The Big Mac Blog

When Kellen Moore went down, Jerry Jones nailed it by doing nothing

Nearly forgot about the timing of this but with the Dallas Cowboys’ beginning their fake football schedule Thursday night in the Hall of Fame game against the St. Louis Cardinals of Phoenix it’s a fun time to revisit the biggest story of the 2016 NFL season.

That was, of course, when on the first day of the Cowboys’ 2016 practices in Oxnard, Calif., No. 2 quarterback Kellen Moore suffered a fractured ankle and was out for the season.

You may remember the status of the No. 2 was of national concern. The No. 1 QB, Tony Romo, had a bad back. Bad shoulder. Probably a bad ankle.

And there was no veteran on the roster. The only other guy was a rookie fourth round pick from Mississippi State. In the immediate moments after Moore’s injury, the Cowboys did doggedly try to acquire a veteran like Nick Foles, because they did not want to go with Dak Prescott.

For as much as we kill Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his decision-making regarding personnel, he did say this shortly after Moore suffered his injury about his team’s need for a veteran backup:

“We don’t have to be and shouldn’t be as urgent as it might look like. We don’t know that we are void on campus with our backup quarterback at all.”

Credit should go largely to director of scouting Will McClay on this path; it was McClay who continually insisted to the front office that Dak could play and that he should get a long look rather than the team signing a veteran free agent named McCown.

They all get the credit. They gave the ball to Dak, and, one more Tony Romo injury later, he made history.

Here is the column I wrote on Aug. 4, 2016, shortly after Moore went down. It can be great fun to re-read when you got it right, or in this case didn’t.

I barely mentioned Dak, because I never thought he would be given the chance:

OXNARD, Calif. Aug. 4, 2016 You pick which is the bigger (dumber?) risk: Trusting Tony Romo to remain healthy for 16 games, or having any faith in a No. 2 quarterback who was not drafted, and cut by the Detroit Lions.

Neither is a particularly good bet and that was the Cowboys’ decision before Kellen Moore suffered a broken lower right leg on the third day of practice.

In four NFL seasons, Moore appeared in a total of three games, and he was the best-case scenerio if Romo got hurt.

Jerry Jones famously said “Moore’s got it” and Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said, Moore “has as good of instincts of anyone in the game I’ve ever been around.”

Sounds great. I don’t believe either one of them.

Despite the sound logic of wanting to develop a young quarterback of their own, the Cowboys are somehow in a worse position at the backup than they were this time last year. If/when Romo gets hurt, the Cowboys of ’16 could be worse than ’15.

Even though Romo, Garrett and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson were all former backup quarterbacks, this regime has impressively butchered the No. 2 quarterback position since Romo became the starter in ’06. Every sign says that proud tradition will continue this season.

Two days after Moore was carted off the field, the Cowboys were poring over the usual list of names you don’t want to be Dallas Cowboy.

Jerry said Thursday the team is going to be patient and not urgent.

“We don’t have to be and shouldn’t be as urgent as it might look like,” Jerry said Thursday. “We don’t know that we are void on campus with our backup quarterback at all.”

Yes. He said that.

They may like rookie fourth round pick Dak Prescott, but there is no way they will trust this offense to a guy who has never played an NFL game.

As witnessed with the Matt Cassel fiasco last season, the time to get a veteran is right now when he can acclimate himself to the offense and his team.

Current Browns QB and former Sam Houston State star Josh McCown, 37, said he has spoken with the Browns about a possible trade.

Michael Vick said he is hoping for a call from Jerry.

The Cowboys had a shot at former Eagles and Rams free agent quarterback Nick Foles, who instead signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

“From the get-go, we really had a good feel that the situation there in Kansas City, he was leaning that way,” Jerry said.

That makes sense; Foles worked with and won games for the Chiefs’ coach, Andy Reid, when they were in Philadelphia.

Foles is a guy the Eagles dealt and the L.A. Rams no longer wanted, but he is the ideal backup: He has a 19-16 record as a starter. He’s not incompetent.

Now the Cowboys are left to look at guys like T.J. Yates, McCown and a few others no team actually wants to see on its roster.

The good news is that after Prescott took first team reps on Thursday, Garrett did say that quarterback is a “very important position” on their football team.

It’s that type of astute belief that has prevented the Cowboys from signing Johnny Manziel, but the day is not over yet. These things are fluid.

With the exception of Jon Kitna, who was the model career NFL backup, the Cowboys have not had a reliable No. 2 since either Wade Wilson or Steve Beurlein. Those guys played in the ’90s.

They didn’t develop former Aggies fourth-round pick Stephen McGee, but not for lack of effort. McGee’s problem was he couldn’t play.

Brad Johnson was finished by the time he arrived here. They had Kyle Orton, whose forte was stealing the Cowboys’ money without working.

They signed Brandon Weeden with the idea they would develop him without properly valuing the weight of one crucial component: the Cleveland Browns no longer wanted him.

In watching how they handled the dynamic duo of Weeden and Matt Cassel last season, whatever veteran they eventually do sign should expect to be neutered.

Garrett did not trust Weeden to throw it, so they benched him. The Cowboys named Cassel, who had been acquired via trade with Buffalo on Sept. 22, the starter after he had been with the team less than one month.

“I don’t know if we would do it any different but I’d like to execute better,” Linehan said.

Well done — that puts it on the players.

It did not help that he is Matt Cassel, but that stark reality was compounded by the fact he had barely been here when he was named the starter. That’s how much Garrett and his staff did not like Weeden.

Cassel was a dramatically less-good Weeden, who was cut by the Cowboys and then went to Houston where he won enough games to put the Texans into the playoffs.

That’s not a good look.

Going with Moore behind the fragile Romo was a risk to begin with because his resume is so short. The guy behind Moore — Prescott — has no resume.

Now in Moore’s absence the Cowboys are left to shop for what will be the equivalent of Cassel or Weeden.

And nobody wants that.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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