The Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster is finalized, but as we all know there are a number of decisions that the team will make in the coming days to alter it.
One of the things that they may or may not touch is the backup quarterback position. With the ink dry on the roster’s first draft it appears that the Cowboys are only carrying two quarterbacks on their roster with the lone non-Dak Prescott one being veteran Cooper Rush.
To be clear here before we get into it, it’s not like the Cowboys had a ton of options at the position. Cooper “beat out” Garrett Gilbert for the role while second-year signal-caller Ben DiNucci did what he could to even somewhat sort of stay in the conversation.
It is possible that Dallas could look elsewhere to find their QB2 (Cam Newton is one reported option), but the time is sort of not now to do something like this. The time was back in March and April.
The Dallas Cowboys made this bed with Cooper Rush and now they have to lie in it
The Cowboys had a number of things to address in free agency and the draft and did everything that they could in order to do so. The fact that all 11 of their draft picks made the initial roster is a clear sign that they spent them all on players that they believe in.
But the reality is that this team either grossly overestimated or paid no attention to their options behind Dak Prescott. Garrett Gilbert was effectively given the opportunity to be QB2 simply because he did not look like a disaster in his lone start against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, and he was afforded every benefit throughout training camp and the preseason to take the role by the horns.
Gilbert not only got QB2 work ahead of Cooper Rush (a player whom the Dallas Cowboys and this staff cut last year, by the way), but he actually got work with the team’s starters when Dak Prescott had to sit out throwing sessions due to his lat strain. Dallas invested an enormous amount of time in Gilbert only to cut him on the day that rosters were due.
No one is trying to say that Gilbert shouldn’t have been cut. He wasn’t good. The Cowboys realized that (finally) and moved on from him. But Cooper Rush “won” this job by being slightly good (or less bad) during the team’s third preseason game against the Houston Texans. That seems like an incredibly small sample size to make a decision that could (hopefully won’t) have a dramatic impact on the organization should QB2 be called upon.
This whole position “battle” has all along felt like one that the Cowboys weren’t paying enough attention to. Garrett Gilbert didn’t get bad overnight during camp and the preseason, and Cooper Rush certainly didn’t get good in any sort of similar timeframe. Dallas approached this casually as they have all too many times before and are clearly banking on Dak Prescott staying healthy for the duration of the season.
In the two offseasons that the Cowboys have had over the last decade when they were coming off of a season that their quarterback missed a majority of, the Cowboys have added one quarterback, and it was a fourth-round pick, thankfully it wound up being Dak Prescott.
This is an organization that has indeed acted far too calmly with regard to a direct answer to the most important person on their football team. They were not proactive in 2016 after Tony Romo had been hurt the year before and almost had to pay an enormous price for it (Dak Prescott’s rookie performance obviously saved them). How could they have not learned this lesson just five years later?
You would be hard-pressed to find a team in the NFL who is love with their QB2 situation, but there are still organizations who take actual action towards rectifying the issue. Consider that the Cowboys learned over and over throughout the weeks of last season that their backup quarterbacks were not good enough and that they literally ran things back with the exact same group in Rush, Gilbert, and DiNucci (besides letting Dalton walk for money that would not have been wise to commit to him).
Treating the QB2 position in a casual way will always generally result in a casual performance
Jerry Jones said on Tuesday that it would be a “high bar” for someone to clear (as in a would-be free agent quarterback) for the team to move on from Cooper Rush. He specifically said it would be a high bar when you factor in the “background” that Rush has.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it will be a "high bar" for another QB to be added that could beat out Cooper Rush to be Dak Prescott's backup. "It's a high bar when you got the background in it that Cooper has." https://t.co/EVhv4E9KRW— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) August 31, 2021
What background could he possibly be referring to? Rush backed up Dak Prescott from 2017 through 2019, but he threw three total passes in that time. He is an undrafted free agent with basically no actual experience in a real NFL game. His biggest contribution to the Dallas Cowboys has been beating Kellen Moore out in 2017 to the point that it pushed Moore into the coaching profession.
Consider that the Philadelphia Eagles, a team with much lower aspirations for 2021 than the Cowboys, are more proactive towards acquiring quarterback depth as they traded for Gardner Minshew over the weekend. Nothing is a guarantee, but something like this is what we would like to see from the Cowboys. Hoping that the UDFA who they signed four years ago that they cut last year and brought back will magically save them at any random moment that he is called upon doesn’t exactly feel like an equally stable plan (ironically Gardner Minshew was also undrafted).
Hopefully QB2 will never be a necessary thing for the Cowboys. But if it is, well, this is the path they chose. Just like they have chosen many times before.