‘He wanted redemption’: Will Grier’s final throw from preseason win may give Cowboys QB new NFL life

During the two-minute warning of Saturday night’s preseason finale versus Las Vegas, Will Grier stood on the AT&T Stadium sideline already having made the most of his swan song as a Cowboys quarterback.

He had thrown 34 passes on the evening and hit on 28 of them, an impressive completion percentage of over 82%. He’d tossed a pair of touchdowns and even rushed for two more, having contributed 50-plus yards on the ground to cap off what had been previously designated as an extended tryout for Grier as he hopes to now get a call from one of the other 31 teams in the league.

It was unquestionably Grier’s best performance since his college days at West Virginia and maybe even ranked up there with the day he set the national record by tossing 837 yards in a single game as a high school junior in Davidson, North Carolina. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy would later call Grier’s leading of the Cowboys to a 31-16 win over the Raiders on Saturday the best preseason outing he’d seen from a quarterback in nearly a quarter-century.

All of that is to say the 28-year-old passer would have been excused if, facing a third-and-five from inside his own 30 with 120 seconds to go, he simply executed a victory formation a few times to close out his stay in Dallas on an unfailingly positive note.

But in talking with McCarthy and starting quarterback Dak Prescott, who was calling offensive plays for the first time, Grier instead made a last request.

“He asked for the same play that he had last week in Seattle,” McCarthy explained later in his postgame press conference. “He wanted redemption on it.”

Seven days earlier against the Seahawks, back when Grier was presumed to be a lock to be the Cowboys’ third quarterback for 2023, he attempted a deep ball down the left side to wide receiver Simi Fehoko on a critical third down. It was a play Grier had been running with good success in training camp, but under the lights at Lumen Field, he and Fehoko couldn’t connect.

The Cowboys punted and never got any closer on the scoreboard: another preseason loss. Fast-forward to the next Friday, and Grier was suddenly dead man walking in Dallas after the Cowboys traded for Trey Lance, the third overall draft pick of 2021.

McCarthy said he called Grier immediately after the deal went down. The writing was on the wall for Grier’s future as a Cowboy, but the coach had a simple message for the fifth-year veteran who hasn’t been on the field for a regular-season game since 2019.

“I just asked him to go out there and ‘play your ass off tonight,'” McCarthy said.

So with his Cowboys tenure in its final moments, seeing one last chance to make up for a previous missed opportunity, Grier pounced.

Wideout Tyron Billy-Johnson never even had to break stride to collect the rainbow throw from Grier for a 33-yard gain. It put Grier over 300 yards on the night. More important, it was one last confidence boost for the Cowboys gunslinger who will now ride off into the sunset in search of a new place to hang his hat.

“A statement throw,” McCarthy called it.

For Grier, the whole night was a statement, after a head-spinning couple of days.

“I was motivated,” Grier told reporters following the exhibition win. “It was tough; it was a weird situation. I think at the end of the day, I just rely on the fact that I know how to play football and I’m good at it. So I knew when the game started, I could just play football. That’s what I did.”

An offer for Cowboys fans

For the best local Austin news, sports, entertainment and culture coverage, subscribe to the Austin American-Statesman.

The emotions hit Grier afterward, particularly upon the realization that he would be packing up his locker soon and saying goodbye to teammates.

“Bittersweet. Just close to a lot of these guys; that’s the hardest part,” he explained.

“It’s been tough, but I’ve been through tougher stuff. Got a lot of respect for this organization and the Jones family. I understand that it’s a business at the end of the day, and I respect that. And the hardest part on me is just leaving this place, to be honest. Just got really close with the team, and that’s the toughest part about what we do.”

And now Grier will- almost certainly, after Saturday’s very encouraging audition- have the opportunity to do it for another team.

That one last statement throw, made when he could have just as easily taken a knee, may have been exactly what somebody needed to see to give him the chance to resurrect his pro career.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire