Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seemed at peace with his decision to pass on Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft when he acknowledged to NFL Media's Rich Eisen and Michael Irvin in July that he "took the right pick" in offensive lineman Zack Martin.
That couldn't be further from the truth.
In a recent eye-opening, in-depth profile by ESPN.com's Don Van Natta Jr., Jones emphasized his ongoing regrets about seeing Manziel in another uniform.
During the draft, Jones argued with his son, executive vice president Stephen Jones, that Manziel would have guaranteed the Cowboys' relevance for the next decade.
"I'm still so damn mad at Stephen," Jones exclaimed. "... I get madder, every day, about missin' (Manziel)."
When the Cowboys were on the clock, Jones told his war room that drafting any player other than Manziel would have been a "ticket to parity, more 8-8 seasons."
Jones was on an island, however. Coach Jason Garrett, his staff and the team's scouts all strongly advised against selecting Manziel, pointing to Tony Romo's seven-year, $119.5 million contract with $55 million in guarantees.
Among NFL fans and talking heads, it doesn't get more polarizing than Manziel and Romo. Pitting the two against each other in an inevitable quarterback competition would have turned Dallas into a three-ring circus.
Larry Lacewell, former Cowboys' head of scouting from 1992 until 2004, compared the draft decision to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus turning down the opportunity to bring in the "biggest elephant" of them all.
"I listened to everybody," Jones said, "... and I'm ... not ... happy ..."
As Martin was handed a Cowboys baseball cap on the Radio City Music Hall stage, Jones was blowing off steam in the war room.
"There's only one thing I wanna say -- I'd have never bought the Cowboys had I made the kinda decision that I just made right now," Jones explained to Stephen. "You need to drive across the water rather than lay up. And we laid up for this one. ... We just didn't get here makin' this kind of decision."
Jones has since downplayed his conversations with Van Natta as embellishing for effect.
"Well, that was a little tongue in cheek with it, but I'm still mad at (Stephen)," Jones said late last week, via the team's official website. "I think I'm proud of that decision right now, and I'm proud I was a good listener."
That doesn't mean Jones is any less bullish on Manziel's future after a disappointing preseason landed the Browns rookie on the bench.
"I don't think anybody has to back into the fact that this guy is a winner," Jones said of Manziel. "He's a proven winner (against) high competition."
Because he listened to his brain trust, Jones will always view Manziel as the one that got away.