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For Cowboys, Timing May Be Everything With Brandon Weeden And Matt Cassel

The bye may have been the expected decision point from the day Cassel was signed.

Was the quarterback decision already underway in Dallas?
Was the quarterback decision already underway in Dallas?
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Hindsight is known for its supposed clarity. When you look at the sequence of events leading to certain results, they seem to form an obvious chain of causation. At times that can be something of an illusion, but there are certainly others where reconstructing things does lead to a certain sense of inevitability. For instance, it really is a logical conclusion that the advent of the internet combined with growing computer speed and graphics and video capability would inevitably lead to the publishers of Playboy deciding to change the iconic magazine into a Maxim clone.

I have no idea why that particular analogy came to mind, but that is beside the point. With the current indications being that the Dallas Cowboys are going to replace Brandon Weeden with Matt Cassel during the bye week, it raises the question: Was that the plan all along? At the least, it was almost certainly the fallback should Weeden not step up to the challenge. He didn't, and now it looks like a done deal.

The Cowboys signed Cassel on September 22nd, right after Tony Romo was injured and eventually placed on injured reserve/designated to return. Although there were many who felt he walked into Dallas as a more capable quarterback than Weeden, there was no way a Jason Garrett coached team was going to throw a player with no experience in the Cowboys' scheme into games to learn on the job. But by the New York Giants game on October 25th, he will have had almost five weeks to absorb the playbook and terminology as well as get some familiarity with his teammates. It is looking more and more crucial that Dallas wins at least two of the remaining four games before Romo is first eligible to return to the field. Cassel's situation is not ideal to take over, but there may be no real choice but to go with him.

What is interesting is the question of whether the Cowboys suspected that this was coming all along. They had seen Weeden for over a year in practice, plus had seen his one start in 2014. There were repeated assertions before this season of how much he had improved, but this may well have been a combination of wistful thinking and trying to build up Weeden's confidence. That fell through. Had Weeden managed even one win, with the Saints game the one that probably was the most winnable, he might have gotten another chance. With three losses, the team cannot afford to wait.

Weeden's role as a backup was to fill in for a game or two if Romo was hurt, not to carry the load for nearly half the season. Cassel has proven he can handle a longer stretch, although the situation he faced with the Patriots as the stand-in for Tom Brady is not exactly comparable. However, the Cowboys are looking to him to find a couple of wins in the four games (at least) before Romo can resume his position. There is no guarantee that Cassel can do so, but he looks like a far better candidate to do so than Weeden. And he may have been that from the moment the Cowboys brought him in for his try-out.

Dallas had no real choice but to do everything they could to support Weeden until Cassel was ready. Remember that he did not get promoted to second-string until the New England game. Now he has the extra two weeks of the bye to work with the first team and get ready for the Giants. Assuming the reports of the change are accurate, it looks like the team believes he is the best chance to stay alive in the playoff race. We are all hoping they are right.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB


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