Matt Cassel becomes a free agent in the off-season. The Dallas Cowboys like him. He likes the Cowboys.
But the future can wait.
Cassel isn’t looking past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what could be his final start ever for the Cowboys.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” Cassel said Wednesday. “Obviously, Tony [Romo] is coming back next week, and when he gets back, he’s back. But at the same time, I would love to finish on a winning note. … We’d all like to win, so again all of our focus has gone into this week. We’re not even thinking about next week when Tony gets back. We’re just focused on the task at hand, which is a good football team this week.”
The Cowboys traded for Cassel on Sept. 22, two days after Romo fractured his left collarbone, as insurance in case Brandon Weeden struggled as the starter. The Cowboys benched Weeden after a 30-6 loss to the New England Patriots.
That game and the 39-28 loss to Atlanta were the only ones of the Cowboys’ six losses that didn’t end as one-score games. Weeden’s other start was a loss to the New Orleans Saints in overtime when the Cowboys’ offense never saw the ball.
Cassel’s three losses have come by a total of 14 points, with the offense never getting a chance in overtime in a 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Close, but no celebration.
The Cowboys have not won with a quarterback other than Romo since the meaningless 2010 season finale against Philadelphia with Stephen McGee at the helm. They are 6-15 without Romo since he became the starter in 2006.
Cassel has a personal five-game losing streak, not counting the season opener this year when he lined up at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was split out wide. Cassel’s last victory came in the 2014 season opener for the Minnesota Vikings.
But Cassel has grown more comfortable in the Cowboys’ offense in his seven weeks here.
In the beginning, he was learning teammates’ names, cramming in the playbook and figuring out the terminology.
“I feel like I get more comfortable each and every week,” Cassel said. “I feel like that in turn, the results on the field, you start to perform better. There’s just a comfort level in terms of just being in the huddle, being with the guys, and also learning the playbook. So every week I’m here, every week I’m on the field, I feel like I’ve grown and gotten better.”
Cassel, 33, has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 623 yards with four touchdowns, four interceptions and a 78.2 passer rating. Two of his interceptions were pick-sixes.
“He’s played in this league for a long time for a reason,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s started a lot of games. I think the best thing he’s done for our team is handle the success and the adversity that’s happened over the course of the games that he’s played.”
The Cowboys waived backup quarterback Kellen Moore from the active roster this week. They face a decision next week, when Romo returns to the starting lineup, about whether to keep three quarterbacks, including Weeden, on their 53-player roster.
Cassel has won the backup job to Romo this season, but his future in Dallas is uncertain.
“I think Matt’s done a good job for us,” Garrett said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t won the games he’s started, but I think there’s a lot of positive things that he’s done for our team. So not going to make any long-term declarations about that, but he’s certainly been an asset to our team since he’s been here.”
Cassel, playing for his fifth team in eight years, rented a home here after two weeks in a hotel. He could seek a starting job with another team in the off-season, but, having enjoyed his time with the Cowboys, he could return as Romo’s backup next season.
“I don’t think about that at all, to be honest with you, at this point in the season,” Cassel said of his impending free agency. “My main focus is all about this week. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes here. If you’re asking me would I like to be a Dallas Cowboy for a long period of time, absolutely.”
Cowboys at Buccaneers
Noon Sunday, KDFW/4 (Fox)