Cowboys win, but McGee's lackluster night could spell end

ARLINGTON -- As the quarterbacks walked through the Miller Lite Club on their way to the field for warmups, fans screamed Tony Romo's name. A few acknowledged Kyle Orton.

Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter walked behind, riding the veteran quarterbacks' coattails. And come today or Friday, Romo and Orton very well could be the last quarterbacks standing.

While Carpenter could end up back on the practice squad, McGee might have played his final game with the Dallas Cowboys.

McGee didn't show the Cowboys anything they didn't already know in the 30-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins. That was not a good thing for McGee's future with the team.

McGee needed a game as he had two years ago when, with the Cowboys considering cutting him, he completed 27 of 42 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown. McGee rallied Dallas to a last-second, 27-25 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the 2010 preseason finale that made the Cowboys' decision easy.

He might have made this one easy, too.

McGee completed only 9 of 18 passes for 124 yards and a 65.4 passer rating in a first half of work. The Cowboys scored on three of five first-half possessions, but the Dallas defense scored as many touchdowns as the offense in the first 30 minutes. Linebacker Orie Lemon had the play of the game, intercepting a Matt Moore pass and returning it 26 yards for a touchdown.

The Cowboys have bigger needs for their 53-player roster than a third quarterback who they hope doesn't play this season, and one they have no plans for in the long term.

Dallas' signing of Kyle Orton to a three-year, $10.5 million deal, with $5 million guaranteed, in the off-season said everything about the Cowboys' opinion of McGee. If he wasn't going to be Romo's primary backup in his fourth season, McGee likely wasn't going to be on the team.

"I think we saw some things out of McGee tonight that were really encouraging," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on the KTXA/Channel 21 halftime show. "It's been vintage McGee. Other teams have shown interest in Stephen McGee. We know somebody thinks he's a pretty good ballplayer. We do, too.

"It really depends on our 53rd guy, without McGee. If we think we can live with him, or do we think we need a third quarterback? That will be something we'll go through [today] after the game, and we'll make a decision [today]."

The Cowboys drafted McGee in the fourth round in 2009, knowing he would take some time to develop. McGee, who ran the option offense at Texas A&M, has shown he is tough. He has moxie. He is a good teammate, a hard worker and is extremely coachable.

What he hasn't shown is that he can play in the NFL.

"My biggest thing is just that I've shown them I have gotten better from Day One, coming from an option offense into this offense," McGee said the other day when asked what he had shown the Cowboys in his career. "I think they know that. Obviously, being a team guy, helping guys in the huddle, scout team, and coaching guys that are new or that don't know. I think that's another thing that's been big for me. Just helping out Romo whatever way I can and just trying to be a great teammate guy to help us win ballgames."

Maybe McGee can play. Maybe he'll get a chance somewhere else. Moore, Miami's backup, has become a serviceable quarterback since the Cowboys cut him, going 13-12.

No matter what, McGee can say he is one of only 35 quarterbacks ever to start a game for the Cowboys. He went 11-for-27 for 127 yards and a touchdown in a 14-13 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles to end the 2010 season.

Only three others were undefeated -- at 1-0 -- in their careers as Cowboys starting quarterbacks. McGee might not be remembered quite like Clint Longley in Cowboys' lore, but he'll be in the same company as Glenn Carano and Drew Henson.

He came; he saw; he never quite conquered.

Charean Williams 817-390-7760

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