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Eatman: About Time To End Backup QB Debate


GLENDALE, Ariz. – Any time you ask a Cowboys executive such as Jerry Jones or Stephen Jones or even Will McClay, he always points out the fact that roster acquisition is 365 days a year.

So yes, each and every position always has a chance to upgrade, depending on who's available. But saying that and understanding the premise, I'm still about ready to end the backup quarterback debate.

I've seen enough to think Garrett Gilbert can be my No. 2 quarterback – if the decision were mine.

Now, I get the counter. He's only played seven career games and started one. And so far in these two preseason games, he's not even led the offense to a touchdown.

Personally, I dismiss the personnel-aspect because it's a wash. Sure, the Cardinals didn't play much of their starters and neither did Dallas. For that matter, Gilbert isn't a starter, either.

He's a backup, and for the second straight game, he looked like a backup. Nothing wrong with that if that's what the goal is. And for Gilbert, he obviously is vying to be Dak Prescott's backup when the season begins.

Three points or not, I liked what I saw from Gilbert much more than I did a week ago in Canton. During the first preseason game, I thought Gilbert looked somewhat rattled when the protection broke down. Well, this week was totally different.

In fact, Gilbert looked surprisingly calm during moments when he probably shouldn't have been. Two shaky snaps by Connor Williams, who started at center, had Gilbert jumping and diving – literally – for the ball. On the first one, he had to rise up and snag the snap before firing off a quick pass under pressure.

The next one, on fourth down, Gilbert had to dive on the ground to recover a short and low snap. But when he wasn't touched, he got up and fired a pass that was nearly caught.

In between those, he had a couple of nice throws, one of which was dropped by Michael Gallup. The other was caught by Cedrick Wilson down the right sideline.

Let's talk about that throw a little more. Say what you want about Gilbert's experience, but you won't find a quarterback who makes a better throw down the sideline than that. Not saying other quarterbacks in the league can't make – and don't make – that throw, but it's not any better than the dime Gilbert dropped.

To me, when you're talking about backup quarterbacks, it's not necessarily about the best arm, best feet or most experience. If they had all that, they'd probably be starting.

What you need first and foremost is a guy who is going to be ready at all times, and not afraid of the moment. We already saw Gilbert do that a year ago against Pittsburgh. And so far, from what I've seen in two games, that's going to be good enough, if and when he has to play.

Obviously, you hope it's never. There were years in which Cooper Rush didn't throw a pass. Back in 2009, Jon Kitna never took a single snap when backing up Tony Romo. So the hope is that we don't see Gilbert at all.

But how realistic is that? The Cowboys have to make sure the backup quarterback is ready to play if and when he's called upon, and I think Gilbert will be the best guy for it.

Sure, you might find a name you've heard of that is available now, or one that will be available in the next few weeks. But don't forget, that probably means the player was either cut by a team or hasn't been signed at all.

Now, if the Cowboys decided to make a trade for a guy with more experience, I wouldn't fault them. To steal their own line, you're always trying to make the team better.

But it's going to have to be significantly better, as in a player who is clearly head and shoulders above Gilbert and will learn the offense rather quickly. If he can do all that, I'd wonder why he's available.

So to me, if this is what it is, I'll take it.

And hope he doesn't play.

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