Jones Passed on the Passer
Decisions made last Saturday by Jerry Jones parallel recent Dallas Cowboys draft days. None more than trading down instead of taking a highly rated offensive player.
You saw what happened. Notre Dame alum Brady Quinn slid inexplicably to the Cowboys at pick 22. A golden opportunity, right? Should Tony Romo, with all his seven NFL starts, falter, the Cowboys have a plan B. Except the Cowboys went with plan C. They traded out of that slot to pick up what should be a high first round pick in next year's draft.
Perhaps you recall three years ago. Dallas was in desperate need of a running back. And a dream come true presented itself. The Cowboys had their pick as all the top backs slide to them. Stephen Jackson, Kevin Jones, Chris Perry. The Cowboys has Julius Jones rated just below the top three.
Instead of playing it straight and taking the best player available, the Cowboys traded down, obtained a second first round pick the following year, and settled for Julius Jones. So far, he hasn't filled the backfield void.
You can review the other aspects of the move. Kevin Jones and Perry haven't panned out either and the Cowboys did get DeMarcus Ware with the pick they received from the Bills the next year.
But what have now eleven years without an offensive first round pick brought the Cowboys? Nothing. And don't forget that Stephen Jackson has emerged as a premier all-around back in this league. You may say defense wins championships, but I say a dominant offense with a clock-controlling running game makes your defense better by pressuring the opposing offense to answer on every precious possession.
And you cannot underrate the quarterback position. If the Cowboys speak truth when they say Quinn was the eighth player on their draft board (Jackson was rated higher three years ago) you have to take him there.
This is no slight to Tony Romo. I am excited by what he showed last season. But there's no guarantee he maintains that level of performance next year. If he flops, it's sure be nice to have Quinn to turn to late. You think the Lions and Raiders wish they had Matt Leinhart or Jay Cutler?
But apparently Jerry Jones decided Quinn had more value by trading the pick. I disagree. He has more value being on your roster as a safety net. Then, if he can show his potential in the preseason and it turns out you don't need him, you can probably get at least the same if not better draft picks package for a QB that showcased something on a pro field. Instead, we're left hoping the Browns suck on toast next year.
And QB mistakes are lethal. Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star Telegram and ESPN Radio's Dallas affiliate reminded us of that today. He pointed to Tom Landry's biography. Specifically, it was the year 1979 and a young QB from Notre Dame fell to the Cowboys in the third round. And the Cowboys loved his talent.
Nonetheless, they already had Roger Staubach and Danny White so they passed. Joe Montana became a 49er, Staubach was forced into retirement by concussions a year later and thus began the collapse of the Landry era in Dallas. Landry said it was the most regrettable football decision he ever made. (didn't mention how he passed on Dan Marino in the first round in 1983)
So, you have to draft the quarterback.
Then there's the parallel of drafting two linemen in the middle rounds. Here's hoping James Marten and Doug Free turn out better than Jacob Rogers and Stephen Peterman. And the late round cornerbacks are surely pegged to replace former late round picks Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones.
But maybe there's hope in a fourth round project who probably would have been drafted earlier if not for an injury that left many wondering if he'd ever being able to play football. No, I'm not talking about Chris Canty who appeared to take step back last season but still shows a ton of upside. This year it was former Washington QB Isaiah Stanbeck who will convert to wide receiver, ala Matt Jones and Antwan Randle-El, if he can comeback from a serious foot injury. I expect he can play if healthy. The NFL consensus is that he can.
So there's a little hope in this draft. But Dallas should have taken the quarterback.