Backup Plan: Backup Only Pressing QB Issue

Romo's 102.5 passer rating trailed only Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

(Editor's Note: This is the second of an 11-part series analyzing every position on the Cowboys' roster, providing a quick look back before addressing the needs of each spot on the field and how it can be improved heading into the 2012 season. Today we examine the quarterbacks.)

Pressing Matters:Nothing involving starter Tony Romo. Although he wasn't among three quarterback selections to the NFC Pro Bowl squad, Romo arguably had his best season and he has two years remaining on his contract. The lone issue this offseason is depth behind him. As of this week, there still hasn't been word on Jon Kitna's future, but his contract is expiring and many speculate that the 15-year veteran will call it a career. The Cowboys drafted Stephen McGee in 2009 to eventually become Romo's full-time backup. Three years later, have they gathered enough evidence to determine whether McGee's the guy?

2011 Evaluation: Romo has never been more efficient over a full season, compiling a career-high 102.5 passer rating and a 3.1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions each were the second-lowest of his career over 16 games.

He had two very forgettable fourth quarters - five total turnovers in come-from-behind losses to the Jets and Lions. He also performed admirably with a fractured rib for half the season, and over the final nine games he threw 20 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.

Kitna appeared in only three games and only one of real consequence, playing three series in Week 2 at San Francisco after X-rays revealed a rib fracture for Romo. He completed 6 of 10 passes for 87 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions before Romo returned to lead the Cowboys past the 49ers in overtime.

Similar to 2010, injuries to both Romo and Kitna forced McGee into the lineup on Christmas weekend. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown to Miles Austin after the Eagles had already put the game out of reach at Cowboys Stadium, 20-7.

Need More From . . . : Romo said it after the Giants sent the Cowboys home for the playoffs: as the quarterback, the guy with the ball in his hands most, he feels he must do more. He played about as well as can be expected over the season's final two months. Yes, he's turning 32. But he can always improve, particularly by eliminating some of those early-season impulse plays that blew leads.

Upgrades Needed: Kitna showed over a 10-game stretch in 2010 that he could still get it done in his late 30s. He'll be 40 in September, and his ongoing back trouble finally landed him on injured reserve in December.

"I don't know that he knows as it relates to whether his back will allow him to continue in his career," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said then. "We kept that option open. He got out and threw a few balls before the New York game and it didn't feel good. That impacted our decision a little bit just how much we were dreaming that we might get him back if needed in the playoffs. That kind of discouraged us.

"It all depends. Apart from the impact of his back, he's very capable of being a player. But I think that's going to be the deciding factor in his career plans."

Even before Kitna's injury became season-ending, the Cowboys tried to upgrade the backup spot but were unsuccessful in claiming Kyle Orton. McGee has improved as a pocket passer since playing primarily in an option-based system at Texas A&M. If Kitna doesn't return as many predict, it wouldn't be surprising if the Cowboys signed another experienced veteran or drafted someone to compete with McGee, who's entering the final year of his deal.

Position Analysis:

Tony Romo -Through injury and adversity, played the best ball of his career overall. Carried the offense except for running back DeMarco Murray's breakout eight-game stretch as a starter.

John Kitna - If this is it, he's had an outstanding career as both a backup and a starter. Consummate pro and teammate.

Stephen McGee - Has made strides, but regular-season body of work is only three games. Remains to be seen if Cowboys have seen enough to make him the full-time No. 2.

Chris Greisen - Signed as an emergency backup the last two Decembers; unlikely to be re-signed.

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