It wasn't too long ago that BTB's own Paul Alexander wrote a story on Stephen McGee titled "See What Cowboys Stephen McGee Can Do? Actually, We Already Know". Paul wrote that while he had been a big fan of McGee for a long time, and still is, he wasn't sure whether McGee would be able to take that next step necessary to play at an NFL level:
"In two training camps, McGee's unofficial, underground nickname has been "Checkdown." McGee has been unable, even in skeleton drills, to anticipate receivers coming open. McGee insists that he sees defenses clearly, and that he fully mentally processes his reads and progressions."
"For the record, I believe him. But he has the football version of a golfer's "yips." He just won't turn it loose, electing instead to lay it off underneath to a TE or RB. Stephen still wants to see a receiver come open before he throws. That's just not the way it works in the NFL."
A lot of things have changed since Paul wrote the story on November 4th of this year, chief among them the fact that Jason Garrett took over as Head Coach of the Cowboys on November 8th. But also, lo and behold, the Cowboys awarded McGee with the ‘Scout Team Player Of The Week’ award last week. Is it therefore time to reevaluate exactly what the Cowboys have got in Stephen McGee?
After the break we hear what Coach Garrett himself as well as some teammates had to say about McGee.
Below you'll find a partial transcript of Garrett's Thursday morning press conference in which he talked briefly about McGee and reflects on the great job McGee has been doing in preparing the defense over the last three weeks. Watch the full conference here, courtesy of the mothership. The McGee part starts at the 3:50 mark:
Stephen McGee has had a little bit of a challenge the last three weeks. [The room erupts in laughter, Garrett grins, chuckles]
Drew Brees to Peyton Manning to Michael Vick. Stephen McGee actually got the ‘Scout Team Player Of The Week’ last week. The description was: ‘He resembled a young Peyton Manning’, and the question always is: How young? [More laughter, more grinning, another chuckle]
But this week is a real challenge, and Stephen is a very good athlete. Those of you who know his history; he ran a lot of option, he ran a lot in college so I think he’s very natural doing that. Having sid that, it’s probably the difference between – I’ll make a baseball reference – Wakefield and Nolan Ryan. [laughter, grin, chuckle]
That guy up there in Philadelphia is awfully athletic, he’s awfully quick and he’s awfully fast – Stephen’s trying his best. [This ends the McGee segment on a more sombre note]
McGee is the quarterback of the scout team, week in and week out, and it's his job to give his best imitation of opposing quarterbacks to help prepare the defense to 'be great on Sunday'. McGee reflected on the challenge of imitating a quarterback such as Peyton Manning, whose mannerisms alone are impossible to replicate:
"Obviously, you can't do it to a 'T,'" said McGee. "We're going to try to give the [defense] the very-best look and play fast."
And he does appear to have done a bang-up job of it, judging by the scout team award and by some second-hand player comments that Matt Mosely and Randy Galloway exchanged on the Galloway and Company show (Big tip o' the hat to Lissyyyyy for the fanpost on the topic):
Mosely: There is a QB for the… Number 7... . I had numerous different players come up to me and say you could not believe the progress this guy has made
Galloway: I also had players and coaches tell me he has looked good. And last time we had a look at him in preseason he did a good job.
Mosely: Playing the role of Manning did all the gyrations, and he did a good job imitating him getting the defense ready. And now he looks like Vick, he has speed, he can scramble and throw on the run. 7 different players tell me he is the Vick of the Cowboys organization.
Galloway: Should McGee play the last two games and see what happens? [rhetorical]
In an article for ESPNDallas.com, Matt Mosely separately quotes defensive end Jason Hatcher, who spent part of Wednesday's practice chasing McGee all over the field:
"This guy's actually pretty fast," said Hatcher of McGee, who once ran for his life at Texas A&M on a weekly basis. "He's been running around like a wild man, and he can flick his wrist and fire it in there like Vick."
Mosely also reports that Martellus Bennett thinks his old teammate from Texas A&M has gotten faster since joining the Cowboys, and that he did an outstanding imitation of Manning, all the way down to his pre-snap mannerisms.
So where does that leave us? Is Stephen McGee the real deal who simply needed some time to adjust to the tempo of the NFL or is he just another guy whose acting talent is good enough to fool the Cowboys defense?