Aug 4, 2013; Canton, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackleNick Hayden
(96) celebrates with safetyMatt Johnson
(37) after a fumble recovery against the Miami Dolphins in the 2013 Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe I’m overreacting but I’m sick of hearing about Matt Johnson. Even when his name is casually dropped as just a longshot solution at safety, it still ticks me off. For those who don’t know who Matt Johnson is (or psychologically blocked out his memory to save your psyche the trauma of repeated disappointment), consider yourself lucky.
First, a brief history on The One Who Shall Not Be Named (or TOWSNBN for short). TOWSNBN was drafted in in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The unknown defensive back out of Eastern Washington was selected for his rangy ball skills and propensity for the big hit. He seemed to have it all.
The pick was a gamble that was heralded by some and scrutinized by others. TOWSNBN stood out on film and on the stat sheet. Unfortunately he did it all against inferior talent in a low-level football conference and no one was to know how he would handle the larger-than-normal leap to the NFL he now faced. I admittedly fell into the Kool-aid drinking group – risks be damned!
Jul 22, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiverCole Beasley
(11) catches a pass as strong safety Matt Johnson (37) defends during drills at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
TOWSNBN (also known as “hot tub” Johnson in some circles) has a list of injuries, dating back to college, too tedious to list. What’s important to know is that he has missed virtually 2 years of practice and games. Fans and media have seen next to nothing of TOWSNBN to even form an opinion on his ability. We know so little, he can’t even be classified as a tease! We have to assume the coaching staff has seen something or they wouldn’t have kept him on the roster these past 2 years, right?
OK, maybe after 3 consecutive 8-8 seasons it’s foolish to put too much faith in the Cowboys coaching and personnel staff, but I have to admit that they’ve seen more of TOWSNBN than I have. I’ve seen next to nothing and they’ve seen slightly more than next to nothing. At this point, it’s impossible for fans and media so say anything of value concerning TOWSNBN. It’s nothing more than wild speculation given what we have (have not) seen from him.
For TOWSNBN to register on my radar again as a realistic possibility at safety, he needs to do something. Anything. They say the only thing worse than bad credit is no credit. TOWSNBN has no credit at this stage in his NFL career. Looking again at college highlights, it looks like he’s a pretty exciting player who could be a complete safety on the Cowboys. If, of course, he stayed healthy enough to actually play…
Out of need, we are being foolishly optimistic that TOWSNBN may be able to make a difference in 2014. But the sad truth is Jeff Heath has better odds of performing for the Cowboys in 2014 than he does. And I know how you all feel about Heath!
Said Jason Garrett last season about TOWSNBN,
"Obviously being available is a really important trait for a player. If you’re not durable, if you haven’t shown that you can’t practice and play in games, it’s hard for us to evaluate you. But Matt is a young player and we like him. We like what he’s done."
I’m not going to lie – I will be quietly keeping an eye out for TOWSNBN during training camp (provided he leaves the hot tub), because I also dream about the amazing potential of the unknown. But TOWSNBN is unknown.
When we look at the Cowboys situation at safety this year, let’s focus on the players who play. When the Cowboys enter the NFL draft this week they would be wise to focus on the players who play too. If they are factoring TOWSNBN into any equation that leads to passing over a safety in the draft, they are making a catastrophic mistake.
Oct 6, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Denver Broncos tight endJulius Thomas
(80) reaches for the goal line while being tackled by Dallas Cowboys strong safetyJ.J. Wilcox
(27) in the fourth quarter of the game at AT&T Stadium. The Denver Broncos beat the Dallas Cowboys 51-48. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
J.J. Wilcox is a real player with real potential. If the Cowboys think he’s the answer, I can accept that. But TOWSNBN is nothing more than a lottery ticket. He’s probably worthless – but may come up big. Either way, a lottery ticket is no way of investing for the future. It’s just a frivolous piece you can add to the mix but shouldn’t be relied on. If something becomes of Matt Johnson, then awesome. But he hasn’t earned the right to be in the planning. The Cowboys would be wise to forget all about him until he proves something in training camp. But what do any of us even know – we haven’t really seen him play.
But I guess that’s the point…
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