IRVING, Texas -- Just to be clear, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones didn't really criticize Morris Claiborne hours before the demoted cornerback’s hasty departure from the team facility.
Jones acknowledged the painfully obvious about as delicately as possible.
"Is he what we had hoped for at this point when we drafted him with the sixth overall pick, giving up the [second-round] pick to go up to the sixth pick to get him? No," Jones said in a radio interview on 105.3 The Fan. "But he's going to be a good player."
That's an awfully optimistic view of a third-year cornerback who has been picked on consistently throughout his career. Of course, it’s coming from the same mouth that declared that Claiborne was the Cowboys’ top-graded cornerback draft prospect since Deion Sanders when they made the bold move to trade up for him.
If Jones wanted to criticize Claiborne, he could have called him the biggest bust in Cowboys’ history. That’s a brutally honest view of a sixth overall pick who isn’t one of the top three corners on a defense that was the NFL’s worst last season.
If Claiborne is upset that he’s being replaced in the base defense by Orlando Scandrick, for the second straight season, he’s simply delusional. Sterling Moore, an undrafted player who was unemployed for several weeks last season after being cut by the Cowboys in late August, should be the Cowboys’ third corner based on merit.
That’s pretty pathetic for a player the Cowboys projected to be a perennial Pro Bowler.
The Cowboys keep trying to pump up Claiborne. They heaped praise on him during training camp until he got hurt for the third straight summer, going out of their way to massage an ego even more fragile than his body. Head coach Jason Garrett politely referred to Claiborne as a “developing player” last week when asked to assess the cornerback’s development relative to expectations when Dallas made the draft-night deal with the St. Louis Rams.
The reality is that Claiborne, whose game-sealing pick of an overthrown pass in Sunday's win over the Rams doesn't erase the fact that he got torched all day, appears to be regressing. ProFootballFocus.com’s grades ranked him 80th among cornerbacks as a rookie, 88th last season and 91st through the first three games this season.
There have been many Cowboys first-round picks who have been huge disappointments. Many fans begin that list with Bill Parcells’ hand-picked linebacker, Bobby Carpenter, an 18th overall pick. But the price has never been as high for a bust as it was with Claiborne, who cost the Cowboys picks that turned into solid defensive tackle Michael Brockers and Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery.
That makes Claiborne the biggest bust in Cowboys history. Handling this demotion by leaving the facility in a huff only adds to it.
That’s the painful truth, whether Claiborne can handle it or not.