Only the Cowboys know how truly confident they are in Cooper Rush as their backup quarterback in 2022. There's more reason to stick with Rush this year than ever before, but is it enough to keep Dallas from looking at some of the veteran free agents still available this offseason?
Well-known names like Cam Newton and Ryan Fitzpatrick remain unsigned. Less notorious but still experienced options like Mike Glennon, Blaine Gabbert, and Geno Smith are also looking for work. Or to a team who thinks they have superior developmental ability, a recent 1st-round pick like Josh Rosen could be intriguing.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy and Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore have both been QB-focused in their backgrounds. They will naturally have strong feelings about whoever mans the position at every point of the depth chart.
Back in 2020, McCarthy's first year in Dallas, the team wasn't content to just keep relying on Cooper Rush as backup as they had from 2017-2019. Despite having him under contract for the upcoming season, the Cowboys signed veteran Andy Dalton shortly after the 2020 NFL Draft and immediately released Rush afterwards.
Dak Prescott's injury put that decision to the test. Dalton was competent as the starter and, had the team been stronger overall, showed he could have kept them reasonably competitive. Issues on the offensive line and defense arguably did more damage to the 2020 Cowboys than the QB position.
One thing those QB issues did cause, especially Dalton also getting injured after a few games, was Cooper Rush finding his way back to the Cowboys. He was added to the practice squad wile Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci filled in for Dalton, then remained in the mix during the 2021 offseason. To the surprise of many, Rush eventually beat out Gilbert and retook his place as backup quarterback.
Rush finally got a chance to prove himself in one of the signature moments of last year; Dallas' upset victory over the Minnesota Vikings. With Dak Prescott missing the game due to a calf injury, Cooper got his first NFL start on the road and put up 325 yards and two touchdowns in a key NFC win.
Is that one big day in Minneapolis enough to lock Cooper Rush in as QB2? Do the Cowboys see him differently now than they did in 2020, when he was effectively dumped for the much-more-experienced Andy Dalton?
Again, only McCarthy, Moore, and the Cowboys front office know just how confident they are in Rush. And while guys like Cam Newton and Ryan Fitzpatrick come with far more marquee value, are they seen as scheme fits in Dallas' offense with talent to make up for Cooper's experience in the system?
Another factor here is Rush's time, over four years now, working in the QB room with Dak Prescott. That partnership is clearly solid given Cooper's tenure and the team's willingness to bring him back in 2020 after a brief stop with the Giants.
The fact Rush even followed Jason Garrett to New York that year says something about his presence is valued.
It was a surprise when Dallas signed Andy Dalton in 2020. It would be even more surprising if the Cowboys made a move now on a guy like Newton or Fitzpatrick given their conservative spending and Rush's increased credibility.
But it was only two year ago that, after three years with Cooper Rush QB2, Dallas saw a perceived upgrade opportunity and took it. If these veteran passers remain on the market, especially in the later phases of the offseason, could the Cowboys once again decide that they can do better?