Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently said that he is “planning on [Tony] Romo being the quarterback for the next four or five years.” In fact, Jones is so confident that the 35-year-old Romo will helm his squad for the foreseeable future that he has reportedly ruled out drafting a quarterback with the Cowboys’ No. 4 overall pick in April’s NFL draft.
That insight came to us from Gil Brandt, who was Dallas’s head of player personnel from the team’s inception in 1960 until 1989 — when Jones bought the Cowboys and cleaned house. Now an analyst for NFL.com, Brandt had this to say in a recent column:
“Jerry told me recently that he will unequivocally not take a quarterback at No. 4, where the Cowboys draft this year. I believe him. It makes sense if you think Romo will make a full recovery from offseason surgery, will be your starter for at least three more years, and your team has a window of opportunity that will remain open by filling more glaring needs with the top pick in the draft.”
Of course, the fact that Romo needs yet more surgery could be an indication that the team should look for his successor sooner rather than later. The quarterback will have a procedure done on his collarbone, one that he broke last season for the third time in his career, and he has also had major issues with his back.
In the 12 games Romo missed in 2015, the Cowboys trotted out three different starting quarterbacks. The trio of (in order) Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore combined to go 1-11, with 11 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
So Dallas may want to invest something, if not the No. 4 overall pick, into that position. But while early rumors had Jones interested in Texas native Johnny Manziel, the ongoing off-field issues with that quarterback, who is still technically a member of the Cleveland Browns, have likely scared off the Cowboys and every other NFL team.
Brandt addressed the Manziel option, writing, “Jerry loved him two years ago, and rightfully so. But in the end, I think Jerry will meet a lot of resistance from people inside the Cowboys’ building to take the troubled quarterback.”
Another Texas native, Robert Griffin III, has also been linked to the Cowboys, and that could make plenty of sense, just as soon as the Washington Redskins release or agree to trade the former No. 2 overall pick. However, Brandt pointed out that Dallas could be interested in drafting a quarterback in a later round, and he offered the following possibilities, all with “a wart or two”: Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech), Brandon Allen (Arkansas), Brandon Doughty (Western Kentucky) and Kevin Hogan (Stanford).
That could also make a lot of sense. If Romo does manage to stay on the field for at least, say, two more years, that would give a developmental quarterback plenty of time to, er, remove his warts and learn the Cowboys’ offense.
In addition, of the three quarterbacks commonly cited as likely first-round picks — Jared Goff (California), Carson Wentz (North Dakota State) and Paxton Lynch (Memphis) — none are seen as the kind of stud prospects who demand to be taken at the top of the draft, except perhaps by teams with glaring holes at the starter position (cough, cough, Browns, cough). The top 10 picks are littered with defensive players in most mock drafts, and Dallas certainly has its share of needs on that side of the ball.
On the other hand, the air is thick this time of year with misinformation deliberately belched forth by NFL teams who want throw rivals off the scent. If Dallas really does desire a quarterback at No. 4, it surely would prefer that squads with later picks not feel the need to trade up ahead of it.
But Jones wouldn’t steer a Cowboys legend like Brandt wrong, would he? Sure, he fired the personnel guru, now 83, all those years ago, and essentially replaced Brandt with himself, but it does seem more likely than not that Dallas will use its very early pick at a position other than quarterback.