ARLINGTON, Texas – One final preseason game out of the way, and it feels like things are back where they started.
What other conclusion could there be in this final chapter of the backup quarterback battle?
At this time last weekend, Cooper Rush had supplanted Garrett Gilbert in the bid to be Dak Prescott's understudy. Gilbert struggled through two bump possessions against Houston before Rush subbed in and got things moving.
Eight days later against Jacksonville, it was Gilbert's turn to look the part. The Cowboys' offense sputtered in Rush's three possessions of work, running just 15 plays and punting three times.
While Garrett's opportunity might have been perfect, he did maneuver the offense into positions for points on two occasions, highlighted by a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.
"It's part of the game, guys getting opportunities at different times. Today was my opportunity to come in second," Gilbert said. "I thought we did a nice job, got the offense kind of moving a little bit in the second quarter."
Solid work on Gilbert's part, but it doesn't make the Cowboys' job any easier. As underwhelming as it might look from the outside, the race for the backup quarterback job still seems wide open. And to hear it from Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, Sunday's action didn't do a lot to clear things up.
"That's what really what this next 24 hours will be," McCarthy said. "We'll watch it as a staff tomorrow and then we'll get together with Jerry and Stephen and Will tomorrow afternoon and start the process."
The process is nothing new for either player, for better or for worse. Rush has been through this process with the Cowboys four of the last five years, earning the backup job from 2017-19.
"You get a great opportunity to be in a NFL camp, play preseason ball and now its kind of a waiting game," Rush said. "So, that's kind of how it goes in this league, everyone goes through it."
Gilbert has been in pro football in one form or another since 2014, so he has gone through it more than most.
"I'm fortunate enough to have been through it a number of times – fortunate or unfortunate, I guess," Gilbert said. "But for a lot of guys this is – the team is about to get cut in half, essentially. There's no easy way to go about it, regardless of which side you're sitting on."
There's also the matter of deciding what's next for Ben DiNucci. It's been fairly clear throughout training camp that the former seventh-round draft pick will not factor into the backup competition.
At the same time, it's evident the coaching staff is trying to give him as many late-game snaps as possible to help his development. While not necessarily pretty, DiNucci's day against Jacksonville was a vast improvement from last week, as he completed 8-of-16 passes for 93 yards and found Johnnie Dixon for a touchdown in the dying moments of the game.
"Every quarterback that's played in this league, particularly in their younger years, plays in the second half of these games, stuff like that happens," McCarthy said. "That's part of handling adversity."
Now, DiNucci will join in the waiting process to see if it's enough for a roster spot, or potentially a place on the Cowboys' practice squad.