Tall Tale: Cowboys Jerry + 'The Manziel Card'

IRVING - Jim Dent is a best-selling author, a bon vivant and a gifted teller of tall tales. And this whopper about Cowboys owner Jerry Jones being physically restrained from 'turning in the card' to draft Johnny Manziel? This is Dent's Bunyanesque masterpiece.

The toothpaste is out of the tube, so what I'm about to explain regarding the Dallas Cowboys' thisclose-drafting Johnny Manziel may be a waste of layer of skin on my mad-typin' fingertips.

But here goes:

The Cowboys certainly considered the Texas A&M sensation at some point before their turn came around to the No. 16 overall pick in last spring's NFL Draft. Salary-cap ramifications be damed, there would've been football sense to it, with no heir to Tony Romo lined up. It would've made marketing sense, too ... obviously.
So the consideration of Manziel existed at some level, along with the well-defined consideration of Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, who went 15th to Pittburgh, and the well-executed consideration of Notre Dame guard Zack Martin, who won out over Manziel and the rest.

However -- and this is critical in separating the truth from the fiction here -- I have it on the very best authority that Manziel was not a serious on-the-clock consideration for Dallas, which thanks to personnel boss Will McClay's stewardship worked to avoid the confusion of the spring before, when Jones' Cowboys clearly allowed themselves to be embarrassed by indecision regarding highly-ranked (but oddly passed-over) first-round defensive tackle Shariff Floyd.

But according to Jim Dent's new e-book "Manziel Mania,'' there was so much drama beyond the simple decisions I lay out above that it took team COO Stephen Jones to physically accost his father, Jerry, to prevent the owner from "scribbling the name of Johnny Manziel on the draft card.''

And out squirts the toothpaste.

Typical reaction in the aftermath, from Deadspin: "It appears that Jerry Jones is still operating the Dallas Cowboys by following the "Drunk Uncle" school of management. Which is to say, his own children still need to physically prevent him from making franchise-altering decisions on the fly. ... Jerry Jones is just too old and too rich to really give a shit about anything anymore.''

I fear it is too late to point out to the uninitiated that ...

*There are no "draft cards'' in the Valley Ranch war room where Jerry and Stephen oversee the selection process along with McClay and Jason Garrett. There are computers, notepads and magnetized nametags. There are no "draft cards.''

*The "draft card'' is actually in New York, where each of the 32 teams have representatives who carry their card with their selected player's name on it up to the commissioner for him to announce. The Cowboys' rep is Robert Blackwell, a long-time Cowboys employee who is not in possession of a "Beam Me Up, Scotty'' transporter that would present him with a card delivered straight from Jerry's outstretched arm.

*There was no wrasslin' match. By virtue of our live coverage on the draft on the official station of the Cowboys, 105.3 The Fan, I am able to watch the WarRoomCam at times even when the telecast is not being shared with ESPN and NFL Network.

I watched -- along with Bryan Broaddus, Shan Shariff and others -- as Jerry and Stephen and others talked through the process of the No. 16 pick. There seemed to be some disappointment over Shazier going off the board, for sure. And then we are quite sure we saw Jerry mouth the words, "So it's Martin.''

And then it was. The cogs churned into motion. Jerry relaying the decision to scouting staffer Chris Hall in a Valley Ranch office adjacent to the war room. Hall immediately barking "Zack Martin'' to Blackwell in New York. And as it was explained to me long ago, Blackwell having two cards in front of him. The first, suddenly worthless one, read, "Ryan Shazier.'' The second one said "Zack Martin.''

Blackwell handed the card to the front of the room.


End of story, except for story-teller Jerry, who I think enjoys connecting the Cowboys brand to the what-if of Manziel, even as the controversial toils for the team that eventually did pick him, the Cleveland Browns. And end of story, except for story-teller Jim Dent, who was looking for material for his book and understood well, I know, that he might enjoy the benefits of connecting the Cowboys somewhere in there, too.

"Ben & Skin'' asked Dent about the origin of the "Jerry's-Manziel-card'' story.

"Aw,'' drawled ol' Jim in the middle of dozens of non-sequitur question dodges, "I got that off ESPN ...''

Oh. Meaning it really goes back to Jerry having told the media (actually, not ESPN but rather NFL Network) that he was "thisclose'' to picking Manziel ... which, except for the fact that the Cowboys had Shazier and Martin ranked as superior choices, might have some nugget of truth to it.

Depending how close "thisclose'' is supposed to mean.

In the book, Dent writes with imaginary prose, "I could just see Jones grabbing Manziel with the 16th choice of the first round. ... I knew that Jones' hands were shaking when the Cowboys went on the clock with Manziel still on the board. I could envision Jones scribbling the name of Johnny Manziel on the draft card.''
And that's what's actually happened here. Jim Dent listened to Jerry's figurative "card talk'' and "envisioned'' a tall tale. ... and is using the tall tale to help sell a book.

Jerry, by the way, added another level of clarification to the bogus angle on Tuesday morning on The Fan with "Shan & RJ.''

"Figuratively speaking, it got close to that,” said Jones. “It certainly was a big debate going on, if no place else other than my mind.”

The mainstream media that has run with this story probably deserves some criticism for allowing itself to be hoaxed like this. The Cowboys audience? I believe serious fans already know the logistics of the "draft card,'' easily remember seeing the Joneses not wrasslin' on the DraftCam and might even, after all these years, know who Robert Blackwell is. But if you don't have that depth of knowledge ... well, you do now.

Is is Jim Dent's fault? Dent (blessed by gifts displayed in his terrific book "The Junction Boys'') is himself is the subject of some of his grandest fabrications, which he'll weave all night while a saloon wall leans up against him. To me, once you understand the truth, there's no more reason to be mad at myths about Johnny Football than there are reasons to be mad about Johnny Appleseed.

Who, sources are somewhere telling somebody, Jerry is thisclose to bringing in as a free agent.

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