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Cowboys 2013 Roster Cuts: Alex Tanney Is Not Worth A Roster Spot

The talk leading up to this weekends final cuts in Dallas almost all revolve around whether or not the Cowboys will keep Alex Tanney on their final 53-man roster, or waive him with hopes to get him to the practice squad. Let's examine this decision together.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

As KD mentioned in Part 1 of his season preview on the Cowboys Crunchtime Podcast, he and I recently spent about three hours debating on twitter as to whether the Cowboys should "protect" Alex Tanney because of his potential or waive him with intentions to bring him to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

KD's position, was that Tanney is a QB with potential, probably not starter potential, at least not here in Dallas, but with the potential to be Tony Romo's back up, and as such he was a commodity the Cowboys could not afford to lose, and they should keep him on their 53-man roster. My take was that the 3rd QB, who you hope never has to play a down for you, especially a 25 (almost 26 yr old) UDFA from a Division III school, whose only year in the NFL was spent on IR, is not nearly as valuable as a rotational DT who might play 10 plays a game, or an extra LB or DB who might play special teams.

KD made the valid point that the Cowboys can not afford to pay Kyle Orton $5M/yr over the next couple of years to be a backup, and I very much agree with that, however, my feeling is I can go out next year and find a guy who will take much less and have more experience and give me a better chance at going 2-2 if Romo has to miss four games in 2014 for some reason.

BTB's own hurrahkaramazo (@hurrahkaramazo) chimed in with a point that coincides with what I was saying. He stated that one of the most important roles of a backup quarterback is that of a sounding board and comrade during the marathon film sessions, and in the meeting rooms. So I decided to do a little research, and see what the NFL's population of back up QB's looks like.

I looked at 13 teams, all considered to have QB's in the top half of those in the NFL, where I'm sure we can all agree that Tony Romo falls. I picked teams with both veteran starters (8 or more years), starters entering their prime (4-7 years) and younger guys (3 or fewer years) to make sure I didn't miss possible trends.

Team Starter Backup Experience Draft Status
New England Tom Brady Ryan Mallett 3 3rd Rd
Denver Peyton Manning Brock Osweiler 2 2nd Rd
Green Bay Aaron Rodgers Vince Young 7 1st Rd
New Orleans Drew Brees Luke McCown 10 4th Rd
New York Eli Manning David Carr 12 1st Overall
Pittsburgh Ben Roethlisberger Bruce Gradkowski 7 6th Rd
Atlanta Matt Ryan Dominique Davis 2 UDFA
Baltimore Joe Flacco Tyrod Taylor 3 6th Rd
San Francisco Colin Kaepernick Colt McCoy 4 3rd Rd
Indianapolis Andrew Luck Matt Hassellbeck 15 6th Rd
Washington Robert Griffin III Kirk Cousins 2 4th Rd
Seattle Russell Wilson Tavaris Jackson 8 2nd Rd
Carolina Cam Newton Derek Anderson 9 6th Rd

When we look at this information we see that, the backups to these top level QB's come largely from one of 2 populations. Either they are young (entering their 3rd year or less) early- to mid-round (<4th round) draft picks, or they are veterans.

62% (8 of 13) of these backups have 4 or more years of experience, 7 of these have 7 or more years.

38% (5 of 13) have 3 or fewer. Of these 5, 3 were drafted before the end of the 4th round.

When we look at it based on who the starters are, we see that the older starters are backed up by a 60/40 split between vets and young, high draft picks while the youngest starters are 80/20 vet backups, with Washington being the only exception.

The real exception to this rule falls with the two QB's on our list drafted in the 1st round of the 2008 draft. These guys each just completed their first contracts and are each 28-years-old, without significant injury history (Ryan missed two games in 2009).

When we look at these trends, we can see that the Cowboys are not alone in their desire to keep a veteran back-up QB (Brad Johnson, John Kitna, Kyle Orton), and while they did draft Stephen McGee to develop into the backup, that fits the other common strategy for finding your guy. However, 25 yr old, UDFA YouTube sensation trickshot QB is not a strategy.

I like Tanney as a player, and will be excited if they can get him through waivers to the PS where he belongs. But I'm not giving up one of my 53 spots to a guy like him, not when I can find another veteran that gives my team a chance.

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