Last week the Cowboys front office had to publicly declare that Andy Dalton would retain his role as starting quarterback once he returned from injury and the COVID-19 reserve list. But while some wish Dallas would give the opportunity to lesser-known entity, Dalton deserves another shot at the job he was brought here to do.
Garrett Gilbert’s relatively dazzling play last week against Pittsburgh, helping Dallas nearly get an upset over the undefeated Steelers, has left many wondering if Dalton should get his job back. After all, the only time Dalton looked that competent was after coming in for Dak Prescott against the Giants.
Dalton was the QB for the Monday night humiliation against the Arizona Cardinals and most of the ugly loss to Washington. Things were so bad that going from Dalton to Ben DiNucci the following week against Philadelphia didn’t make any tangible difference.
So yeah, Gilbert’s performance last week has left many with questions and concerns about Dalton returning as the starter. But there’s a key factor in this debate that can’t be ignored.
All-Pro guard Zack Martin left the Arizona game early with an injury and did not return, then missed the following week against Washington. That left Dalton with the worst edition of the Cowboys’ offensive line that we’ve seen all season; only Connor Williams on the field from among the team’s original starters.
Sure, the pitiful Giants helped make Dalton look good in his season debut. But that’s the only time Dalton’s been on the field with Zack Martin for more than a few snaps, and that was a contributing factor as well.
Simply put, would Andy Dalton have been able to do as much or more than Garrett Gilbert did last week? Do we really have enough evidence yet to say who the better option is?
The current bye week actually works out well for the Cowboys in handing things back over to Dalton. It allows for a bit of a reset and for Dalton to fully reassert himself in preparation for the Vikings next week.
Remember how we felt after Andy came in after Dak’s injury and engineered a late-game drive to get the win. There was a lot of optimism about what Dallas could still do given the weak NFC East and what we saw from Dalton in that victory.
In hindsight, maybe that had more to do with how bad the Giants are. But again, have we seen enough of Dalton in reasonable circumstances to make a confident evaluation?
Losing Zack Martin for Andy’s two starts was a death blow to the Cowboys’ ability to function offensively. Since his return, we’ve seen how Martin’s presence stabilizes things across the board for the offense. Even without his Pro Bowl teammates around him, Zack can at least help keep things solvent.
Dalton deserves a chance to play with Zack Martin in front of him. He deserves an opportunity to compete with the Cowboys defense finally showing up to play.
Of course, the key word in that statement is “opportunity.” What Dalton does with it is up for evaluation and perhaps, at some point, Garrett Gilbert will deserve a chance to build on what we saw against Pittsburgh.
But if the Cowboys still hope to make something of this season then Andy Dalton’s experience and proven skills are still worth leaning on for now. And next week is a great test; the Vikings are just 3-5 as of today and present a winnable game if Dallas performs like it did last week.
We’ll see what Dalton and the Cowboys do with that opportunity next Sunday.