Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys trust in Matt Cassel, hoping finally to win a game with backup QB

If the Dallas Cowboys make the postseason, and Tony Romo’s fractured left collarbone heals, he will get his job back.

“I think if Tony can play, he’d be the starting quarterback, without question,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday during his weekly radio show on KRLD/105.3 FM The Fan.

Therein lies the irony: To get to the postseason, the Cowboys need backup Matt Cassel to play well.

Cassel lost the previous four games he started for the Cowboys this season, completing 87 of 138 passes (63 percent) for 902 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

But the Cowboys trust in Cassel … not that they have a choice.

“Although [Romo] is an elite player, and he creates so much at that position and one of the best in the league to do it, I believe we can still win those games,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “… Matt has done a great job, a good leader, good energy. I think he’s more comfortable in this system, so hopefully that carries over to Monday.”

The Cowboys have not won with a quarterback other than Romo since the meaningless season finale in 2010 against Philadelphia with Stephen McGee at the helm. They are 6-16 without Romo since he became the starter in 2006, including 0-7 this season.

“We haven’t scored enough points,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of the team’s inability to win with a backup this season. “It’s obvious, and I’m not being a smart-aleck, either.

“We had a couple of games where we moved the ball better. There were some really good spurts in there as far as production offensively. Some games, we had some point production, but we had a couple of games there where we didn’t get the ball in the end zone enough, so that’s got to be something that’s got to change for us.”

Thirteen teams have used backup quarterbacks this season, with four of those playing two backups, including the Cowboys. NFL backup quarterbacks have a combined 14-24 record this season.

The Colts, however, have gone 4-0 with backup Matt Hasselbeck, the Steelers 3-2 with backups Michael Vick and Landry Jones, and the Broncos 2-0 with Brock Osweiler, proving they can win.

No team has been without its starter as long as Dallas has. Romo fractured his collarbone during the third quarter of the Week 2 victory over the Eagles, returned for the victory over the Dolphins on Nov. 22 and then broke his collarbone again in the third quarter of the 33-14 Thanksgiving loss to the Panthers.

The Cowboys plan to keep Romo on their 53-player roster as long as they remain in the division race. Dallas trails the Giants and Redskins by two games in the NFC East with five to play.

“We haven’t given up the ship on that, as you all know,” Linehan said. “Anything can happen. We’re still in this hunt. That’s a really big motivating factor. So as we move forward here, this is a big game for us. We won’t get into those discussions about that, but that is a carrot in front of us.”

The Cowboys averaged 322 total yards, including only 196 passing yards in the seven games without Romo. They failed to score a touchdown in three of the seven games and averaged 17 points per game in Romo’s absence.

They expect better results with Cassel this time simply because he has been here longer. They traded for Cassel on Sept. 22 and threw him into the fire five weeks later against the Giants.

“It’s not easy coming in the middle of the movie, so to speak, picking things up the way he has,” Linehan said. “He’s worked really hard at it. Then, there was a time period there where Tony was back, where he was able to catch up on some things that we do prior to that that we really didn’t do as far as some of the mechanical things on the line and things like that. He’s way ahead of where he was the first go-round, and that’s a positive for us.”

The Cowboys’ hopes, however slim, rest on Cassel’s right shoulder.

“There’s definitely more of a comfort level, I think,” Cassel said. “Each week I’ve felt more and more comfortable. But then you also get to step back. You can go back and critique yourself over the last few weeks, and at the same time, get ready to go and step in. But my comfort level from my first start to where I am now is night and day.”

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

Cowboys at Redskins

7:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN, WFAA/8

Some subs do rise

Thirteen teams have used backup quarterbacks this season, with four of those playing two backups, including the Cowboys. NFL backup quarterbacks have a combined 14-24 record this season:

QB

Team

Record as

a starter

Matt Hasselbeck

Colts

4-0

Brock Osweiler

Broncos

2-0

T.J. Yates

Texans

1-0

Matt Schaub

Ravens

1-0

Michael Vick

Steelers

2-1

Landry Jones

Steelers

1-1

Johnny Manziel

Browns

1-2

Blaine Gabbert

49ers

1-2

Ryan Mallett

Texans

1-3

Luke McCown

Saints

0-1

Case Keenum

Rams

0-1

E.J. Manuel

Bills

0-2

Mark Sanchez

Eagles

0-2

Zach Mettenberger

Titans

0-2

Brandon Weeden

Cowboys

0-3

Matt Cassel

Cowboys

0-4

*Austin Davis

Browns

0-0

* Davis’ first start for the Browns comes Sunday.

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