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Spagnola: The Cowboys Are Simply In The Process of Finding Out Moore

IRVING, Texas – Here is what we know about one Kellen Moore, soon to become the fourth quarterback to start in 2015 for the Dallas Cowboys, an unprecedented number in one year, save the 2001 season.

He's 6-foot. Maybe. But he's always been 6-foot, so short by NFL quarterback standards. But so is Drew Brees. Hey, but he towers over the first starting quarterback in Cowboys history, Eddie LeBaron, all of 5-7.

Moore came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2012, same status as Tony Romo. But for every Romo who enters into the NFL in a similar manner and makes it big, there probably are 200 more who don't. The odds for success are longer than a summer day.

He's left-handed, and as a far as we can tell, the only other left-handed quarterback in Cowboys history was Paul McDonald. But he never threw a pass in his only game appearance, that during the 1986 season. But then so was Steve Young, Boomer Esiason, Michael Vick, Jim Zorn, Bobby Douglass, Scott Mitchell and the unforgettable Kenny Stabler, to name a handful of other left-handed NFL quarterbacks.

That all he's been during these four years in the NFL has been a backup quarterback, a third-string quarterback and a practice squad quarterback.

That he's quiet, soft-spoken, understated, sort of the Richie Cunningham of Happy Days fame, the kid every mother out there would love.

That he's studious.

That he has poise on the field.

That he "sees the coverages, sees the field," says center Travis Frederick.

That he has prepared well this week, only the second week he has taken snaps with the Cowboys' first-team offense since he's been here, arriving on Sept. 8.

That he throws a receiver-friendly ball.

That "he definitely brought a spark to us" says running back Darren McFadden of his appearance in last Saturday's 19-16 loss to the New York Jets.

That he faced the Buffalo Bills (6-8) while in Detroit in a preseason game, completing 16-of-22 passes for 150 yards in a 17-10 win.

That Bills head coach Rex Ryan, flippantly said after the mere preseason, "He's a little bitty lefty. What do you want me to say? Big deal," certainly less PC than he was this week during the conference call.

That Kellen's brother Kirby is a graduate assistant coach at the University of Washington, in town this week for the Heart of Dallas Bowl being played at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday against Southern Mississippi.

Oh, and there is this little-known fact: That he is the grandson of the late Bert Moore, a quite successful high school basketball coach during the 1950s at Chicago Heights (Ill.) Bloom Township, my high school, yet further proof this is a small world.

All this stuff is fine and good, but here is what everyone is begging to know as Moore tries to accomplish what has been done just once in 10 tries for the Romo-less Cowboys so far this season, having gone 1-9 with backup quarterbacks in charge:

Can he play?

Can he go under center for the entirety of a real game against an NFL defense and perform admirably?

Winning certainly would be capturing the dancing sugar plum this holiday season since that's almost been an impossibility without Romo this year.

Moore matter-of-factly says that "you've got to be ready for these opportunities," and for guys like him they usually come few and far between. Ask Romo, who also waited until his fourth NFL season for his first start. And when these rare opportunities do come, well, "It's good, will be exciting," as Moore casually says, but nothing over the top.

Same when asked this week what it was like when he found out he would be starting this Sunday. Moore said, well, "there was no sit-down, official ceremony."

For he knows afterward, especially for quarterbacks, there is only a drumroll or a drumbeat, if you know what I mean.

So let's not get too carried away with the fact that the Cowboys are starting Moore against the Bills, and in all likelihood, against the Redskins the following Sunday in the season finale at AT&T Stadium. They are taking a look-see, but by no means are they bracing to make a long-term quarterback decision after three-quarters of relief work and what they hope will be two complete games of evidence.

Just hold your horses. The Cowboys are just hoping for better quarterback play than they had received of late from the seemingly regressing Matt Cassel.

When ask the question about far-reaching results, head coach Jason Garrett deftly parried it away, saying the club's expectations of Moore were to prepare well this week and perform efficiently on Sunday against the Bills, nothing to do with next March or May or September.

Cowboys COO Stephen Jones put it this way:

"It certainly could influence what we do in a veteran quarterback situation, but I don't know if it influences our thought process on what we might do in the draft, or what we might do looking at a younger quarterback in terms of our future. He can certainly influence us on what we do at the veteran position, but I don't know that it would change anything in terms of the draft."

In other words, throw down encouraging performances and Moore gets his name in the conversation for the veteran backup job next year when Romo returns fully healthy and ready to go again – that Moore will qualify himself to compete for that role.

But they won't be draping him in a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans if the Cowboys happen to win a game or two, or if he at least plays well enough to give the Cowboys a chance to win a game or two, although we know that's happened a few times this year without this 4-10 team closing the deal.

So we'll see. Should be interesting. Would be a nice story, huh? And heaven knows these Cowboys desperately need a nice story this holiday season.

Just wanted to share this "nice" story at Christmas time.

Wednesday night at our weekly, live-audience Cowboys Legends Radio Show, Drew Pearson, the original 88, was our guest, a prelude to Monday's 40th anniversary of the Hail Mary, that 50-yard, final-seconds, game-winning pass from Roger Staubach to Pearson in the Cowboys' 17-14 playoff victory over Minnesota on Dec. 28, 1975.

While signing autographs during a commercial break, a little boy, maybe 10, came up to our set, very humbly wanting Drew to sign his small Cowboys football. He was unusually excited, and mom, poised with a camera to take pictures, already was visibly emotional.

Drew couldn't have been more accommodating. He signed the ball. Engaged in conversation with the kid, calling him "big guy." Pulled him close to take a picture, actually taking off his Super Bowl XII ring and placing it on the little guy's finger, the two holding their clenched fists out front. The kid was so excited, his hand was trembling. Mom took the pictures, tears in her eyes, and I'm assuming it was grandma who thanked us, saying this meant so much to the little boy.

Well, after the show, we found out about all the emotion. The little guy's dad somewhat recently gave him that football with the Cowboys star. Guess he was a big Cowboys fan. Not long after that, the dad died of pancreatic cancer.

Drew Pearson doesn't play football anymore. Hasn't in 32 years. But by just being a good guy, spreading some holiday spirit, guarantee you he has made a fan for life.

Merry Christmas to all.

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