The Cowboys made backup Quarterback a priority last season in signing Andy Dalton. It looked like a move that would pay off after Dak Prescott went down with a season-ending injury in week five, but that wasn’t the case. Dallas lost its next four games and ultimately missed the playoffs with a 6-10 record.
There are several lessons to be learned from this. First, it proves just how elite Prescott truly is. In a season where Dak didn’t even finish five full games, he still finished with more total touchdowns than Giants starter Daniel Jones (13-12, I couldn’t believe it either.).
Second, it shows that even when the rest of your offense stacks up comparably to the best teams in the league, it doesn’t matter if you’re missing the star quarterback. Dalton finished with over 2000 passing yards and a 14-8 TD/INT ratio, but that only translated to a 4-5 record.
Without an elite defense, the margin of error to win in the NFL is so slim if you don’t have an elite-level QB. After learning this lesson the hard way in 2020 the Cowboys have (smartly) decided to dedicate their limited cap space to fill other holes on the roster.
If you look at the current Cowboys depth chart behind Prescott right now you will recognize some familiar names in Cooper Rush, Garrett Gilbert, and Ben DiNucci. With the remaining market for backup QBs drying up quickly, it’s looking more and more likely that Dallas opens up 2021 with one of these three as the backup QB.
In Gilbert’s only start against a tough Steelers team, he finished with 243 yards, one TD, and one INT. DiNucci looked overwhelmed in his limited action as a rookie, finishing with a 53% completion percentage, no TDs, and two fumbles lost. Rush is a guy that has seen basically zero regular-season action but somehow seems to always secure a spot with the Cowboys.
Head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned earlier that he wanted to add some competition for the backup quarterback spot. Jeff Driskel stopped by for a visit but ultimately left without signing a deal. With the remaining free-agent options down to guys like Nick Mullens and Matt Barkley, it is looking like that competition may have to come from in-house.
When it really comes down to it, if Dallas loses Dak again it likely won’t matter who is taking snaps at QB. If I’m the Cowboys GM I would head into the season with the cheapest possible options that already know the offensive system.
Gilbert and DiNucci fit that bill perfectly as they are both on contracts that count for less than a million dollars against the cap and saw the field last season. In my opinion, the smartest play is to just run it back with those two backing up Prescott, and it’s looking like that is the most realistic possibility with each passing day.