A silver-and-black-clad Oakland Raiders fan yelled to Jerry Jones, “Hey, Jerry, you gettin’ Johnny?” The Dallas Cowboys owner raised his head, smiled and winked as he walked through the lobby of the Westin Memorial City.
It’s the million-dollar question that every NFL fan — not just Cowboys fans — wonders about as the off-season grows closer.
The Cowboys need a backup quarterback, and it appears more likely by the day that Johnny Manziel won’t return to the Cleveland Browns. National reports Wednesday indicated that new Browns coach Hue Jackson made it clear during his interview that he wants to move on from the former Texas A&M star.
The Cowboys have made no secret of their desire to upgrade their backup quarterback position for the 2016 season. Three quarterbacks combined for a 1-11 record in Tony Romo’s absence this season.
“All the options are just those options, whether it be drafting a high pick, whether drafting a lower pick for more of a developmental situation or whether we look at a prominent quarterback as a backup or as a potential in-the-game guy,” Jones said. “They’re all there.”
Jones has never hidden his infatuation with Manziel. He wanted to draft Manziel in 2014 but was convinced to use the 16th choice on offensive guard Zack Martin.
Martin has become a two-time Pro Bowler, while Manziel has made more headlines off the field than on it.
This time, Manziel would come out of the discount bin with limited risk.
But the Cowboys own the fourth overall pick, with California’s Jared Goff and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch both rated as top-10 picks. In the Jones era, which began in 1989, the Cowboys have drafted only five quarterbacks. They found Romo as an undrafted free agent, signing him for a $10,000 bonus.
The Cowboys don’t plan on being in this position again anytime soon, so this could stand as their best opportunity to get Romo’s heir apparent with a high pick.
“It’s all options,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “To me, at the end of day, if you start getting too laser-focused on something, that’s when you make mistakes.
“We’ve got to look at every option, all options. We’ve got to evaluate this thing with an open mind. Now, we’ve been very obvious that we do feel like we’ve got to do a better job there after what happened to us this year.”
The Cowboys lost Romo to a fractured left collarbone in Week 2. He returned Nov. 22 after missing seven games on short-term injured reserve but fractured the collarbone again on Thanksgiving.
Romo has not played all 16 games in a season since 2012, and he turns 36 in April.
Thus, the reason Cowboys fans already are talking quarterbacks. Or still talking quarterbacks. Everyone wants to speculate on who will end up competing with Kellen Moore to back up Romo.
“The quarterback is the sexy pick and the sexy position on any team,” Stephen Jones said. “It’s THE position. The great news for us is we’ve got a great one. It’s not like we need somebody to come in here and play right away. Hopefully, since Tony’s had his bad luck, he’s going to have about three years, four years of good luck.”
The Cowboys had their share of bad luck in a 4-12 season, losing starting cornerback Orlando Scandrick for the season during training camp and star receiver Dez Bryant for seven games besides losing Romo for 12.
“It’s unbelievable. It is,” Stephen Jones said. “That’s our business, and we have to be able to adjust better and digest injuries better.
“We’re not going to take the road that ‘we’ve got excuses.’ We’ve got to do a better job than that. I know Jason [Garrett] feels that way. I know his staff feels that way. I know we feel that way. We’ve got to do better. Obviously, we didn’t build a team as management, as owners, that was built to last. We’ve got to do a better job.”
In the Jerry Jones’ era, which began in 1989, the Cowboys have drafted only five quarterbacks:
He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006
He went 1-4 with the Cowboys before they traded him to New Orleans in 1990 for first-, second- and third-round picks.
Musgrave was released in camp as the Cowboys went with Steve Beuerlein as Aikman’s only backup.
He went 16-15, with a playoff loss, in three seasons before his release.
The Cowboys tried to develop him for three years. He played three games, winning his only start.
*Walsh was drafted in the supplemental draft, costing the Cowboys their first-round pick in 1990.