Cooper Rush has been the least talked about quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys' 2021 offseason prior to last night's loss to the Texans. But after clearly outshining Garrett Gilbert against Houston, Rush appears to be making a good case to get his old job back.
Undrafted in 2017, Rush had a stellar preseason and eventually took over as the primary backup over Kellen Moore midway through his rookie year. He held that job for two more seasons before leaving as a free agent in 2020, replaced by veteran Andy Dalton.
Cooper followed Jason Garrett to the Giants but didn't make the roster. He spent a month on their practice squad but was eventually released. About a month later, Dallas brought Rush back when injuries had ended Dak Prescott's season and cost Dalton a few games.
Rush returned this year but as a seeming afterthought. Gilbert was the clear favorite to be QB2 and Ben DiNucci was the developmental project in his second season. Nobody really saw Cooper as a legitimate contender in 2021.
Based on a comment by Mike McCarthy following last night's game, that appears to have changed.
Cowboys have said repeatedly they are comfortable w/ Garrett Gilbert as the team’s No. 2 quarterback.
That changed after this game. Asked if the backup is Gilbert or Cooper Rush or someone not on roster, Mike McCarthy responded:
“We have one more week & we’re going to need it.”
— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) August 22, 2021
Gilbert has hardly impressed in his preseason action thus far, producing only one field goal on drives he's led. He and Rush have looked fairly similar in Dallas' first two games but last night Cooper looked far more poised and efficient.
Everything in preseason is relative of course. Plays aren't being called like they will in September and the players on both sides of the ball may not be the same guys you'll work with and against in the regular season.
Unless he was just sending a message to Gilbert, McCarthy's indicates that the Cowboys are about to take Rush much more seriously.
Remember, this same front office trusted Rush to be Prescott's backup for two-and-a-half seasons. Kellen Moore, now offensive coordinator, lost his QB2 job to Cooper a few years ago. He has equity with some of the key decision makers on the offense.
Garrett Gilbert could still win in the end. There's one more preseason game to go and plenty of practices before the team has to make final cuts. This conversation is far from over.
But at least after last night, it appears that Cooper Rush got the conversation started.