The Dallas Cowboys should know well the importance of the backup quarterback.
In a historical, sort of nautical sense, the Cowboys team of 2008 was like the Titanic, with cocky architects at the top full of such hubris that they felt no need for lifeboats or fear of icebergs.
That would make last season the chilly North Atlantic. It would make Jerry Jones that mustached fellow who snuck onto the lifeboat meant for women and children (Bruce Ismay, I think). It would make the iceberg the slew of teams who exposed all the Cowboys’ underlying faults while spanking them mercilessly and sending them to the bottom of the ocean, or more accurately in this case, home from Philadelphia with nothing to show for the ride but a steaming slice of humble pie.
Now, it might be unfair to say that anyone knew just how hollow the quarterback position was for Dallas last August. It's doubtful that if Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger had played nearly as bad on the practice field as they did during the regular season that they ever would have seen the field.
Connecting you to your favorite North Texas sports teams as well as sports news around the globe.
Furthermore, it would be shortsighted to cite the shallowness of the quarterback position as the only fault of the Cowboys last season. The reasons for their ultimate failure are myriad, and there’s no need and certainly no time to get into all of them here. In any case, this imbalance under center is a fitting image of that flawed team.
But the Cowboys have been on the other side of the coin as well.
Way back in 1994, when the Cowboys won playoff games and grungy teenagers roamed the earth in flannel, we had one of the best backups in the business. Jason Garrett embodied just about every attribute of a good backup quarterback: Quiet, studious, and ready when the call was made.
That Thanksgiving, with the Green Bay Packers in town, Garrett stepped up in the place of an injured Troy Aikman to complete 15 for 26 for 311 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys beat Green Bay, won the Super Bowl, hoisted the trophy.
In looking back on the season as a whole, Garrett is little more than a footnote, and this speaks to his credit. After all, no one notices the lifeboats until the ship sinks.
And the ship never sank that season.
There’s no way to tell if Jon Kitna is the answer for the Cowboys at this point. But it looks to be a step forward from last season, at least.
The 37 year-old started 16 games for the Lions in 2007, leading them to a 7-9 record. This is a losing record, of course, but with that group, it’s a relatively impressive mark.
Kitna won’t, most likely, be as bad as Johnson and Bollinger were last year and he probably won’t be as good as Jason Garrett was 15 years ago. He won’t be a disgrace and he won’t be a miracle.
But these Cowboys don’t need a miracle at this point. They need a backup quarterback who’s more solid than not.
They need a lifeboat.