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Why The Cowboys Backup QB Situation Is Not As Bad As You Think

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys famously crumbled to dust last season when they lost quarterback Tony Romo for most of the season. The had other injuries, and other holes on the roster that didn't help, but the drop-off from Romo to the backup quarterbacks was basically 90% of the problem. The trio of Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore combined to win exactly one game that any of the three actually started. Naturally, this lead to an offseaon where finding a proper backup quarterback for the Cowboys was paramount. Either grabbing a proven veteran or drafting Romo's heir-apparent with a high draft pick were the commonly discussed routes to the promised land, but in the end the Cowboys decided to draft Dak Prescott in the fourth round. This represented sort of a compromise position, don't spend too many resources on the issue, but just maybe get lucky and draft your future guy.

This path has left the Cowboys, as of this moment, with either a veteran who has not really done anything in the NFL (Kellen Moore) to battle with a raw rookie who most think will need time to develop to play at the NFL level (Dak Prescott). Those choices aren't satisfactory for many.

Greg Bedard of says his mind is boggled that the Cowboys are planning to go into 2016 with Moore and Prescott as the backup options.

Look, I get it. At this point, if Romo goes down again (which is more likely than not—we all know he isn't the most durable starter out there), the Cowboys will likely rely on Elliott's presence and talent to keep the team competitive. And throwing too many assets at the backup quarterback position might not be the wisest move because without Romo, the Cowboys' Super Bowl hopes are almost certainly dashed. The Cowboys have gone 1-13 the past three seasons without Romo, including 1-11 last year.​

But it's mind-boggling to me that the Cowboys are portraying the image that they think they're set at the quarterback position behind Romo. The quarterback, who turned 36 last month, isn't the most durable starter out there—he's recently undergone two back operations and broke his left collarbone twice last season (he had surgery on it in March).

Bedard is just expressing what many observers feel about the Cowboys backup QB situation. He even pushed for the Cowboys to investigate Josh McCown if he is released from Cleveland. I'm not saying they are necessarily wrong, but let's explore an alternative view. Let's go with the "Run, Forrest, Run" offensive gameplan in case of emergency.

First, let me dispose of what I think is a fallacy when contemplating backup quarterbacks for the Cowboys. Josh McCown, or whichever vet they bring in, is unlikely to be much of an upgrade. If you look at McCown's career numbers and compare them to say, Matt Cassel, there's not a huge discrepancy. Both of them have had a few times when they were pretty good, but overall, they are just backups who may or may not be able to save a season, with the odds likely to be not. If Tony Romo goes down for an extended period, we should probably learn the lesson of last year, and what teams have learned throughout the NFL history. Backup QBs are more than likely not going to save your season, although you can certainly come up with notable exceptions to this rule. (We all remember Jon Kitna's heroic efforts for Dallas in 2010).

This leads to my preferred method of dealing with a major injury to Tony Romo in 2016. Roll Dak Prescott out there and use a full-on running attack sprinkled in with a package of throws that suit his abilities. The Cowboys offensive line along with Ezekiel Elliott will be asked to do the heavy lifting. But with Prescott you can add in another element. Quarterback draws, sprint rollouts and bootlegs with run/pass options, even zone-reads out of the backfield. Add in short and intermediate throws and try to grind down the clock, turn the ball over as little as possible, and protect the defense sounds like a better recipe than what we saw last year. When things go bad on offense, instead of forcing a throw or taking a sack, Prescott can just use his legs to get what he can.

I get that this is not a long-term solution for an NFL team. But for part of a season, this might be a stop-gap that can work. I'd even wager it has as much of a chance of success as throwing a journeyman backup QB into the mix and trying to run the Cowboys regular offense. Last year's debacle saw three of those give it a go, and the results were all similar. Instead, go with a "semi-college" offense that relies on a strong running game utilizing a dual-threat QB and hang on for dear life. Any takers?

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