USC quarterback Matt Barkley
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo enjoyed one of his best statistical seasons in 2012 despite the fact that his team failed to make the playoffs for the third straight season. It’s true that owner and general manager Jerry Jones may yet extend Romo’s contract for, presumably, another three to four seasons or longer. This all depends on future events coming to Valley Ranch.
Already, we have gone from thinking that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired mainly as an example. It might not have even set well with you given Dallas’ cascade of injuries on that side of the ball.
But this uncomfortable offseason that was somewhat mocked by national media less than a month ago has evolved into an offseason of significant change, and this thing is just getting started.
At this point, much of a successful Tampa Bay defensive coaching staff from a decade ago has been brought in to completely rebuild the Dallas defensive scheme. Some of these "old-schoolers” have championship rings on their fingers.
Head coach Jason Garrett, as of now, will no longer call plays as Dallas’ offensive coordinator. Yet another veteran assistant with head coaching experience, Bill Callahan, will add play calling to his job description.
So it isn’t impossible that the Cowboys might actually be thinking about life beyond Romo—and it’s time to do that.
Now, thinking about this doesn’t mean doing anything about it. If healthy, Romo starts for the Cowboys for at least another two seasons, regardless of his contract.
But with a restructured contract, it’s not impossible to think that Jones could shock the football world and actually draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Since the new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players went into effect over a year ago, rookies aren’t nearly as expensive as they once were thanks to the recent rookie salary cap that has saved a lot of headaches for the entire league.
Drafting a passer with their first selection would not be as much about starting a rookie over Romo, but rather having a guy in place to carry the franchise when the time comes.
Rookie contracts aren’t the terror they used to be, costing league owners billions in wasted dollars over the first twenty years of free agency.
This year’s draft doesn’t have an Andrew Luck who’s a clear, consensus first overall selection either. This means there might be an opportunity to grab the future before it actually arrives—not necessarily the wrong way to go.
So if Dallas went the quarterback route, here are the three signal callers that could entice Jones to surprise everybody with a selection at a position that nobody would possibly expect.
A name that could shoot right up draft boards in the coming weeks is Mike Glennon. Already absent that consensus, top-rated passer to be chosen first overall, the void is still there for somebody to "wow" NFL scouts into thinking otherwise.
The one quarterback who might be the best candidate to unseat everybody ranked ahead of him right now is Glennon.
Many felt that Glennon’s performance in the 2012 Senior Bowl was rather underwhelming.
The Senior Bowl, itself, is underwhelming so it’s hard to put too much into this hasty exhibition game in the first place.
A couple of things ring true here. Glennon has a big arm and great visibility, although sometimes his arm strength doesn’t appear to be as strong as it is. Glennon can put some touch on the ball and he looks the part of an NFL passer.
Just a few years ago Glennon outranked last year’s first overall draft selection, Luck, as the top high school quarterback recruit in the country.
Despite Glennon’s positives, he does appear raw and probably could use a couple of years on the bench catching up to the NFL and also refining some mechanics—his delivery looks pretty slow and accuracy is not a strong point.
With his draft stock very much a question at this time, Glennon still ranks as a first- or second-round talent come April.
Remember that the draft can do some crazy stuff and sometimes plans just fall through. Dallas may trade down and suddenly see that Glennon is sitting there miles above anybody else on their draft chart whenever they do go on the clock.
Passers with Glennon’s dimensions don’t come along every day. His height and visibility will be his biggest strengths as he’ll see things before others do and this could help compensate for some of that slow release.
But by the time Romo calls it quits or simply has to be replaced, Glennon could be waiting in the wings to buffer the transition between quarterbacks—and know that Jones has every intention of avoiding what he went through with Troy Aikman’s departure 12 years ago.
Geno Smith would be the only prospect on this list to actually challenge Romo in 2013. I don’t see that any other quarterback available in this year’s draft that is close enough to NFL-ready to unseat a signal caller with Romo’s credentials and skill set.
But if anybody could, and based on his top-20 ranking on most boards, Smith could be the guy.
Dallas landing Smith would require opportunity and this would mean that West Virginia’s leading passer would have seriously fallen. The Cowboys won’t be trading up for Smith, no matter how he might remind Jones of Cam Newton of Carolina or Robert Griffin III of Washington—both highly drafted quarterbacks the past two seasons.
This pick would not be as much about need but rather value. Having no idea right now how Smith could fall like this, we’re only imagining that he somehow did because nobody has a clue what anybody’s draft board looks like right now.
Smith has perhaps been a bit overshadowed recently by Indianapolis rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who dominated NFL draft talk for his final two seasons at Stanford. But Smith can flat out play some football.
Likely not the most polished passer, one can’t deny his staggering touchdown-to-interception ratio of 97-20. This means that Smith not only has the arm, the legs and the height to play quarterback in the NFL, but he also knows how to protect the football.
Now, Smith would still not unseat Romo in 2013 if he somehow fell to 18 and the Cowboys were there to pounce. Remember that Smith could still be available in this range seeing as how the combine hasn’t happened yet. This could change some things, good or bad, for Smith.
Jones would be taking a real leap here and this could possibly mean that no longer would Dallas employ an aging veteran to backup Romo. If you’re going groom a guy, then keep him poised for a few years as opposed to burying him on the depth chart like Romo was for too long.
Above his physical qualities, Smith brings some intelligence to a game made more and more complicated by defenses continually evolving to stop more wide open offenses. No matter what offense the Cowboys move forward with, Smith could probably run it.
In a deep draft full of position players that Dallas does need, taking a flier on Smith could end up a very shrewd move in the not-so-distant future.
Of the three passers on this list, the most likely passer to end up in Dallas for future plans is Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.
First of all, Jones isn’t exactly sitting atop the quarterback rankings the way his college resume might suggest. His being available at the 18th selection is quite likely.
Again, it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys drafting a quarterback in the first round just as they’re planning to extend Romo’s contract for a few more years. But Jones is as experienced and capable as any quarterback in college football. If his Sooners team was better, he’d rank higher on draft boards.
He never lost a bowl game, either, until dropping his final college game Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M Aggies in the Cotton Bowl on January 4. That blowout loss seems to have done as much as anything to hurt Jones.
Jones throws the most catchable pass you’ll find among this year’s prospects. His height is perfect, arm strength is easily adequate.
Jones hasn’t played too much with a huddle under Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops but I’m going to bet that Jones has been in a few and can make the transition to "NFL huddle"!
Jones’ experience makes him a guy that you couldn’t fault Dallas for taking if he was there. In this year’s draft, there are a good number of priority positions that the Cowboys could grab in later rounds if they really thought there was a guy they could not pass up. Talking about those offensive and defensive linemen that are needed right away.
The NFL draft often throws opportunity in directions that nobody expected. Sometimes those opportunities have to be evaluated and decided upon quickly.
Jones would be in the perfect position in Dallas. He could learn from one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL for a couple of seasons and likely be ready to roll with time to spare.
The reality is that Romo isn’t going to be around forever and things get downright awful when you don’t have a starting quarterback. It makes a guy like Jerry Jones go out and hire one of those championship "walk-around head coaches" like Bill Parcells!
Life is rough—but it’s rougher when there’s no franchise quarterback.
Jones provides a luxurious but not as necessary bridge to the future, should the Cowboys decide to cross it in either the first or second round.
When you throw passes the way this guy does and you’re named Landry, you might just be a fit in Dallas.
And yes, Landry was named after Tom.