Dallas Cowboys: Should Garrett Gilbert start over Andy Dalton?

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Garrett Gilbert (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Garrett Gilbert (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Dallas Cowboys enter their bye week with a minor quarterback controversy

When the Dallas Cowboys signed Andy Dalton to a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $3 million in May, it appeared America’s Team had found themselves the best backup quarterback in the NFL. After all, Dalton was a three-time Pro Bowler who had spent his entire nine-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Having started 133 games in the NFL, the now 33-year old Dalton seemed to be the perfect match to pair with Dak Prescott, the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. Entering his fifth season, Prescott could potentially learn a lot from the wily veteran.

Unfortunately, Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week Five against the New York Giants. Dalton answered the call and was able to orchestrate some last-minute heroics to win the home game, 37-34.

But things did not go as planned for Dalton in his first official start for the Cowboys against the Arizona Cardinals the following week. He completed 34 of his whopping 54 passes for 266 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in a 38-10 blowout.

Against the Washington Football Team in Week Seven, Dalton continued to struggle behind a makeshift offensive line decimated by injures. He completed nine of his 19 passes for 75 yards and one interception while being sacked three times.

Dalton was knocked out of the game midway through the third quarter while trying to scramble out of his own endzone, resulting in a game-ending concussion. The Cowboys’ offense was limited to a mere three points in the divisional contest.

The veteran passer would miss the team’s Week Eight matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles due to concussion protocol, which allowed seventh-round rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci to get the starting nod. DiNucci would struggle in Philly, completing just 21 of his 40 passes for 180 yards and limiting the Cowboys’ offense to only nine points.

Dalton would also be forced to miss Sunday’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Instead of DiNucci, the Cowboys elected to start journeyman backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert against an undefeated Steelers’ team. Gilbert had played in just six total games and thrown six total passes in six years prior to this game.

Surprisingly, Gilbert performed well in the first NFL start of his seven-year career. He completed 21 of his 38 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Gilbert led Dallas to a 13-9 halftime lead and extended it to a 19-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

While the Steelers would rally to score 15 points in the final frame, ultimately winning the contest 25-19, Gilbert threw a pass in the endzone on the final play that would have won the game if it had connected.

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Now, the Dallas Cowboys enter their bye week with a minor quarterback controversy on their hands. Garrett Gilbert performed better than both Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci. Yet, Dalton was brought to Dallas for this very reason. He also has a history of success as an NFL starter that Gilbert does not. If both are healthy, which quarterback gets the starting nod in Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings should be something hotly debated for the next two weeks.