One of the hardest things about developing a quarterback in the NFL is the fact that it is nearly impossible to find snaps for a young player on a team with an established starter.
There's preseason, obviously, but that only gives you a look at how they run an offense made up of the soon-to-be-released against a defense populated by guys who will be standing behind them on the unemployment line. There isn't enough time at practice to spread snaps around and the NFL did away with the European league that helped give a shot to future starters like Jake Delhomme, Shaun Hill, Kurt Warner and Jon Kitna.
That last name brings us back to the Cowboys, the object of our obsession here at Blue Star. Kitna is going to be the starting quarterback for Dallas while Tony Romo is convalescing. It will be his first extended run as a starter since 2007 and Monday night's appearance made it clear that some rust has built up on his game in the last three years. At 38, he has no future as a starting quarterback and even a spectacular performance down the stretch wouldn't do much to help the Cowboys in the years to come.
Romo's injury also bounces Stephen McGee up a rung on the ladder, which means that the 2009 fourth-rounder closer to playing in a regular season game than at any other point in his short career. Judging by the way he played in the preseason, that's a fairly scary thought. Rusty as Kitna was, he at least has the muscle memory of an NFL quarterback. McGee, on the other hand, made his bones as an option quarterback in college and got drafted as a project that's still in its early stages.
How do you move that project forward, though? If McGee can't get on the field right now, with Romo injured and the season already heading down the drain, when will he get a chance in a game that will actually test his abilities? This seems like a pretty good shot to figure out what the Cowboys have on their hands so that they can still salvage something out of a season that's shaping up to be profoundly and totally disappointing.
We're not making an argument that McGee is going to change that, but finding out what he is as a player would be a worthwhile accomplishment amid the wreckage. The upside is that he's good enough to move up to primary backup duty next season or even good enough to tempt another team to offer up some draft picks in a deal for his services. Even if you find out that he's not a realistic backup candidate going forward, that can be spun as an upside if the Cowboys upgrade themselves at the position.
There are cons to the McGee argument. If he's totally overwhelmed, you could see the rest of the team shut down and start going through the motions because they feel the organization has given up on winning. It's happened before for teams with lame duck coaches and poor quarterback play. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if that happened, an infusion of young talent via draft picks wouldn't be the worst thing for this franchise, but there's not much chance Jerry Jones's ego would let it happen.
And if that's the case, you can always go back to Kitna and play out the string with the veteran. McGee offers something more, though, and it would be worth the Cowboys' time to figure out if they want what he brings to the table.
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