’ turn to pick.
That’s a definite certainty if Manziel starts to slide, opening the door for a possible match made at JerryWorld and made for JerryWorld.
Manziel was not among the Cowboys’ pre-draft visits.
But he already has a relationship with Jones and the Cowboys that include his much-publicized visit to the owner’s suite during the NCAA Final Four.
What’s also true is the Cowboys have quietly gone about their business doing their homework on Manziel. They have talked to his people. They have talked to people close to him.
There is no question that he is on their radar.
And this is not even considering any concern about Romo, who is coming off back surgeries the past two off-seasons.
Cowboys legendary quarterback Troy Aikman — whose own Hall of Fame career was cut short by back issues at 34, the same age Romo will be next season — expressed concerns of his own in a recent interview on the team’s website.
“Two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned,” Aikman said. “I’m hopeful that he’s able to come back — everybody is. This team won’t be the same if he’s not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, ‘Hey, he’s ahead of schedule and everything’s going fine,’ I’m not sure how you can really measure that here in April.”
Time will tell on that, and the Cowboys expressed nothing but confidence and optimism over Romo’s rehab and recovery.
But it is another thing to consider.
Again, the Cowboys are and should be focused on improving the defense.
But if Manziel starts to slide, Jones will not only be dreaming but asking, “Why not?”