After Dak Prescott injured his hand in the Dallas Cowboys‘ season opener — and was adequately replaced by backup Cooper Rush despite the Cowboys losing the game — team owner Jerry Jones suggested that maybe a quarterback controversy breaking out would be good for the team.
“Wouldn’t it be something if you had a dilemma as to which way you go?” Jones wondered.
This was dismissed as Jerry being Jerry, or more notably Owner Jerry being Owner Jerry. After all, the only thing Jones hates more than people talking down about the Cowboys is people not talking at all about the Cowboys.
Losing Prescott in Week 1 is a recipe for that. Plenty of pundits were already declaring the season over.
Still, wishing for a “quarterback controversy” to break out between your $40 million franchise QB and a 28-year-old undrafted journeyman seemed to be a bit much.
“It’s all marketing,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “He wants y’all to be clicking and listening too.”
Well, maybe it was. Maybe it was a way to keep the Cowboys in the headlines. Then again, what he said made sense. If Rush stepped in and played well, that was good for Dallas. It meant that the Cowboys were likely winning games. And besides, when does a team not want lots of talented options?
“Same thing that happened with Prescott,” Jones said, recalling how Dak beat out Tony Romo for the job back in 2016. “I think like that.”
Or maybe, just maybe, it was Jerry Jones knowingly — or confidently — predicting what he might have in Cooper Rush.
Maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t Owner Jerry talking, but General Manager Jerry laying the groundwork for people to acknowledge that he’s made a few nice moves of late.
That certainly includes Rush, who has thrown for 450 yards and two touchdowns while playing very well in consecutive starts (both wins).
Dallas is now 2-1 and a season that once was deemed doomed is barreling toward playoff contention. The Cowboys host a bumbling Washington team on Sunday and Prescott is already eyeing a Week 5 return against the Los Angeles Rams.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has been clear that there is no doubt who will be the starter when Prescott gets back. That doesn’t minimize what Rush has done — a victory over reigning AFC champion Cincinnati and then, Monday, on the road against the divisional rival New York Giants.
Nor does it discount what he still may do. Prescott may want to be back soon, but there are no guarantees.
Someone in Dallas saw something in Rush that no one else in the league did, enough to gamble that he was a capable and competent backup to Prescott.
Rush went undrafted in 2017 coming out of Central Michigan. Dallas signed him, but never played him. Over the next three seasons he threw a combined three passes. In 2020, he left for the Giants but never got off the practice squad.
He returned to Dallas for the 2021 season, but saw only one game of meaningful action — a Week 8 start where he went 24-of-40 for 325 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Minnesota. The Cowboys won though. It was apparently enough.
Rather than find another backup for Prescott, Dallas doubled down on Rush. It’s paying huge dividends. Rush isn’t just running the offense well — and leaning on the running game of Elliott and Tony Pollard — but he is making plays in late-game situations.
“[Rush] has the makeup of a top quarterback,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday in his weekly radio interview.
He might. At least so far he is playing like it. It isn’t enough that there should be any hesitation when Prescott returns, but then again, Rush has at least one more week to show himself.
Know this, however: Dallas’ decision to believe in a guy with almost no in-game track record (just 50 regular season attempted passes before this year) is one of the franchise’s best decisions of late. It’s not drafting Micah Parsons (12th in 2021) or CeeDee Lamb (17th in 2020) or even Prescott in the 2016 fourth round, but the 2022 campaign is in a far different place because of it.
Jones has a mixed record as a general manager and once famously said that, based on results, the Cowboys owner should fire the Cowboys GM.
On this one, however, the front office got it right, and whether Jones was acting as ownership hype man or confident general manager, it seems he may have known what he was saying when he floated the idea of what Cooper Rush might do.
A QB controversy? No. Not yet and probably not ever.
Dallas still in the conversation … for all the right reasons? Absolutely.