Cowboys’ McCarthy dismisses Jerry’s QB dilemma: ‘It stops right there’

·4 min read

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy suddenly has a quarterback controversy on his hands, even if it truly exists only as fill-the-gap-between-games sports-talk fodder.

After owner Jerry Jones told reporters Thursday that he wouldn’t mind a tough decision on who to start at quarterback when Dak Prescott is healthy enough to return, the easy knee-jerk headline was that Jerry the GM might bench his $40 million man in favor of Cooper Rush just because he’s shown a hot hand in a short relief role.

As he has had to do several times since taking the Cowboys job, McCarthy has been forced to switch to crisis-management mode, even with a divisional matchup Monday night to prepare for.

The coach attempted to put Jones’s latest attention-grabbing comments in proper perspective Friday morning during his weekly call-in with 105.3 The Fan.

“He was talking about winning,” McCarthy explained. “Obviously, it’s all about winning this time of year. We obviously want Cooper to be a big part of that. I think the second part is something that you guys are probably having some fun with.”

Prescott was unimpressive in the season opener before suffering a fracture in his throwing hand during the fourth quarter of the 19-3 loss. Many observers were quick to pronounce the Cowboys’ season over until Rush stepped in and guided the offense to a walk-off win in Week 2.

Although Rush’s Cinderella story is fun (and perhaps an indication that he’s better than the offseason backup-QB rankings gave him credit for), McCarthy put to bed any notion whatsoever that there might actually be a changing of the guard coming at the position in Dallas.

“Clearly, everybody in our locker room and everybody in the building- Jerry included- Dak is our quarterback, and we want Cooper to be as successful as possible. I think it stops right there.”

It seems obvious enough.

Except with Jones, there’s always Soundbite Jerry to consider.

The whole episode is, of course, reminiscent of 2019, when the spotlight-loving owner made a similar joke about the club’s running back situation. Ezekiel Elliott was holding out in a contract dispute; Tony Pollard got the lion’s share of carries in a preseason game as a rookie. Pollard played well, and basking in the moment, Jones playfully responded to a question about Elliott’s negotiations by asking, “Zeke who?”

The Twittersphere stirred the pot, with reports claiming that Elliott felt disrespected. Jones got defensive over his right to crack a joke. Some were bracing for an ugly standoff between the sides and an honest-to-God controversy.

Within two weeks, the pair were all smiles at a press conference to announce the rusher’s fat new contract. And Elliott was grinning at the new “Zeke Who?” T-shirts that the Cowboys were already selling in the team pro shop.

But it was Jones himself who invoked the name of Tony Romo in his comments this week about Rush. No one expected Prescott to play the way he did as a rookie when Romo went down in the 2016 preseason. Prescott looked like a star from the jump, and Romo never started another game.

The two situations are not the same, however. Romo was 36 years old when he was injured. He was entering his 14th NFL season, and he had a history littered with broken collarbones, fractured ribs, and a string of serious back problems ranging from a ruptured disk to transverse process fractures to the compression fracture that finally hastened his retirement.

Prescott is just 29, in only his seventh year. And while his current thumb fracture follows a calf strain and shoulder strain in 2021 and the ankle dislocation that cost him most of 2020, he’d been practically injury-proof up until that point.

Romo was nearing the end of the road. Prescott has had two years of spotty luck.

And while Jones had a legitimate quarterback controversy on his hands in 2016 once Romo healed, the choice about the team’s future was clear enough that even Romo conceded the starting gig to Prescott.

There is no such talk now in Dallas- not really, and not even if Rush comes out Monday and torches the Giants in primetime.

The players understand the reality of the situation. And McCarthy recognizes Jones’s recent comments for what they are.

“It’s part of the… you know… part of the operation here,” the coach remarked, stopping just shy of actually using the word circus right out loud on the radio.

“At the end of the day, we are focused on winning, and as I read it, or was told about it, Jerry’s immediate comments are about winning.”

Jones is the ultimate fantasy football owner. He had to bench his starting quarterback and roll with a guy off the bench. The sub won him a game; maybe he’ll even do it again. It’s a good problem to have. It’s what every GM hopes for, to discover that his second-stringers can get the job done when needed.

But that doesn’t mean the job is up for grabs.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire