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For Cowboys' sake, Cam Newton needs to go way before No. 9

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones "would not dismiss" laying waste to his already teetering franchise.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Because, when Owner Jones talks about having interest beyond due diligence in Auburn QB Cam Newton and an unwillingness to dismiss using his No. 9 selection, all I hear is Wagner and "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" in an Arkansas drawl. Why not just bring back Quincy Carter?

I am not ready to say Cam Newton is QCar or any of the other messed-up QBs my media brethren have been comparing him to -- such as JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young and Ryan Leaf. I also am not ready to say he is not.

Newton obviously is talented, a guy capable of and who basically did out-athlete everybody on the college landscape. He has phenomenal arm strength and play-making ability. And longtime Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt knows a little something about that. So, when he says it would "shock" him if Newton did not go No. 1 overall, I listen.

And I am hoping Gil is right. Because that saves Owner Jones from himself and from what feels like a colossal mistake.

I read in this very space, from my good friend Mr. Randy how the Cowboys should draft Cam Newton. It is crazy fun to talk about and just plain crazy to even consider. Forget that the Cowboys have so much bigger draft needs, but I cannot shake the feeling that this guy has train wreck written all over him.

I am not so fired up about Newton's "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon" comment to SI's Peter King. Nor am I particularly fired up about his "I don't want to sound arrogant, but I did something in one year people couldn't do in their whole collegiate careers." He is not the first athlete with a gigantic ego. And I like my athletes with a healthy sense of what I call "I can kick your sports butt" because who wants their team led by I-am-going-to-try-real-hard guy?

The problem is the NFL pays players a lot of money, and -- in the case of No. 1 picks -- a scary amount of money, to love football. They do not want to hear about a player's dream to do cameos in Hollywood, or have his own reality TV show, or plans for dropping his album.

Let me give this little piece of advice to every player at the combine in Indy: If Owner Jones asks for your non-playing hobbies, the right answer is: "Studying my playbook, The Salvation Army and football." You may even want to throw in a little something about how right now you really do not have time for anything else but football.

And therein lies my problem with Newton: He does not really, really need the NFL -- not like, say, Tony Romo when he landed at Valley Ranch as an undrafted free agent. Newton already has a crazy rich shoe deal with Under Armour, and who knows what other deals his dad or whoever has worked out for him without his doing a single thing in the NFL. So what is the lesson for the kid? He is going to get paid whether he delivers or not.

And I just do not know whether he is going to deliver.

The reality is there is just one season of tape on Newton as Auburn's starter. There is no body of work. Is he a polished passer? Nobody knows. The things that really add value to his already-impressive QB-ing résumé -- scrambling and finding a way to make things happen -- are not as valued in the NFL as they are in college. For every Michael Vick and Ben R, and the Pittsburgh QB is probably the best comparison to Newton, the more traditional path is The Mannings and Drew Brees and Tom Brady. That is what wins and wins consistently on Sundays. This is not to say Newton cannot develop into a hybrid version of what wins in the NFL, merely that he is not a slam dunk.

And the Cowboys need a slam dunk.

It is probably fair to say everybody does who is drafting where the Cowboys are. But I cannot worry about Buffalo and Carolina. They have to coach their own teams. My worry is with the Cowboys and Owner Jones.

And by "not dismissing" talk of drafting Newton, he is flirting with the idea of getting all maverick-y with this draft and really napalming any chance in 2011.

I cannot make this stuff up.

I can only hope to quash it before it goes viral.

Jennifer Floyd Engel

817-390-7697

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