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Texans don't have to draft Manziel, but simply can't let Cowboys get him

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The Houston Texans have two clear obligations in the 2014 NFL Draft. One, draft Johnny Manziel. If they don't draft Manziel, their second obligation kicks in:

Make sure the Dallas Cowboys don't get him.

Can you imagine? Johnny Football, from nearby Texas A&M, not going to the quarterback-desperate Houston Texans but instead going to the other team in Texas, the Cowboys? That would be unforgivable, and here I'm speaking for Texans fans. Don't want me to speak for you? Get your own blog then. Here on mine, I'm going to speak for all of you when I say the following: Johnny Manziel in a Cowboys uniform -- Johnny Manziel as the face of the franchise that is the face of the NFL -- would be a crushing blow to a still-wobbly Houston Texans franchise that has been around for 12 years, posted three winning seasons and is coming of a 2-14 debacle.

Am I saying the Texans might fold if Manziel goes to Dallas and becomes a star for the other team in the state? No, not saying that. But the backlash in Houston would be enormous. This is a column that requires vision, or a single assumption, and the assumption is this:

Johnny Manziel is going to be a transformative star in the NFL.

Could that vision be off, even blind? Well, sure. He's a hit-or-miss prospect the likes of which I don't ever recall seeing. He's not a lottery ticket, because the odds of winning the lottery are astronomical -- and Manziel's odds of being a great NFL quarterback are a lot better than that. But if he were a lottery ticket, he'd be a multi-state Powerball. The kind that gives incomprehensible wealth.

That's Manziel, if he pays off for an NFL team: Incomprehensible wealth.

Imagine him paying off not for the quarterback-desperate Texans, in possession of the No. 1 overall pick and located down the road from the Texas A&M campus where the Johnny Football legend was born. Imagine him paying off for the Dallas Cowboys.

Incomprehensible. Unforgivable.

The Cowboys already have this superiority complex, this snobbishness that has been earned up to a point. They were America's Team in the 1970s and '80s, no question about it -- I was a kid in Mississippi, fascinated by Dorsett and DuPree and Newhouse and Pearson and the other Pearson and ... -- and that's to their credit and to the Texans' detriment. It's hard being a state's so-called other team. Fans of certain colleges, like N.C. State and Auburn and, yes, Texas A&M, know what I mean.

This is the Texans' chance to get the guy who could be The Guy. That wouldn't necessarily make the Texans' the team in Texas, but it would give them a shot. Draft Manziel. Get on national TV repeatedly, because America wants to watch Manziel do his thing, and who knows? If his lottery ticket comes in, Manziel will be America's Player. Would his team become America's Team?

Not if it already is America's Team, though the Cowboys' grip is loosening. Severely. Maybe it's gone, though I don't know. The Cowboys are still a fascination for people, thanks to their decades-long run as the most publicized team in football. Loved, hated, whatever. The Cowboys still resonate nationally more than a team with one playoff victory since 1996 ever should.

But their grip on our consciousness is loosening. Mediocrity will do that to anyone, and it's doing it to the Cowboys. Jerry Jones is a marketing and promotional genius, not exactly a carnival barker like Don King but still a relentless pusher of product, and his product is fading. The Cowboys need a facelift, and coincidentally enough they need a quarterback. This year? Maybe. Tony Romo is 34 years old and coming off two back surgeries in a year. Will he be ready this fall? Probably.

That's a scary word for an NFL franchise. Probably. Even if Romo is ready this fall, he's 34. And coming off two back surgeries. Guys in their 30s with that medical history don't get better, unless they're Peyton Manning. And Tony Romo has never been Peyton Manning.

So I'm not putting much weight into Jerry Jones' comments Tuesday that he's "not that gunned up over what a rookie quarterback can do for us this year" and that it's "not our primary goal in the first round to be looking at a quarterback" because "we've got a good one."

You know what I don't hear Jerry Jones saying?

We're not taking Manziel.

As Jones was avoiding that statement, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was literally giggling at the question, like it's funny that a franchise with one playoff win in 18 years, a franchise whose quarterback is 34 and coming off two back surgeries, would use a first-round pick on a quarterback.

Either Garrett's a moron, or he's trying to mislead people. And Garrett went to Princeton. He's not a moron.

Does any of this mean the Cowboys are taking Manziel? Don't know. Don't paint me into that corner after the draft, if it doesn't happen.

You said ...

No I didn't. No I'm not. What I'm saying, as clearly as I can say it, is this: We have no idea if the Cowboys would take Manziel, if given the chance -- but the Texans can't give the Cowboys that chance. That could be catastrophic.

Draft Manziel first or trade the pick to a team that will -- a team that doesn't have a blue star on its helmet. That's what the Texans have to do on Thursday night. Pick Manziel, or make sure the Cowboys don't.

My advice? Do both.

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