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Backup quarterback is quietly a big question mark for the Cowboys

With what happened when Dak Prescott went down last year, the Cowboys need to figure out the backup situation.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Cowboys without Dak Prescott is not a sight any Cowboys fan would like to see in 2021. We all remember how last year went. Prescott’s progress, by all accounts, is going wonderfully and Dak himself said if need be he could be ready to go now. The Cowboys were able to secure Dak long term, and Cowboys Nation can feel good about the fact that it looks as if QB1 is taken care of and accounted for, for the foreseeable future.

However, good football teams value the back up quarterback position immensely, and as the Cowboys currently stand, the back end of the QB depth chart leaves much to be desired. With Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush, and Ben DiNucci currently behind Prescott on the depth chart, it leaves the position with a feeling of uneasiness. Between the three of them, they have a combined two NFL starts under their belt. Garrett Gilbert did spark some intrigue in his one career start vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, where he threw for 243 yards and one touchdown. His QBR of 64.1 is less inspiring as you read it, but for what the expectation was for a first-time starter against a then undefeated Steelers team, it was an admirable performance that led the Cowboys to being in the ball game to the very end.

Ben DiNucci’s start, on the other hand, was far less inspiring. We all remember his performance versus the Cowboys bitter rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, as it left the fan base and Jerry Jones himself pondering if the moment was just too big for the young undrafted rookie. The Cowboys and their fans are both somewhat familiar with Cooper Rush as he had spent time with the organization prior to jumping over to division rival New York with former head coach Jason Garrett before coming back. Rush has no career starts and has seen very little game action thus far in his career.

It does not appear that Mike McCarthy and staff are sitting on their hands however, as Jeff Driskel did stop by the Star for a visit. Although he left without a deal, it is definitely worth noting that the team is not completely satisfied with the QB room as it currently stands. Dallas did make an attempt to secure peace of mind at the position in the past year with the signing of Andy Dalton. Although that one-year rental had mixed results, the Cowboys had the right idea in mind. Dalton was viewed to be the best backup quarterback in the league. The signing was praised, and rightfully so, as the Cowboys looked to make a move that would keep themselves in the hunt if Dak were to go down and many felt Dalton was capable of doing so.

However, after dealing with Covid-19 and a nasty concussion that he sustained against the Washington Football Team, Dalton never quite lived up to that expectation. For Dalton himself, his time with the Cowboys was parlayed into a new deal with the Chicago Bears, where for a brief time before the start of the draft, he was viewed to be their locked in starting quarterback. The idea of bringing in a player with that same vision as the had for Dalton should be broached once again, and doing so this year would be beneficial to the team, but the question remains, ‘who?’

As you gaze through the current group of available quarterbacks, there is not one name that would produce a vote of confidence for the position. Outside of Driskell, names such as Nick Mullens, Matt Moore, and Robert Griffin III are still floating out there looking for work. One could sit here and wonder if the Cowboys dropped the ball by not prioritizing the position sooner. The Cowboys did not address the position with one of their 11 draft picks, and to date their has been no reports of them using one of their UDFA slots on a camp arm either. However, it is believed they will bring in Brady Davis from Illinois State, as well as J.T. Barrett formerly of Ohio State, as a couple of tryout guys for the rookie minicamp coming this weekend.

Any time your starting quarterback goes down there are going to be challenges. Teams every year have to weather that storm, and some do it better than others. Bringing in Dalton last year, on the surface, looked like a solid move to keep the Cowboys afloat. if Dak were to be out for a game or two here and there, the idea was to keep the team in contention during his absence. Granted there were many other factors in play, such as a poor defense, and other mounting injuries throughout the season, but if the NFC East wasn't so poor the Cowboys very well could've been out of contention by about Thanksgiving time, if not sooner. And the fact of the matter is they just did not get the job done.

As you look at what players are available, and what is currently on the roster outside of Dak Prescott, the question will remain, did the Cowboys do enough if they had to weather some games without Dak?