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Ben DiNucci has Promise, but far From Cowboys Starting QB Job

Look just about anywhere in the sports world, and you’ll find someone that has a take on Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys quarterback situation. For what seems like forever now, people have been continuously weighing on who should be the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback.

It all started when Tony Romo was deemed healthy, and the debate ensued as to who should start between him and Dak Prescott. Four years into his career and two playoff appearances later, and people are still trying to replace Dak Prescott because of perceived contractual value.

The latest to speak on the subject of the Dallas Cowboys quarterback situation is none other than the school newspaper from Ben DiNucci’s alma mater, The Breeze at James Madison University. The title’s a bit misleading, but they ran with it anyway.

In the piece, Andrew Oliveras argues that if Dak Prescott doesn’t play for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020 due to contractual issues, Ben DiNucci should be the Cowboys quarterback. It’s an interesting idea and very well written. Make sure to go check it out.

Let’s take on this piece point by point.

What about Dak Prescott?

“Dallas has a “franchise” quarterback in Dak Prescott, though as of today he hasn’t signed a franchise tag contract, and the deadline for him to sign is July 15. He hasn’t been participating in the virtual offseason and is asking for big money that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might not bite at. Prescott already has declined a contract of $145 million for five years. He wants high guaranteed money, and he wants it now.”

Andrew Oliveras – The Breeze

Everything he says here is accurate. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person that covers the Dallas Cowboys, in the front office, or Dak Prescott himself that isn’t confident that a deal will get finalized before the July 15th franchise tag deadline. The sticking point has been the years. But it will get done.

Yes, the fact is that Dak Prescott doesn’t have a contract right now. The reality remains the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott have a month to come to an agreement. As we know with the Jones’, deadlines make deals, and there’s plenty of time to reach an agreement before the tag deadline.

Andy Dalton Doesn’t Bring that Winning Spark

“Many say that if Prescott doesn’t play, the job will go to recently acquired veteran quarterback Andy Dalton. However, DiNucci brings aspects to the game that Dalton can’t.”

Dalton brings veteran leadership, but he won’t bring that winning spark. Dalton led the Cincinnati Bengals to a 2-11 record in 2019 and threw 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 13 games.”

Andrew Oliveras – The Breeze

First of all, QB Wins is not a stat.

Yes, the Bengals have been bad for the last four seasons, but before 2016, they won 10 or more games four seasons in a row with Dalton at quarterback. Let’s not kid ourselves; it’s not like Andy Dalton had a whole lot around him to stay competitive while battling injuries himself.

Secondly, in the event of a Dak Prescott holdout or an injury to their starting quarterback, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t going to entrust their chance at contending for a playoff spot over to a seventh-round draft pick from an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) school.

And that brings us to another point.

What about Carson Wentz and Jimmy Garapolo?

Some might say DiNucci played against easy schools being in the FCS. However, the FCS is no joke as it’s produced many NFL players to date, such as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.”

Let’s just say to NFL front offices, draft status matters.

Sure Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garapolo, and Ben DiNucci all played in the FCS and had a ton of success. The difference is that DiNucci was a seventh-round pick while Wentz was taken in the first round, and Garapolo was taken in the second.

As good as DiNucci might be, it’s not as if he’s some sort of sleeper pick by the Cowboys. The rest of the NFL had tape on this guy and didn’t believe he was worthy of selecting in the first six rounds of the draft.

If he were ready to step in and play an NFL game in 2020, he DiNucci would have been drafted much higher. Now, front offices make mistakes, but in a league so desperate for quarterbacks that the Philadelphia Eagles would draft their backup in the second round, if he were ready to play in the NFL, some team would have taken a shot on him before the seventh round.

Breaking Down The Dallas Cowboys' 2017 Free Agency To-Do List
ARLINGTON, TX – JANUARY 04: Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys gestures against the Detroit Lions during the second half of their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Is Ben DiNucci another Tony Romo?

In the piece, Oliveras references a quote from Dallas Cowboys COO Stephen Jones that loosely compares Tony Romo and Ben DiNucci.

There’s no way that anyone can even know that.

But here’s the thing that we often forget to mention when we talk about Tony Romo. He didn’t play for two seasons after being signed as an undrafted free agent. Romo didn’t come in until the seventh game of the season in 2006 after sitting on the bench behind veteran options during Bill Parcells’ tenure with the Dallas Cowboys. Romo sat on the bench and learned from Sean Payton before getting his opportunity in 2006.

Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe were both at the end of their careers when they started for the Dallas Cowboys, and yet it took Tony Romo nearly two and a half seasons to get his first playing time in the NFL and take the starting job.

If Tony Romo, a UDFA, couldn’t take the job from veterans on their last legs, there’s very little reason to believe that DiNucci could come in and take the job from Andy Dalton if Dak Prescott was unavailable to play.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Oliveras summarizes his thesis with this.

Dalton might win the job because he’ll be able to adapt faster  than DiNucci, coming in as an inexperienced NFL quarterback. If Prescott doesn’t play and Dalton “stinks it up” on the field, the job will be DiNucci’s.”

It’s certainly possible that Ben DiNucci is a quarterback that can stick around in the NFL. Late round picks like Tom Brady found a way to be successful. The reality is that the hit rate for quarterbacks taken after the first is very low. Get into the later rounds of the draft, and it becomes even smaller.

It would take incredibly bad play from Andy Dalton for Mike McCarthy to turn the keys to the offense over to Ben DiNucci as a rookie.

DiNucci lands in a unique situation, though. He’ll be able to sit under Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton, learn from Mike McCarthy, Kellen Moore, and Doug Nussmeier, and could potentially run the scout team offense. Every rep in the NFL is invaluable, and if he finds a way of sticking on the Cowboys roster, either the 53-man roster or the practice squad, he’ll have a great shot at sticking in the NFL.

Year one for Ben DiNucci is an opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys to find out whether or not he can be Dak Prescott’s backup after Andy Dalton’s one-year contract expires.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. I wanna see dinucci in preseason. Even tho he was in the fcs he has the arm angles and escape ability to be a poor man’s mahomes. I don’t know if he played baseball at all at a high level but it sure looks like it when he throws on the run with accuracy.

  2. There is simply no evidence that Dalton can play QB successfully in 2020.
    Anyone doubting the bizarre nature of the Dallas hype phenomenon need only look at the complete turnabout in stories on Dalton from when Dalton was with Cincinnati to after Dallas signed him. Before Dalton was cut by Cincinnati, Dalton was accurately described as a regressing, failing player who was immobile, inaccurate and unable to run the current run pass option plays. Analysts noted Dalton made poor decisions with the ball. All this in spite of Dalton being at an age where he should be in his prime. Everyone was in agreement Dalton was the problem and no one wanted to trade for him so he was cut .
    Then Dallas signed him.
    Miraculously, Dalton was transformed from his reality of being a 59% immobile passer who threw interceptions to a diamond who could win a super bowl. Stories and fans call Dalton the best backup in the league and that the Boys would make a wise choice to replace Prescott as starter with Dalton.
    Bizarre. 2020 journalism and fans are just bizarre. And, Dallas journalism and fans are the most bizarre.

    • Dalton with some talent around him would do wonders. He had a makeshift oline and WR2 and WR3 to throw to. And a real bad defense backing him up. He’s no franchise QB anymore but he’s prob top 2 backup in the league tho.
      If he would happen to start he’d likely accident 9 wins with this loaded team kind of like Bridgewater managed a 5-0 start while Brees was out.

    • And there is that DiNucci could?

      Dalton struggled the last few years, that’s why Cincy let him go. I don’t think anyone would be excited about Andy Dalton starting 16 games. But as someone who can fill in for a few games if necessary then you feel pretty good about it.

  3. WR 2s and WR 3s? Don’t forget that dalton had AJ Green during the peak of Greens career. And Dalton has had some talented teams with Cincy, but was held back in the same way romo was and dak has been to this point, by inept head coaching. A healthy Dalton rightfully should be the backup QB and God forbid something happens to dak, he should be the starter the rest of the way. DiNucci won’t even benefit from a full offseason program and will no doubt have a modified training camp/preseason to get ready this year. Temper expectations for him and let him grow.

  4. Prescot is the cream of Boyz ANd & will-sign Daks-good news. Dalton and Denucci will be the backups. Dalton can still play and is far from retirement. Denucci will be interesting to see IF he beats out Thorson. Overall sold group!

    • Dak Prescott should go ahead and get his money up front. There is no assurances that the NFL will ever play another game, and 30 million dollar jobs are hard to find outside of sports.

      • One of the difficulties of playing on the franchise tag is knowing that he’ll have to renegotiate again next year.

        If the NFL’s attendance suffers due to COVID-19, then the Cap could see some stagnancy in 2021 or it could take a dip.

  5. The Cowboys are in Desperate and Dire need of a Real Quarterback Competition in Pre Season. The Cowboys have 3 Quarterbacks. The 15th of July is around the corner and we will see exactly what Dak Prescott (CHOKE THE CHICKEN) will exactly do, either he signs the Franchise Tag or he Holds Out. Either way the Cowboys will be in Excellent Shape with Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci. The Cowboys may also pick up Aaron Rodgers. Jerry Jones will have the last word. Prescott definitely doesn’t have any leverage against Jerry Jones. The Cowboys will definitely be Super Bowl Bound if they acquire Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci and Release Prescott.

  6. I was surprised when we drafted DiNucci. Then heard McCarthy liked the kid. Then heard they drafted him because they didn’t want to risk him signing with another team as a UDFA. Word was other teams were in the mix for him after the draft.

    Let’s take a look at him at camps and pre-season before we dismiss him completely. Looked at some of his tape, and he looked pretty good. Again, that was against somewhat lower ranked competition. But if McCarthy sees something, who are we to judge at this point in time.

    All that being said, in all likely hood Dalton will be first in line (unless somehow this seventh rounder blows the doors off Dalton during camp/pre-season) if Prescott doesn’t take the field. We are in good shape at QB if Prescott wakes up, but wakes up SOON. Preparation should never be discounted. Prescott is an above the average bear, and with this STACKED offense, one would think we should be in the playoffs at least. If not, then…

  7. Dinucci is a glorified high school qb. Good athlete, tough kid. When under pressure, folds like a lawn chair. Maybe a scout team project.

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