That's Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughn for the record.
Quite the motley crew, but hardly a cast of nobodies. Weeden once was the 22nd pick in the draft, and Hanie was valiant in defeat for the Chicago Bears against the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC championship game after Jay Cutler got hurt. Vaughn was an undrafted free agent this year, but one of the more highly regarded ones after putting up massive numbers at Division-II West Texas A&M.
But still. It's not exactly how the Cowboys envisioned it.
That said, give them credit for having a little foresight with Romo coming off back surgery (and reportedly doing well) and Orton currently wavering over coming back to the team. The Cowboys knew they had to add quarterback depth, even if it meant bringing in players who might not otherwise have fit into their plans prior to all the contingencies.
One of the big winners so far has been Weeden, who was run off by the Cleveland Browns after only two seasons and 20 starts. By most accounts, he has acquitted himself well in the workouts, taking many of the first-team reps that Romo would be getting if he was a full go coming off his second back procedure in two years. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said this week that Weeden has had his best week of work in the offseason. Weeden is 30 years old, but he's a young 30 in terms of his football development.
We got some of you very lathered up back in March when we suggested that the Weeden signing could end up being a very significant one and that one could envision a scenario with Romo's balky health record that Weeden could be in line to start in 2015. We admit: We were being a bit sensationalist there, but it was to prove a point.
That point is being driven home this week. Weeden must continue to improve. He has an offensive line built around three recent first-round picks and a star receiver — Dez Bryant — with whom he already worked in college at Oklahoma State. That, plus a few other respectable elements personnel-wise and a play-caller in Linehan who has produced some 4,000-yard passers before, all should help Weeden in his quest to win a roster spot.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has refused to name Weeden as Romo's backup this season and wouldn't even rule out Orton returning. The team's mandatory minicamps begin next week on June 17, and if Orton doesn't show up (a) he'll be subject to daily fines of up to $70,000 and (b) we can legitimately start the talk of whether he's truly prepared to leave vast sums of money on the table to hang up his cleats.
You figure that that Cowboys at least want Orton to show up. Even at a position that can get crowded, reps-wise, such as quarterback, you just never know — Romo could have a health setback, Weeden could revert to his Cleveland struggles, Hanie could ... do what Hanie has done in a roundly unremarkable career (0-4 as a starter, 4-12 TD-INT ratio including postseason) except for that one game, and the step up from West Texas A&M could prove too big for Vaughn.
But that doesn't mean Weeden can't help revive his career with some strong work this spring and into the summer. We'll have a better grasp of the Cowboys' QB pecking order heading into training camp soon, likely after Orton makes a decision. But there's a very good chance that at some point, Weeden — barring a collapse — will be the guy who is one snap away from replacing Romo.
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