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Cowboys’ Search For A Veteran Backup Quarterback Stalled - And That’s A Good Thing

Dallas has been forced into taking things slowly, which may pay big dividends down the road.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After initially giving the impression that they were going to have a veteran quarterback added to the roster within a day or so, the Dallas Cowboys have apparently taken a deep breath and dialed things back. When Kellen Moore suffered a broken leg, it threw the plan at backup quarterback into chaos. Plan A was to sign free agent Nick Foles. That went out the window when he elected to go to the Kansas City Chiefs. A trade with the Cleveland Browns for Josh McCown is Plan B, but the indications are that Dallas and Cleveland are not at all close on his value.

So the brakes were tapped, which is a good thing on several levels. Most importantly is that the Cowboys’ staff is going to think a bit longer about bringing in a veteran backup to Tony Romo. The desire for that experienced player to go in if Romo is hurt has been something the team has pursued in recent years with almost fetish-like zeal. Jon Kitna proved that it can be a valid approach when he was able to lead the team to a 4-5 record as the starter. But since then, things have not gone so well. First was the Kyle Orton experience, where after one start he basically quit on the team. His replacement was Brandon Weeden, and we all remember too well how his time on the field played out. Matt Cassel was brought in and hardly did better. The supposed value of being a veteran turned out to be, not surprisingly, rather limited by the talents, desire, and preparation of the players involved.

Moore was something of an exception to the idea himself, since his experience was limited to three games, including two starts, at the end of last season - none of which were wins. He was a "veteran" only in comparison to the other backup QBs on Dallas’ roster. Given that all the quarterbacks available as either free agents or through trades are, by definition, not good enough to be starting, there is an open question of just how much better the Cowboys would be with someone brought in primarily on the strength of having game experience.

There should be no rush. Dallas needs to focus on getting the right player, one who will fit the offensive system and that will not come at too high a price. Comments from Stephen Jones indicate that the team is not really wanting to spend much draft capital this year. They have already given up their 2016 fifth-round pick in the deal to get Cassel, which looks to be the very definition of a wasted resource. The biggest argument for getting another QB now instead of later is to give them time to learn the system. Some argue that not having enough time to prepare was Cassel’s biggest problem. But he came to Dallas with the team in full crisis mode and Weeden having a meltdown on field. This was why he became the starter after only three weeks on the roster. Any veteran QB brought in to Dallas is still expected to stand on the sidelines while Tony Romo starts. This should allow more time to prepare. And there are still five weeks before the beginning of the season. There is just no reason to rush to sign someone.

And that leads to the second advantage for waiting. With Moore gone and Romo taking another day off today, the two remaining quarterbacks are expected to get twice the work they would have if there had been four QBs practicing. The team is going to see much more of Dak Prescott and Jameill Showers, which will help in determining if either could possibly be ready to step into the QB2 job this year. And the players will benefit hugely. Snaps in practice are pure gold for backup quarterbacks. Having only three QBs in camp, with the starter taking frequent days off in deference to his injury history and advanced NFL age, is the best possible situation for the two young players. Even if Dallas decides to bring in a veteran at some point prior to the start of the season, every practice and preseason game that goes by before then is invaluable in the development of both Prescott and Showers.

The old saying holds that patience is a virtue, and in this instance, that is absolutely so. Dallas’ front office needs to take its time to make sure about this. First, they need to be certain they really need that veteran quarterback. Second, they need to get the right one without overpaying for him. And third, they need to use the situation to advance the development of Prescott and Showers. As with the injury to Moore, the search for another backup did not go as the Cowboys had planned. But it also may have forced the team into doing something it should have in the first place.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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