Why Brandon Weeden’s Days In Dallas Are Numbered
The Dallas Cowboys made a few headlines last week when they sent an undisclosed draft pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for 33-year old veteran quarterback Matt Cassel. The overwhelming majority of reports confirming the news depicted the move as one designed to fill the backup role behind Brandon Weeden while Tony Romo rehabs from injury.
But in order to avoid a meltdown in the coming weeks from those fans who are emotionally strapped to the Cowboys’ welfare, it’s better to advance a more plausible solution to the team’s latest quarterback addition. It’s a simple solution really, based on the laws of averages and common sense.
Cassel, the same man who was in street clothes during Sunday’s 39-28 loss to Atlanta, was brought to Dallas to replace Weeden. Or, to put it in more endearing terms, he was brought here to save the season.
Weeden’s only chance at staying in the Cowboys saddle was to play well and win. Despite what the stat sheet may imply, Weeden did neither on Sunday.
No one can blame him for running a check-down clinic in the first half. The defensive coverage demanded as much. Of his thirteen completions before the break, none traveled more than ten yards past the line of scrimmage.
But when the Atlanta defense started clamping down on Jason Witten and Lance Dunbar between the hashes, Weeden failed to adjust. The Cowboys, as a consequence, watched an eleven-point halftime lead devolve into an eleven-point defeat.
Time and again in the second-half, Weeden failed to find the open target downfield, opting instead for the easy dump-off pass that the defense was waiting for. Only one wide receiver, Cole Beasley, caught a pass for the Cowboys. That hasn’t happened in Dallas since Quincy Carter was the quarterback.
Sunday’s developments would have raised eyebrows among Cowboys coaches if not for the simple fact that they’ve seen this tape many times before. This was the same Weeden they saw in Cleveland for two years before joining the Cowboys, and the one that single-handedly cost the Cowboys a game last November at home versus Arizona. With that same rocket for an arm, Weeden still refuses to use it when needed.
Thanks to a mid-week trade with Buffalo, the Cowboys have an extra arm in their bullpen. Just how much longer he stays there remains to be seen. Cassel was inactive versus Atlanta because he didn’t know the offensive playbook. That shouldn’t be the case again on Sunday night in New Orleans, when he will be in uniform for the first time as the No. 2 quarterback.
It will only be a matter of time after that until he leapfrogs Weeden on the depth chart. Cassel, despite all of the pundits citing a supposed lack of arm-strength, has spent the majority of his ten-year career doing what Weeden has proven himself incapable of. He won 10 games while filling in for Tom Brady in 2008, and was voted to the Pro Bowl after leading Kansas City to a playoff berth two years later. His 33-38 record also looks more promising than Weeden’s 5-17 career mark.
What a demotion will ultimately mean for Weeden when Romo returns off the injury list probably won’t go over very well with team owner Jerry Jones, who heaped praise upon Weeden in the postgame locker room. Jones wants Weeden to succeed, as much for his own ego as the team’s benefit. But if recent precedent means anything, Jones may have to depart with Weeden sooner rather than later.
Due to Jason Garrett’s preference for carrying an extra defensive lineman or a pair of possible special teams contributors on the 53-man roster, the Cowboys usually only keep two quarterbacks on the team. In the event that they do keep a third passer around, that spot is generally reserved for young prospects, such as Dustin Vaughan last season, and Stephen McGee in 2011.
With injuries and suspensions to defensive starters piling up fast in the season’s early going, there’s no way Garrett will be able to change his philosophy at mid-season. Which means Weeden will be the odd man out.
It will take more than just an insurance policy to keep the Cowboys afloat in the NFC East while Romo is on the mend. It will, in fact, take an NFL-caliber quarterback, a personal trait that Weeden is obviously unacquainted with.
The death knell for Brandon Weeden’s time in Dallas sounded loud and clear the day that Matt Cassel got off the plane from Buffalo. It will be ringing even louder when Cassel is promoted shortly after Dallas is blown out by New England on Oct. 11.