Spagnola: Let's Not Overly Complicate This Backup Quarterback Situation

OXNARD, Calif. – OK, please,

Certainly sense there is some hyperventilating going on over the Cowboys' backup quarterback situation that seems to have turned into a five-alarm

I mean, at least it's the backup. Some places aren't even sure who their starter is a week or so into training camp, and you folks certainly haven't forgotten those lean years at quarterback from 2001 through like the first six games of the 2006 season. Goodness, the Cowboys couldn't sink their teeth into a long-term starter, let alone a darn

Let's start with some perspective.

Kellen Moore isn't the only player suffering an injury or out with an existing injury or rehabbing from offseason surgery already in training camp. My list in front of me now has 16 guys on it who, for whatever reason, aren't practicing fully with the team. And that no longer includes the likes of Orlando Scandrick, Gavin Escobar and DeMarcus Lawrence, those three slipping into some team drills just the other

That list is long, especially on defense since seven of those guys would be considered prospective starters or at least challenging for starting roles. Plus, three on that growing list won't even be available for the first four games, one potentially out longer and the other for sure suspended 10

If you just need to worry, worry there.

            As for Moore, who suffered what is known as a bimalleolar fracture just above the ankle, meaning he fractured the end of the fibula and the middle part of the tibia where those bones feed into the ankle, let's remember he was the *presumptive *(love that word) backup. Nothing had been set in stone. He was needing to earn that job here in training camp. His battle was not against rookie Dak Prescott and first-year quarterback Jameill Showers. Oh no, his battle was going to be against the field, any quarterback out there still a free agent or one potentially acquirable by trade or after being cut.

This was a show me deal.

Then there is the Nick Foles situation. Here is a guy the Rams had been trying to trade away for months. No takers, right? So how good can he be? It's not like he's the *Last Picture Show *of quarterbacks. Yeah, yeah, I know he's won games in the league. I know he's young. But it only took the Chiefs offering him a one-year, $1.75 million contract to entice him to join his former Philadelphia coach, Andy Reid. That does not constitute a bidding war.

And now Josh McCown? How much to give the Cleveland Browns in a trade? Before you answer, let's remember, he's 37 years old – and you thought Tony Romo was old at 36. Also, consider McCown's 2015 season ended after eight starts in Cleveland because …

He suffered a fractured collarbone.

Now how much you want to pay for that? And remember, trading for McCown means you inherit his $4.35 million base salary for this year, and he's certainly not obligated to renegotiate with you. That for a backup?

Breath.

So after trying to fill the backup gap with the veteran Foles "expeditiously," as COO Stephen Jones said this past Wednesday, the Cowboys have recoiled. They have pulled back, now saying they are going to be "deliberate" in trying to fill the void with a veteran quarterback who at least has taken snaps previously in the NFL – more than we can say for Prescott or Showers.

That, too, is causing a ruckus.

Part of me thinks that's a little negotiating in the media on the Cowboys' part, trying to drive down a rising backup quarterback market, teams thinking they can fleece Dallas now that it is in great need. You know, the ol' Econ 101 lesson on supply and demand. Never good to be demanding when the supply is low.

            The other part to me is, what's the rush? First, you want to get the right guy. Second, what if you sign a guy, and in two weeks a better option arises and you develop buyer's remorse. You can't keep going from one backup to another to another. (See panicking last year, turning away from Brandon Weeden after one bad start against New England for the more veteran Matt Cassel. How did that turn out?)

At some point, you've got to get a guy and stick with him. Remember, the salary cap is real, and especially real if a signing bonus is required to acquire a suitable backup. Guarantee you the asking price will come down on potential trades for an expendable quarterback close to the cut-down dates. Rather get something than nothing at that point. Guarantee you the salary price will come down if the choice in late August is having a job or going home to sit on the couch.

And you know what? I'm not buying this business about a guy needs all this time to learn the system. I realize there are nuances in certain offenses, but people, we are not splitting the atom here. It's football, for gosh sakes. To me, when I hear the guy has to learn the system, that's coach-speak for he's really not that good. Sometimes you have to be politically correct.

Anyone remember what took place during the 1991 season? The Cowboys traded for Steve Beuerlein on Aug. 25, a week before the season opener. Over the first 11 games, Beuerlein had completed all of three passes in five attempts before he was forced into the Washington game in Game 12 when Troy Aikman went down with a sprained knee.

He did enough against the 'Skins to ruin their undefeated season, save that victory and then win four straight to get the Cowboys in the playoffs. Even won a playoff game. Guess he was just brilliant that he could "learn the system" without the benefit of training camp or hardly even playing.

In 1993, with Jason Garrett making his first NFL start against Phoenix, he got Dallas off to a 3-0 record before veteran Bernie Kosar came in after three series to lead the Cowboys to a 20-15 victory. He had been with the team all of four days. He completed 13-of-21 for 199 yards and one touchdown.

Then Kosar saved the day in the NFC title game against San Francisco when Aikman suffered a game-ending concussion, completing 5-of-9 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Garrett told me the most valuable lesson he learned while a backup, or a young quarterback forced into difficult situations: "Mentally, at some point we makes excuses for ourselves."

Meaning, well, I'm young. Or, I haven't had enough reps to prepare. This or that.

He said he finally got to the point where he told himself, "Get rid of the internal excuses."

And maybe we need to get rid of the excuses for backup failures. Oh, he didn't know the system. Oh, he wasn't here in training camp. Oh, the offense is too "Romo friendly." Oh, the coaches didn't do a good enough job.

Come on. Like in 1994, Rodney Peete was signed to be Aikman's backup. He had played in only two games, completing 3-of-6 passes for 42 yards. In Game 7, Aikman was injured against Arizona and Peete came in to complete 12-of-19 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Then when Peete also went down that season and with Aikman out, too, Garrett torpedoes Green Bay on Thanksgiving in his second official NFL start.

Here is the bottom line: Just get the right guy and commit. Don't volley back and forth. And put the right guys around him so it's not all him.

Think about it: Who do you think the Packers were worried about on Thanksgiving Day? Garrett? Or would it have been Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Alvin Harper and Jay Novacek? See what I mean?

When Weeden was in last year, or for that matter Cassel, who were defenses worried about? Just who?

Let's work past the generalities.

Deep breath now. Exhale.

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