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Marcus Mariota To Dallas Cowboys: How NFL Rumors Are Created Out Of Thin Air

On the eve of the NFL Draft the silly season reaches a fever pitch.

The strange story of how Marcus Mariota has been linked to the Cowboys.
The strange story of how Marcus Mariota has been linked to the Cowboys.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few sure-fire tricks NFL writers can use to try and drum up clicks and readers. One of the most reliable is find some way to link the Dallas Cowboys to whatever topic you are addressing, no matter how tenuous or ridiculous the idea. Got a high-priced veteran that is seeking a new team? Make sure you include Dallas in the list of franchises that are interested. Speculating about teams that may be going after a given draft prospect? Yep, put the Cowboys down as being in the hunt.

With the 2015 NFL Draft now just hours away, wild and crazy ideas are being floated about what may happen. Given the relative paucity of true blue-chip prospects and multiple reports of widely varying evaluations of players up and down the list of prospects, it is hard to completely discount any of them. But one that really seems to stretch probability beyond reason surfaced today. Charles Davis at NFL.com wrote about four moves that would really shake up the draft, and one of them involved, of course, the Cowboys and the lingering image of Jerry Jones as a reckless and impulsive gambler with his team's draft picks.

Cowboys move up for Mariota

Last year, Jerry Jones admitted he nearly had to have a draft card with Johnny Manziel's name on it snatched away from him when the Cowboys were making their first-round pick. They passed on Manziel, taking OL Zack Martin instead with the 16th overall pick, and that worked out very well (Martin was selected as an All-Pro as a rookie). But with Tony Romo a year older, would Jones get the same urge if Oregon QB Marcus Mariota doesn't get picked second overall and starts to slide a bit? Jones said Tuesday that "there's certainly a possibility that we could trade up," so he's at least open to some sort of move.

Yeah. Sure. We all should look askance at any article that brings up the myth of the draft card being snatched from Jones' hand. Beyond the use of that tired fable, the expenditure of the valuable draft capital that this would require makes this rather ludicrous on the face of it. This was clearly a wild flight of fancy just to stir the pot a bit and generate a little interest. If this were to happen, I will be at the head of the pitchfork and torches brigade screaming in rage at this kind of move. Mariota is one of the best quarterbacks in this draft, but that is faint praise. It is a notably weak class of signal callers. He is not the kind of near certain foundation quarterback that Andrew Luck was, and while Romo is aging, he is still far too good for Dallas to make this kind of desperation move to get a quarterback who would likely have to sit three or more seasons. It would be an extremely poor use of cap space as well as draft picks.

But just being the equivalent of an idle daydream does not mean that others would not pick this up and try to turn it into a full-fledged hot rumor. One place this was sure to get some notice is the media market for the Philadelphia Eagles, where Chip Kelly is believed to be openly lusting for a way to get Mariota to come run his offense. In referring to the Davis article, Elliot Shorr-Parks at NJ.com put it this way:

Not getting Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota on Thursday night in the 2015 NFL Draft might be too much for some Eagles fans to handle.

This below scenario, however, might send them to the NovaCare center with pitchforks.

He still terms the idea "crazy", but the very fact that he addresses it at all gives it a certain momentum. And that momentum just keeps growing, as it has also been picked up in an article by Geoffrey C. Arnold of the Oregonian.

Davis' take is plausible, but very far-fetched. Unlike last year, when the Cowboys were known to be interested in Manziel, there have been no reports or rumors that the Cowboys are considering making a move to select Mariota. Anything is possible, but Mariota to the Cowboys doesn't seem likely.

Although the paragraph is mostly about why this probably won't happen, it makes the questionable assertion that the idea is "plausible". And suddenly a wildly speculative thought begins to move into the category of "draft rumor".

This is the kind of thing that would normally collapse under the weight of its own poor assumptions over time. But there is very little time now until the draft begins. And rumors now have a way to grow and spread like wildfire in social media, where people can spout things with no real basis in reality and have them repeated until thousands see it and start to incorporate it into their thinking.

It is a strange and admittedly entertaining concept that is just a distraction when you are trying to make any kind of realistic prediction of what may happen in Chicago once teams go on the clock. But many don't care about reality. They just want to hear things that reinforce their own beliefs. And when it comes to Jerry Jones and the Cowboys, there are many who really, really believe that dysfunction rules in Dallas. Hopefully this will all be forgotten quickly.

But in the meantime, the rumor has been started. It is nothing but thin air and sloppy thinking, but now it is out there.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB