Why don’t Cowboys have a proven veteran behind Dak Prescott?

The Cowboys signed Andy Dalton last year to be Dak Prescott’s backup. Dalton was needed by the Cowboys as of Week Five.

Prescott is the Cowboys’ only veteran presence this year. The Cowboys don’t have one, just 20 days after their 2021 regular-season match.

The Cowboys are yet to provide details on their decision-making process. This is especially important in the case Prescott doesn’t return from injury or a shoulder strain suffered during Week 1. The Cowboys have realistic expectations, but the bar is set lower if Garrett Gilbert, Ben DiNucci or Cooper Rush are the quarterbacks.

Perhaps the Cowboys don’t have enough money to pay veterans. Prescott’s new deal is worth $40 million annually, so there’s little cap room for other players at the position. That said, Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew has a salary of only $850,000 in 2021 — $70,000 less than Gilbert’s base pay.

Minshew is a great upgrade to Rush, DiNucci and Gilbert. It’s not clear if Minshew is the starter or one of the other options on the roster. Dalton, who guided the Bengals to five consecutive playoff appearances to begin his career, was 4-5 in 2020 as the starter. Minshew would be a better player. It’s possible that it won’t be enough, regardless of what it might be.

The simple truth is that Cowboys lose their starting quarterback, so it doesn’t really matter who replaces him. Take a look at this excerpt from Ron Jaworski’s The Games that Changed The Game. It concerns a meeting Jon Gruden had with him before a Monday night Colts game during the Peyton Manning era.

Jaworski wrote that Manning took nearly all of the reps during the session as we watched. “Jon [Gruden] questioned Tom [Moore], the Colts offensive coordinator] why he didn’t give some snaps to Peyton’s backups. . . . He looked at us in the eyes, paused, and then said, in his gravelly voice, “Fellas, 18 is down. We’re f-ked.” We don’t practice f—ing.”

Ted Thompson, G.M. The Packers, when Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy coached them in Green Bay had another reason not to have a backup quarterback.

Thompson stated in 2013 that “you make sure you have as many positions as possible, given the limitations of a 53 man roster.” You don’t think your best players will ever get hurt. If you think that way, you might jinx it. It could happen. It might happen. Literally, it’s not something you think about. It’s a place you don’t want to go.”

It is not clear if the Cowboys will continue to play in this area for 2021. Even if they don’t have Dak, they might entertain the possibility.

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