Mac Engel

The Dallas Cowboys have a major quarterback issue

Dak Prescott could take a knee during the national anthem, and or spit on the American flag and he will be the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s not going to the bench.

One, because he’s good, and, two, because his backup is Cooper Rush.

Don’t fool yourself: This is a large risk.

“It’s a very important role because at some point your teammates are going to count on you,” Rush said. “You accept it and you love it.”

Dak Prescott will have to play like the second coming of Steve Pelluer to see a bench in 2018, because Rush is not the second coming of Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Cowboys’ preseason opening loss against the San Francisco 49ers was always going to do nothing for Dak but it could have done more for Rush.

He was pretty good; he completed 15-of-23 passes for 145 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

Not bad. Not great. Safe. Enough to get more quality time.

Either way, the Cowboys are trusting the sacred one-heartbeat-away-from-the-President job to the kid from Central Michigan.

“It’s a totally different comfort level this year; one, familiarity with the offense and the players and the coaches,” Rush said when comparing this season to his rookie year in ‘17. “Just understanding how defenses work, how schemes work. Mentally it’s been better that way, now it comes down to execution.”

Get used to this. Not only is Jon Kitna not walking through that door, it’s not open even if he wanted to knock.

The days of the Cowboys scouring the waiver wire for veteran backups like Kitna or Kyle Orton are gone; they are all in with the New England way of developing their own in hopes that Rush is their version of Garoppolo.

Garoppolo, a former second round pick out of Tony Romo’s alma mater, Eastern Illinois, sat behind Tom Brady for three-plus years. He was dealt to the 49ers last season and they have not lost since he arrived, including Thursday night’s “win.”

Of course, the Cowboys tried to do this with Kellen Moore, whose broken ankle two years ago put Dak on the field. They tried that with former West Texas A&M passer Dustin Vaughan, who flamed out after one year on the 53-man roster.

It’s too early to rush Rush onto the street, and even earlier to think should Dak go down Rush can run the team into the end zone. Much. Or ever.

As an undrafted player, Rush has done enough to impress the coaches to make it this far, which is no small feat. He was a third-string player for much of his rookie year, and then advanced past Moore on the depth chart last season.

That Rush made it this far as an undrafted player is a statistical anomaly.

There is a lot to like about him; he was a four-year player in college who won a lot, and he physically looks the part.

He’s smart. He’s not scared.

“Scared is not the right word; sure, there is a fear of failure,” he said. “That stuff drives you.”

Anyone who has talked to him likes him with no hesitation. Anyone who has watched him play likes him, but there is some hesitation.

The route of entrusting the No. 2 QB spot to a kid rather than some old guy is that he develops to the point where he knows what to do if called. That he won’t panic. That he won’t beat himself. That he will make a few plays that can potentially help his team win a game, or two.

Anything more than that from a backup is too much.

The Cowboys are Dak’s team, and just in case he goes down, his backup is Cooper Rush.

There is a lot to like about him, but don’t kid yourself: This is a major risk.

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