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Why settle? Cowboys need more competition among backup QBs

The Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback trio of Tony Romo, Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott seems quite underwhelming, so why does Jerry Jones and the rest of the personnel seem satisfied?

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There’s been plenty of good happening in the Cowboys’ personnel department the past few seasons. In 2014, Jerry and Stephen Jones diligently rebuilt the offensive line with three first-round picks and a well-timed trade for linebacker Rolando McClain. In 2015, they drafted Byron Jones and signed first-round talent La’el Collins as an undrafted free agent.

No doubt, there’s been some risky moves (drafting pass rusher Randy Gregory in the second round of 2015), some head-scratching moves (drafting running back Ezekiel Elliott at No. 4 instead of cornerback Jalen Ramsey in ’16) and some terrible moves (signing Greg Hardy), but as a whole, the needle has been pointing up for the Joneses and the rest of the Cowboys’ personnel department.

… Except in one area: Quarterbacks. How can the Cowboys be content with their passing trio of Tony Romo, Kellen Moore and rookie Dak Prescott (plus special teamer Jameill Showers)? From what the Cowboys have said in press conferences and on local Dallas radio recently, content is exactly what they seem to be, and the team hasn’t exactly been known to use a poker face.

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“We’re excited about the guys we have on our roster right now,” coach Jason Garrett said at the team’s rookie mini-camp. “Kellen is deserving of an opportunity to be our backup quarterback. We like that we drafted Dak in the fourth round. We’re going to give him every chance as we go here. Showers is going to move back into the quarterback room permanently now. We’re going to give those guys a chance to show what they can do.”

After the draft, Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan that Moore would go into the season as the team’s backup quarterback.

“Kellen Moore has shown the ‘it,’ he’s got the instincts, he’s got the anticipation, he knows what’s going on, he gives me and us a great feeling about basically improving,” Jones said, launching into OJM (Overenthusiastic Jerry Mode). “Obviously those interceptions (six against four touchdowns in 2015) are not something you can live with, but some of the stuff he was doing was just pretty obvious that the team was responding and he was able to move the team.”

What if the Browns made veteran QB Josh McCown available? “We’re pretty set with what we’ve got,” Stephen Jones said on 1310 The Ticket.

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Look, I get it. At this point, if Romo goes down again (which is more likely than not—we all know he isn’t the most durable starter out there), the Cowboys will likely rely on Elliott’s presence and talent to keep the team competitive. And throwing too many assets at the backup quarterback position might not be the wisest move because without Romo, the Cowboys’ Super Bowl hopes are almost certainly dashed. The Cowboys have gone 1–13 the past three seasons without Romo, including 1–11 last year.​

But it’s mind-boggling to me that the Cowboys are portraying the image that they think they’re set at the quarterback position behind Romo. The quarterback, who turned 36 last month, isn’t the most durable starter out there—he’s recently undergone two back operations and broke his left collarbone twice last season (he had surgery on it in March).

To their credit, Dallas has tried just about every route at the backup quarterback position—from big-money contracts (Kyle Orton) and trading for a gamer (Jon Kitna) to signing a former Super Bowl winner (Brad Johnson) and signing journeyman former starters (Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden). None of those options stuck.

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And that’s not to take anything away from Moore or Prescott. I’ve been a fan of Moore back to his Boise State and Detroit Lions days, and while he’s on the small side for a quarterback (6' 0"), he has the look of a capable backup due to his quick mind and sharp-enough accuracy (despite the fact that Moore completed 58.7% of his passes and compiled a 71.0 rating in three games at the helm last season). But I can’t imagine that the Cowboys would open camp with Prescott as Moore’s only competition for the top backup QB spot.

I like the Cowboys picking Prescott in the fourth round (especially after Paxton Lynch, the quarterback that Dallas tried to trade up for in the first round, was drafted by Denver), but even the Dallas personnel readily admits that Prescott is a developmental player who likely needs a few years working on his game. He is not competition, even though the Cowboys have been trying to sell that narrative.

“We want to make every position on our team competitive,” Garrett said. “Nothing’s given to anybody.”

That statement deserves an asterisk, because with their current plan, Dallas is not competitive at quarterback.

It shouldn’t be that way. Even if it’s just a camp competition, the Cowboys should be pushing Moore with another player, like McCown. This team has done too good a job building the roster to let a playoff spot roll away should Romo need to sit on the sidelines for four games (let alone more) in the middle of the season.

Maybe something will happen and Dallas makes another move. Maybe the Cowboys are right and Moore is ready to step in and win games if needed. If this is really their plan, they better be right.