This is just what Jerry Jones does when he doesn't have anyone around who will stand up to him. After one of his Cowboys teams has a bit of unexpected success, Jones begins to tinker, trying to find a way to return his beloved team to the Super Bowl promised land without spending much money. He does so not because he doesn't have the cash, nor because he is unwilling to spend money to make his team better. Jones has to get creative, often to hugely detrimental effect, because the Cowboys have been hamstrung by the salary cap basically since the cap's being implemented for the 1994 season. The Cowboys have to find value on the cheap because they're in cap hell.
Why would the Cowboys consider signing Johnny Manziel? Because it's how Jones does business.
Take the case of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The 2007 Wade Phillips-coached Cowboys went 13-3 before losing in the divisional playoffs to the New York Giants, who would eventually win the Super Bowl. During the 2007 season, as the Cowboys exceeded expectations and appeared to be Super Bowl contenders, Jones signed defensive tackle Tank Johnson, just cut by the Bears after being arrested on multiple gun charges and probation violations over the 2006 and 2007 seasons. After the Cowboys' loss in the playoffs, Jones traded a draft pick for cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones. Jones had been suspended for the entire 2007 season and had been arrested more than 10 times during his time with the Titans. He would end up suspended an additional six games during the 2008 season after getting into a fight with his bodyguard at a Dallas hotel. The 2008 Cowboys went 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
The pattern repeated itself this year. The 2014 Cowboys were far better than expected, going 12-4 before losing in the divisional playoffs to the Packers. Jones had no cap space in the offseason with which to do anything, so he signed the most talented player he could get on the cheap, Greg Hardy. The only way you get a player as talented as a Hardy on a one-year, incentive-laden contract is if there is something deeply wrong with the guy — and there is something deeply wrong with Hardy. Photos obtained by Deadspin in early November showed the injuries suffered by Hardy's ex-girlfriend during a 2014 assault allegedly committed by Hardy. Hardy was found guilty before Nicole Holder, his ex-girlfriend, stopped cooperating with North Carolina authorities during the appeals process, eventually leading to the charges against Hardy being dismissed. In his time with the Cowboys, Hardy has never shown contrition, has clashed with teammates and coaches and has been a disappointment on the field.
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Hardy was just the latest in a long line of players of questionable character the Cowboys have welcomed with open arms. Charles Haley, the final piece to the Cowboys' '90s championship puzzle, was known to wave his penis at female reporters while shouting obscenities. He once urinated on the floor of 49ers President Carmen Policy's office and consistently threatened physical violence against members of the media. (Haley was suffering from untreated bipolar disorder during his playing career. He has since sought treatment and become a forceful advocate for mental health.) Michael Irvin once stabbed a teammate in the neck with a pair of scissors for skipping ahead of him in the haircut line. Josh Brent was kept on the roster for years after being convicted of intoxicated vehicular manslaughter.
So, when the rumors start flying that the Cowboys are one of the likeliest landing spots for former Heisman trophy winner and Texas A&M star Manziel, it makes too much sense to ignore. Jones has always coveted Manziel. He wanted to draft him in 2014, but was stopped by Stephen Jones and the rest of the Cowboys football operations staff. This offseason, it looks like he will get his chance, finally.
Manziel has always been a partier. That's fine. He's a young, incredibly rich man with one of the coolest jobs in the world. It has been exhausting for his current employer, the Cleveland Browns, though, and some of the recent accusations about Manziel have carried a more sinister tone. In October, his girlfriend Colleen Crowley said Manziel hit her a couple of times during a roadside dispute. Manziel admitted to grabbing Crowley but said he only did so because she threw his wallet out the window. The incident came about six months after Manziel's 10-week rehab stay in the spring, the one that was supposed to get his head straight for his NFL future.
If anyone is capable of looking past the rehab, the abuse allegations and, frankly, Manziel's terrible on-field performance with the Browns, it's Jones. With the Browns looking set to dump Manziel and the Cowboys in need of a quarterback, it just makes too much sense. We should all get ready for the circus.