Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin III, two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks with uncertain futures with their current teams, may be open to playing for the Dallas Cowboys, according to Yahoo Sports.
On Tuesday, when asked by local Dallas radio station 105.3 FM whether he would take a chance on a backup quarterback, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said finding a player with significant upside could be worth a gamble.
“Well, let’s just put it like this: We all would be aware that to bet on [Kellen] Moore for our backup quarterback has elements of risk to it, but I’m not so sure that that’s any riskier than anything you would do with a decision in the future,” Jones said. “On the other hand, what would enhance me taking risk is a bigger upside. And if that upside is there, that old risk-reward situation, then, yeah. This is as far as we’re going to go here now with this because I don’t want to get involved in any type of tampering situation. We’d take some risks.”
Due to Manziel’s often strained and at times bizarre two-year tenure with the Cleveland Browns, and Griffin’s loss of the starting job to Kirk Cousins with the Washington Redskins, it appears both are primed to play for new teams next season.
However, despite their original ties to the state of Texas and Heisman Trophy pedigrees, neither seem like good fits in the short or long-term with Dallas.
Recent history, including clear-cut issues with a party lifestyle away from the field, significantly hinder the 23-year-old Manziel’s potential of remaining in the NFL, let alone earning a spot as Tony Romo’s backup.
After spending more than 10 weeks at an addiction treatment center in the Ohio area before this season, Manziel was held on a very tight leash by the Browns and now-fired head coach Mike Pettine. Unfortunately, Manziel slowly began to unravel as the season progressed, despite showing some promise on the field after he took over for veteran Josh McCown and Cleveland’s chances of making the postseason quickly faded.
Manziel was first involved in an incident involving his inebriated girlfriend on the side of an Ohio highway, then videos showing the former Texas A&M star and Heisman Trophy-winner partying it up in clubs began surfacing and going viral with Manziel at first lying to the Browns about when the clips were taken.
Then, prior to the Browns regular season finale against rival Pittsburgh on Sunday, USA Today reported Manziel was spotted at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood casino by employees and others who “interacted with him." Reports also surfaced that Manziel was in disguise, presumably to avoid detection and yet another reprimand from the Browns. To make matters worse, Manziel was already expected to sit out against the Steelers while he recovered from a concussion, but he missed a checkup for the head injury on the day of the game and couldn’t be reached by the Browns.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Cleveland is “so done” with Manziel two years after selecting him with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Still, Manziel, who grew up in Tyler, Texas, and helped mold the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, reportedly wants to play for Dallas.
Despite improving his accuracy and throwing for seven touchdowns over 10 appearances this season, Manziel has done little to show he can be a certifiable backup or even heir to Romo’s throne, and Dallas might not have room for him in the first place. Romo should return healthy next season after missing 12 games with a broken collarbone, and Dallas already has reserve Kellen Moore signed through next year and can afford to let Matt Cassel walk in free agency in the offseason.
The Cowboys can use at least some of the savings from Cassel’s expiring deal to fix a pass rush that generated only 31 sacks, and a secondary that picked off opposing passers just eight times this season, tied for the second-worst mark in the NFL. Plugging either of those holes would be far less risky than taking Manziel out of small-market Cleveland and planting him smack in the middle of the country’s ninth-biggest city.
Manziel’s contract can also hinder any move to Big D. He still has two years remaining on his current contract, and Cleveland will hold off on cutting him so as to coax an asset or two out of the Cowboys.
Griffin’s issues, on the other hand, stem solely from his work on the field and in the locker room, with neither making him a credible threat to return to the form that won him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2012. For one, injuries forced the 25-year-old to appear in just nine games last season, and his poor relationships with teammates, especially his offensive line, allowed Cousins to usurp Griffin’s role. Meanwhile, the former Baylor star didn't play one down in a season in which the Redskins won the NFC East.
Griffin, who grew up in Copperas Cove, Texas, has also shown signs he has trouble working with his head coach. There was a reportedly strained relationship with Washington head coach Jay Gruden, which only came on the heels of Griffin’s heavily addressed work with former coach Mike Shanahan that eventually led to Shanahan’s firing.
Combine an apparently brittle body incapable of consistently taking hits at the most important position on the field with perceived ego and authority issues and the Cowboys may err on the side of caution when it comes to Griffin. Ditto goes for Manziel, who also clashed with Pettine, and at this point seems out of control off the field.
The Cowboys almost certainly need to start grooming a successor to Romo, who at 35 years old has shown the hits are taking a serious toll, especially to his back. But going the "reclamation project" route is considered a serious gamble.