Gil LeBreton

May 8, 2014

Jerry content to rub Romo’s belly

Jones ignores Johnny Manziel, defense and picks another blocker.

Given the choice of either stoking the delirium of Aggies everywhere or rubbing Tony Romo’s belly, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones opted for the status quo Thursday night.

A prudent decision, perhaps, but borrrr-ing.

With quarterback Romo trying to return from two back surgeries, Jones made the team’s first-round draft pick “Romo-friendly” for the second year in a row.

In lieu of selecting Romo’s heir apparent — Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel comes to mind — the Cowboys selected another lineman designed to keep their $108 million quarterback on his feet. Instead of replacing Romo, the Cowboys, by drafting offensive tackle Zack Martin of Notre Dame, in effect will be replacing Doug Free.

Not very sexy. Not very Jerry Jones-y, either.

Manziel, whose size was an alleged issue but who cast a mighty shadow over this NFL Draft, ended up being selected six picks later by the Cleveland Browns.

Yes, Johnny Manziel will be taking his talents to Cleveland — LeBron James’ old town. Browns fans may rejoice at the irony.

Not sure, however, what loyal A&M fans are thinking. Not only did the Houston Texans pass on Manziel at the overall No. 1 spot in the draft, but also the Hollywood Cowboys at No. 16.

Forget the mock drafts and Mel Kiper projections for a minute. We’ve all seen Manziel play — some of us more than others. He’s not Johnny Football for nothing.

His off-field issues are well-documented, but really — what’s he done that a little social polish and maturity won’t correct?

To hear the draftniks, Manziel’s fall in the draft order was due to concerns about his quarterbacking style. Some people don’t think he can stay healthy in the NFL playing the way he does.

So help me to understand. The Cowboys passed on Manziel, in part because of injury concerns, to draft a guy who will block for the team’s already injured quarterback?

There’s more to it than that, I realize. Manziel himself took the high road right after his selection by telling ESPN, “It feels right, like it’s where I was meant to be.”

In truth, somewhere around the 20th pick was where most reasoned mock drafts had Manziel figured. No problem there.

But with the 16th pick, the Cowboys should have addressed their defensive deficiencies, not patted Romo on the belly again.

A year ago, Jones incited the anguish of many Cowboys fans by trading down in the first round — dropping from the No. 18 spot to No. 31 — and selecting center Travis Frederick of Wisconsin.

In a way, it was a good pick, a solid pick, because Frederick showed enough promise to make the Jones family think he’ll be a fixture in the offensive line as long as, well, Jerry is alive.

The 49ers, the beneficiaries of last year’s trade of picks, selected safety Eric Reid, who turned out to be one of the league’s top rookies.

A wash? Maybe. But Romo ended up getting hurt anyway, and the Cowboys had their worst defense ever.

Protecting Romo, the $108-million quarterback, obviously remains Jones’ No. 1 concern. Jerry can’t be thinking about the future, because he can hear the clock ticking.

Four defensive players had been taken off the board by the time the first round got to the No. 13 pick. When three more defenders were selected in order, the Cowboys opted for another Romo-blocker.

Left on the board were the likes of Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Calvin Pryor of Louisville.

Just sayin’.

Drafting Manziel would have been very much in keeping with the Jones-era Cowboys of old, though it would have caused major cap concerns because of Romo’s contract. Plus, there would have been inevitable cries for Johnny Football after every Romo misfire.

But the chance was there Thursday, and Jerry Jones again chose to protect Tony Romo. File this night away, in other words.

The “new” Draft Jerry elected to play it safe.

The old Jerry, of course, was much more exciting.

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