Johnny Manziel has said he wants another shot in the NFL, and so naturally, all eyes turn to the Dallas Cowboys. After all, Manziel is from Texas and Jerry Jones has admired Manziel since his days at Texas A&M.
Well, Stephen Jones – Jerry’s son and the Cowboys’ CEO and Director of Player Personnel – dropped by CBS Sports Radio to squash the Manziel-to-Dallas rumors.
“No, there’s no chance,” Jones said on Tiki and Tierney. “Obviously Johnny needs to get his hands around his life. He needs to do the things that make him a good person off the field, I think, before he can ever have any chance of being successful in our league. He’s a guy obviously from Texas that we’ve all followed and had an amazing career there at A&M. Unfortunately, he has some things that are holding him back not only as a football player, but as a person in life. We certainly hope he gets his hands around that because he’s obviously a guy that’s had some very unique successes in his life. When he is able to have his hands around some of his issues that he has off the field, then it usually translates into a success for him on the field. But I hope he is able to get his hands around his life, and at some point if he does, I’m sure he’ll get another chance. But at the moment, it certainly won’t be in Dallas.”
Indeed, signing Manziel would signal that the Cowboys, two years removed from a 12-4 campaign, are in rebuild mode – and they’re not. That said, their current window is closing. Tony Romo is 36, and Jerry Jones is 73.
Both know the clock is ticking, and Stephen Jones shared a recent story to illustrate the point.
“Tony looked over . . . and said, ‘Look, Jerry, you and I don’t have much time left. We got to get a Super Bowl.’ Of course Jerry looked at him kind of funny and said, ‘Well, I know you’re not going to be around awhile, but what does that mean for me?’ Are you thinking I’m at the end of it?’” Stephen Jones said, laughing. “In all seriousness, there is a real urgency. Obviously you talk about a guy like Coach (Jason) Garrett, every day is urgent to him. He’s the hardest worker in the building. Then you go to Tony, who I think is obviously in the prime of his career, but he doesn’t have forever when you go past that 35-year mark. Of course Jerry is so intense and it bleeds down to myself and the rest of the organization in terms of the urgency that we have right now.
“So I think you’ve got it nailed,” Jones continued. “There’s never been urgency like there is right now in terms of our football team. We really feel great that we put a really solid football team together. Are we strong in every area? No, we’re not. We understand our pass rush needs some help, but we’ve got a great coach there that I think will get the most our of our players. But we also have some areas where I think we’re one of the strongest teams in the league. So we feel good about this team. We think if things fall right we can certainly challenge for a Super Bowl. Obviously that’s our end goal.”
Romo, who has battled various injuries in recent years, played just four games in 2015. Dallas doesn’t exactly have a great insurance policy either, especially with Kellen Moore breaking his ankle earlier this month.
“Scott (Linehan) has been around Kellen Moore a lot and felt so good about his situation there,” Jones said. “I know there’s other veteran quarterbacks that maybe more than half or three-quarters of the league would say, ‘Hey, these players are better than Kellen.’ But Scott had a great feel for him, we had a great feel for him after being around him, and I really felt he was the right guy for the job for us. Unfortunately, he’s hurt and going to be out for an extended period of time. Right now we’re certainly looking in terms of that really seasoned, veteran backup quarterback. In the meantime, I know it’s hard to get your hands around, but we have a great feel for Dak Prescott.”
Prescott, who starred at Mississippi State, was a fourth-round draft pick this year.
“He has really come in here and shown some very unique leadership skills, has the quote-unquote it factor, and he’s getting reps that normally young guys would never see,” Jones said. “Obviously we’re managing Tony (and) with Kellen not in there, he’s getting a lot of reps with the 1s. But I point to what they did with the Bengals up there with A.J. McCarron, a young guy who came in and got the reps and they went with him, and, when Andy Dalton went down, was able to win a couple games to keep them there with home-field advantage. With Tony where he is right now, we’re big in developing a young quarterback.”
Defensively, Jones took accountability for so many players – Rolando McClain, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory – getting suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
“Well, I think at the end of the day – and I think we’ve been known for this – we’re willing to take risks as an organization,” Jones said. “When you take some risks, you’re going to have some things that bite you. I think last year, if you take the disappointing season we had and then you’ve got some guys who may get into gray areas, then it bites a little bit harder. But when you’re in our business, you’re dealing with human beings. I wouldn’t necessarily say these guys are bad guys. These guys have sicknesses. We have infrastructure in place. Sometimes it’s a longer journey than you expect, and certainly that’s what happened with a couple of our defenders here. Then of course with Greg Hardy we just made the decision that it just wasn’t going to work out here. It’s certainly fair. It’s certainly a valid criticism. It’s certainly one we’ll continue to evaluate and see how we can do a better job going forward of having more successes than we do disappointments, but we stand by our guys and we’ll continue to work with them and see if they can overcome some of these demons that they have and go on to be successful players in this league. If they don’t, then obviously we’ll have to move on from them.”
In the end, the Cowboys know they cannot repeat their 4-12 performance from a year ago – regardless of who’s injured.
“We just, organizationally, failed,” Jones said. “Not only the players, but more than that, the coaches, management, Jerry and myself. We did not show the right leadership. Going forward, we need to focus who’s playing in the game – not who’s injured, not who’s suspended, not who’s around – and then design a game plan to win a football game. . . . We just 100 percent failed in that area. We were too worried about when Tony might come back, when Dez is going to finally work his way into form, when we’re going to get this player back. We can’t have those types of distractions.”