The Cowboys War Room Malfunction

What happened in the Cowboys War Room in the first round when they were on the clock? Prospects they coveted were freshly off the board while surprisingly, Johnny Football Manziel remained along with their eventual selection, the dependable offensive lineman Zack Martin.

It was my observation at the time (via NFLN telecast), that Stephen Jones slammed down the phone appearing angry. I consider myself a good reader of body language and I don’t care what they say, the guys in the Cowboys war room looked disappointed before announcing their 16th selection, with Stephen actually appearing pissed. They sure didn’t have that “we got our guy” look on their collective faces at all.

On Friday when asked about the phone, Stephen called it a “phone malfunction” you know like the wardrobe malfunction in the super bowl years ago. But I think the actual malfunction was that Stephen wasn’t hearing what he wanted to hear from other teams regarding a trade down. The truth is starting to leak out a drip at a time and as Mark Twain said,
“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”–Mark Twain

Today an article on NBC Sports says that Dallas actually wanted Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald, or Ryan Shazier and that Martin (their pick) was who they settled for when all those guys went off the board. I find that easy to believe because it’s consistent with what I observed. They were focused on a pick to help the defense but there is no indication that they attempted to trade up in the first round.

Did those knuckle heads in the war room really think Donald and Barr would fall to 16? Everyone knew that wasn’t happening. Weeks ago here at Dishing the Real, I blogged about trading up and said Dallas would need to move up to the Rams spot at 13 to get Donald and that’s exactly where he went.

Barr was a top ten ranked player the whole time and he went off the board at #9 to the Vikings. No surprise there. It would appear Dallas had no effective strategy to move up and get the defensive guys they wanted most.

Now here is where Stephen’s “phone malfunction” occurs I believe. It’s reported Dallas was literally on the phone with Ryan Shazier’s agent preparing to take him at 16 when suddenly, the Steelers picked Shazier at 15! Imagine how that conversation went? “Sorry. Got to go now it’s the Steelers on the line”.

“Unfortunately, it was a phone malfunction. I was trying to take a call, and I picked it up and there was nobody there. We were having a little phone issue but we got right back on the phone and were able to get our last offers.”
-Stephen Jones

After Shazier was plucked from their fingers, they entertained offers to trade down but that didn’t work out and with just a couple minutes left on the clock, out of frustration no doubt, Stephen threw his fit oh I mean, had a “phone malfunction.” Not even Janet Jackson is buying that one.

It certainly would appear Dallas did not want to select an offensive lineman with their first round pick but settled on the dependable and available Zack Martin as a last resort. This news shouldn’t discourage Martin however, because in the 1990 draft, Jimmy Johnson was trying to move up to select a LB named James Francis but when he failed, Jimmy settled for a running back named Emmitt Smith. Things just have a way of working out sometimes.

The Jones should have been working on contingent plans for these scenarios in advance but I think they got caught on the clock and panicked. Guards Gabe Jackson and Cyril Richardson had visited Valley Ranch prior to the draft, and I believe Dallas was content to pick one of those in the 3rd or 4th rounds after getting their defensive lineman in the first.

But why couldn’t Jerry pull the trigger on Johnny Football? On Saturday Jerry Jones offered,
“I said last night, it was all about Tony Romo,” Jones said. “I was just looking at it today and thought, ‘You put that with the Dallas Cowboys and you put that with the quarterback controversy over Romo, and you’ve got an explosion.’”

There you have it. He wanted to avoid the drama. Jerry didn’t want to upset his veteran QB that he married with a large contract. In my view, that’s a lousy reason to not pick a QB who may turn out to be a future star in this league. Competition may actually help Romo and if Romo can’t stay healthy, you have your next QB to move on.

Little doubt that Manziel was the highest rated player at the time on their board but when asked about it, Stephen was evasive,
“When we look at our boards, we always make the decision based on the overall picture. I’m not going to get into who was what and where, and all that. We’ll pass on that.”

If Manziel turns out to be a great NFL QB, then we all agree Jerry should have picked him. But what if Manziel doesn’t work out?

In the past, QBs have proven to be good investments sometimes. They can be traded for picks if they don’t work out in one location. In 1989, Jimmy Johnson drafted Steve Walsh in the supplemental draft. It cost him a first round pick and he already had drafted Aikman. Foolish move? Not so fast.

The next season he traded Walsh to the Saints for three draft picks. One of those picks was used to get tackle Eric Williams and one was used to get that Emmitt Smith guy I mentioned previously. Those picks helped launch their run of super bowl wins. That’s what drafting a QB “you don’t really need” can mean.

My blog about the Walsh pick.