Backing the Backup QB: Expecting Better Results


In case it didn’t click right away in your head, this above figure is the record of the Dallas Cowboys last year without their starting QB.

It is a lonely figure, and quite frankly an embarrassing one for any team, but especially unacceptable for a group that won twelve games in 2014. If not for Tony Romo saving the day on three occasions last year, the Cowboys would probably have been the ones on the clock for nearly four months, rather than Tennessee.

I have read and heard solid arguments all week long about what the team should do now that Kellen Moore is sidelined.  Is standing behind Jameill Showers and Dak Prescott the answer? Or is going after veterans like Josh McCown or Mike Glennon the right move?

Rather than provide my analysis on these individual quarterbacks, I am going to add some food for thought instead.

This team’s inability to win games without number nine in the lineup is a sign of a deeper problem than just who happens to take the snaps on Sunday when and if he is injured. I’m not convinced that lack of skill at the backup quarterback position is an acceptable excuse moving forward, and not a pass I am willing to give to Jason Garrett and this coaching staff if similar results ensue this season.

When I looked around the league last year, specifically at the AFC and the playoff picture in that conference, I saw many teams surviving and staying afloat with what they had at the backup position.

The Houston Texans managed to win a division with a QB carousal, and their rival Colts managed to stay in the playoff picture up until week 17 with a 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck starting for most the season.  Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals were still formidable with their backups as well. AJ McCarron even put his team in a position to win a playoff game before their defense imploded.

In general, I chose to highlight these teams because they were in a somewhat similar position to Dallas last year in the sense that they were in divisions that were up for grabs, similar to the NFC East.

Time and time again I watched a vanilla offense try to not lose games with Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel, rather than trying new things and getting creative on offense.  Watching Dallas lose 10-6 at Tampa Bay was some of the worst offensive football I have seen in a while.

I obviously cannot sit here and speculate what this team has to do to win more games without Tony Romo in the lineup. But it’s fair to expect better results when you look around the league at what other backup quarterbacks are providing for playoff caliber teams.

This coaching staff must devise better plans to win with our backup quarterback, whoever that may be.  I’m not going to sit here and expect them to be a playoff team if Romo misses 12 games again, but I expect better results if Romo misses some time.  I am all for bringing someone in from the outside or through free agency, and if the front office truly feels as though a McCown or a Glennon is the answer, then I’ll be happy to see them pull the trigger.  Same can be said for sticking with the quarterbacks on the roster right now.

Just don’t expect me to sit here next year if this team fails to win at least some games with the new backup again and call for the team to sign someone else to save the day when and if Romo goes down.

Because at that point, I will be calling for a new head coach instead.

What do you think?


Written by Justin Grohowski

Die hard Dallas Cowboys fan behind enemy lines here in New Jersey. CBS Sports employee and contributor for


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