Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones made his weekly radio appearance with Shan and RJ on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday morning to give his assessment on the roster as a whole. Despite Jones expressing continued confidence in Prescott’s readiness to play when called upon, Jones was asked about the competition behind him.
“At the end of the day, in this case, if you’re feeling real good about one and he’s a backup, and you feel good about the availability of your first one, that’s about as good as it gets when you’re spending what we’re spending for our quarterback position,” Jones explained.
Despite having arguably one of the best backup QBs in the league last season in Andy Dalton, Dallas was unable to weather Prescott’s absence. In 11 games following Dak’s season-ending injury, the team saw its points per game average drop from 32.6 to 21.1. It also saw its yards per game drop from 488 to 319, and its passing yards plummet from 381 to 205.
Whether or not you believe that drastic change in offensive production to be solely attributable to Prescott, there is no Andy Dalton waiting in the wings in 2021. As such, it’ll either be Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush who wins the backup job as Prescott continues to work his way back to the field.
“You look around the league and most clubs don’t break the bank at backup quarterback when you've got the premium player we have at quarterback,” Jones said. “That leaves you a little vulnerable when your main guy isn’t in there, to be trite, but we had it backed up last year the best that I’ve ever seen and it didn’t work for us...
We lost Dak and our backup quarterback had issues of availability, Andy Dalton. I don’t believe in my time that we’ve been in the shape we were in there with a backup quarterback and we still didn’t have the year we wanted, to be trite. So no matter what you put there doesn’t necessarily have the results that you want. That’s no basis of making a decision and doing the very best you can do at backup quarterback.
Although the job looked to be Gilbert’s to lose coming into training camp, it seems he may well have done just that. Rush has been solid in each of the team’s first three preseason games and really punctuated his case with a commanding performance against the Houston Texans this past Saturday night. Jones, it seems, took notice as well.
“It’s great though to have a quarterback, for instance in Cooper Rush, that understands the game. We can do everything. We can do our complete portfolio as far as our offense is concerned with Cooper Rush. It’s a little different but still, we can do everything. That’s good.”
The fact that Jones completely neglected to mention Gilbert, despite the QB getting the majority of first-team snaps throughout camp, is quite telling.
Jerry Jones quit on Garrett Gilbert. Didn't mention his name when it came to backup QB. Only Cooper Rush.— Jeff Cavanaugh (@JC1053) August 24, 2021
It is worth noting that Rush was brought up by name within the question pertaining to the backup situation, which could have partly influenced the answer, though Rush’s most recent performance more than speaks for itself.
Rush completed 10 of 12 passes against Houston, amassing 97 yards and two touchdowns while posting a rating of 139.9. In that same game, Gilbert attempted just five passes, completing three of them for 30 yards. His most noteworthy play occurred on his third snap when he was strip-sacked, eventually resulting in a Texans touchdown that proved the difference.
“Obviously wasn’t his best night,” McCarthy said of Gilbert’s performance.
With Rush surging and Gilbert faltering, coach Mike McCarthy and his staff have been forced to re-evaluate the competition.
“Well, we have one more week and we’re going to need it.”
Overall this preseason Gilbert has completed 19 of his 34 pass attempts (55.8%) for 214 yards. Although he has yet to throw an interception, the endzone has remained equally elusive. Pocket awareness has also been a concern as he’s been sacked three times either by holding onto the ball too long or not feeling the pocket begin to collapse.
Rush, meanwhile, has completed 25 of 38 attempts (65.7%) for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Like Gilbert, he has yet to be intercepted, though he did take a pair of sacks against the Texans. As of Monday, Rush has started working with the starters in practice.
Regardless of which of the QBs wins the competition, Dallas needs to remain open to all options, including ones beyond their current quarterback room.
“We’re getting down to crunch time here,” McCarthy said. “It’s time to start making some decisions.”