IRVING, Texas – When it comes to the Cowboys, few players are more polarizing than the starting quarterback.
There's no exception to that rule these days as Tony Romo is seemingly a lightning rod for national news, whether the Cowboys are winning or not.
And even though he's coming off another back surgery, he's not the only quarterback in town garnering headlines. Backup Kyle Orton has missed all of the voluntary workouts so far and is considering retirement, although it will cost him $3 million in repayment to the club.
We'll find out just where he stands next month when he's expected to attend a mandatory team minicamp.
Orton has been Romo's backup the last two years and started the Cowboys' last game. While Orton played a solid game, his interception in the final minute of play erased any chance to beat the Eagles and land a playoff spot.
Since Orton has been such a hot topic with the Cowboys these days, let's look at the Top 10 backup quarterbacks in club history.
While players such as Roger Staubach, Danny White and Tony Romo were all backups at some point, this list is more about the true backup player with a defined role. Any player with more than 20 starts with the Cowboys is tossed out.
These are the 10 best backup quarterbacks in franchise history.
Kyle Orton – The man of the hour – or the last few weeks at least. While his services are valued rather high these days, especially considering Romo's health concerns, he doesn't crack the Top 10 because he's never won a game with the Cowboys. He was close against the Eagles last year and has been in mop-up duty in other games.
10. Wade Wilson– He's known more now as the Cowboys quarterbacks coach for 10 of the last 13 years. But Wilson also played for 18 seasons, including three in Dallas from 1995-97 as Troy Aikman's backup. Like Orton, he lost his only start in Dallas, but unlike last year's season finale, the 1996 finale was a meaningless playoff tune-up.
With the Cowboys still unsure of Kyle Orton???s playing status for the 2014 season, it opened up the debate for best backup quarterback in club history.
9. Steve Walsh – Put in an odd situation after his college coach Jimmy Johnson selected him in the Supplemental Draft to compete with Troy Aikman, Walsh did lead the Cowboys to their only win in 1989. With Aikman sidelined with a finger injury, Walsh engineered a 13-3 win over the Redskins in the Cowboys' 1-15 season. His trade to the Saints the following year netted a first-round pick.
8. Gary Hogeboom – He was known more for his quarterback controversy battle in 1984 with Danny White. Hogeboom did start 10 games that season and went 6-4, although it was the first year the Cowboys missed the playoffs in 10 seasons. Overall, he was 6-6 as a starter, but was a serviceable backup to White for the first half of the decade.
7. Randall Cunningham – There aren't many Cowboys fans who actually remember Cunningham's 2000 season with the club. It was forgettable for most, but Cunningham was Aikman's backup during the season. He was 1-2 as a starter, but the victory was an impressive 27-21 triumph over the Redskins for Dave Campo's first win as head coach. He nearly pulled off a dramatic win over his former club, only for the Cowboys to fall in overtime to the Eagles at Veterans Stadium.
6. Clint Longley – In terms of Thanksgiving Day heroics, Longley could be No. 1 on this list. But other than his Hail Mary pass to Drew Pearson in the 1974 Thanksgiving Day win over the Redskins, Longley is mainly known for the guy who punched Roger Staubach in the locker room during a dispute. The Cowboys immediately traded him to San Diego for a first-round pick.
5. Jon Kitna – The savvy veteran finished his career in Dallas from 2009-11, but also came back for one game last season with Romo out with his back injury. Kitna came out of retirement and donated the one-game paycheck to the Tacoma, Wash., high school where he teaches Algebra and coaches football. During the 2010 season, Kitna stepped in after Romo suffered a broken collarbone and helped lead a 1-5 football team to 6-10.
4. Vinny Testaverde – Sure, he started 15 games one season in 2004. But Testaverde never came to Dallas to start. He thought he was joining Bill Parcells to provide veteran leadership to a team led by Quincy Carter. But after Carter was abruptly cut in training camp, the 40-year-old Testaverde took over. He was benched for Drew Henson on Thanksgiving Day, but after the rookie struggled against the Bears, Testaverde came in to save the day. It was a down year for the Cowboys, who finished 6-10, but it could've been much worse without the ageless veteran.
3. Bernie Kosar – He's the only player on this list that actually helped the Cowboys advance to the Super Bowl. Kosar filled in for a concussed Aikman in the 1993 NFC Championship and carried the offense down the stretch. Kosar's clutch touchdown pass to Alvin Harper in the fourth quarter iced the game and sent the Cowboys to Atlanta for Super Bowl XXVIII, where Aikman returned to help Dallas defeat the Bills again. Kosar's record with the Cowboys was 0-1, but he actually relieved Jason Garrett in his first career start in 1993 and rallied the Cowboys to a win over the Cardinals, less than a week after signing.
2. Jason Garrett – While he's in the spotlight these days for a much different reason, Garrett stole the show one Thanksgiving Day some 20 years ago against the Packers. Filling in for both Aikman and Rodney Peete, Garrett out-dueled Brett Favre with an amazing second-half comeback to lead the Cowboys from a 17-6 deficit to a 42-31 victory. He also started seven games in 1998 and 1999 for Aikman and finished his Cowboys career with a 6-3 record. Among all Cowboys quarterbacks who have started more than one game, Garrett ranks fourth in club history with an 83.2 passer rating behind Romo (95.8), Kitna (87.3) and Staubach (83.4)
1. Steve Beuerlein – As the Cowboys were making their climb back to relevance in the 1990s, their first push to the playoffs didn't come from an Aikman-led team. In fact, his backup in 1991 helped turn things around. Beuerlein replaced Aikman in the second half of a stunning upset over the previously-undefeated Redskins in 1991. He then went 4-0 as a starter down the stretch to ignite the Cowboys into the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. He is also the only player on this list to win a playoff game for the Cowboys, who knocked off the Bears at Soldier Field in the 1991 wild card round. Beuerlein started the next week in Detroit but was later replaced by Aikman, who had returned from injury, although neither was effective as the Lions steamrolled the Cowboys in the Silverdome. Still, Beuerlein's play down the stretch that season was a huge factor in getting the Cowboys back to the postseason, a destination they reached seven more times in the decade.