Dallas Cowboys: The Veteran Backup Quarterback Myth

Oct 4, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) flies over Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) flies over Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

How is it – most fans, including Dallas Cowboys Nation – want the best veteran backup quarterback on the depth chart but hope they never play?

The veteran backup quarterback necessity is a myth. Most backup quarterbacks have proven they are no longer able to be a starter in the NFL. Most of them were once labeled as “the next big thing” like a next generation automobile. After a trial run, these backup quarterbacks that were once limited and exclusive are now a dime a dozen. They’re filling up all the used car lots and available at discount prices but usually for a reason.

How does a person get experience if they can’t get an opportunity? It’s the age old question that stalks the nightmares of new college graduates. There are 128 schools with NCAA Division I college football programs. There were 171 schools with NCAA Division II college football programs in 2016.

There are more schools with Division III college football programs and I was just too lazy to count them. How about we just call it 90? The point is – there’s nearly 400 college teams which equals around 800 potential NFL quarterbacks. That’s a nice sized talent pool. Remember our head coach Jason Garrett was an undrafted quarterback from Princeton and I’m not even going to mention the Kurt Warner story.

Of those 800 potential candidates, general managers are thinning the herd for potentially 96 quarterback jobs. That’s two quarterbacks on the roster and one on the practice squad – (32 teams, 3 players = 96). With 800 applicants, we get the same recycled, damaged candidates. Haven’t they already revealed their limits and capabilities? Haven’t they exhausted their potential? To paraphrase the late, great Dennis Green – “He was, who we thought he was!”. No wait, the phrase should probably be – “He’s worse than we thought he was.”

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Let’s use crazy examples: If an architect designed a building that collapsed, would he get trusted to work for another design firm? If a truck driver has multiple accidents on his driving record, would he get hired by another company? If a police officer shoots an unarmed citizen – nevermind, they keep their jobs. The point is that quarterbacks that lose their starting jobs due to poor performance continue to labor in the NFL – with the exception of JaMarcus Russell.

I had an awesome supervisor, Mr. Stanley Craddock who told me he preferred young employees because they could be trained the right way. Of course, the right way was HIS way. His experienced employees knew the core of the job, but had to be retrained to follow procedures. He hated hearing – “This is how we did it at my old job.” I wonder how offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and quarterback coach Wade Wilson feel.

Veteran backup quarterbacks always mention how they need time to learn the terminology and adjusting to the team’s procedures. I think it’s too much. The NFL is a long way from kids drawing plays in the dirt. Learning multiple team verbiage is like mastering multiple foreign languages and instruments – not everyone can do it. Sometimes I is surprised good write English me – See?

How is it – most fans, including Cowboy Nation – wants the best veteran backup quarterback but hope that they never play? Nobody wanted Kyle Orton to come in the game. Nobody wanted Brandon Weeden to play. Nobody wanted Matt Cassel to play. Anybody looking forward to Mark Sanchez getting playing time? Even though the general rule is – “Everybody loves the backup.” – there’s always an exception.

This season, we will rely on Dak Prescott until Tony Romo returns. There’s a reason we enjoy Prescott as our backup / starter. You can see his potential. That’s what we fall in love with – the magical p-word. Yes, I’m still talking about potential – stay focused. I’m not going to say there’s absolutely no potential in Mark Sanchez. But if there is, we have to look very, very, very, very, very, very hard to find it.

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Let’s stop churning these bad quarterbacks. Bring in some unproven young backups that also have the chance to be great? Players with clean mental slates that can learn the right way. Players that have dreamed of wearing – The Star. There’s at least 800 applicants to choose from – one of them is probably bagging groceries right now.


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