Dallas Cowboys: Is Weeden ready for backup role?

Not that anyone noticed, but it’s been awhile since my last post. Suffice it to say that I spent the first half of my summer in a country that follows a different kind of football.

I certainly missed a lot in my time abroad. The Dallas Cowboys traded for a Rolando McClain trade” href=”http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2014/7/1/5862372/dallas-cowboys-trade-for-baltimore-ravens-lb-ronaldo-mcclain” target=”_blank”>veteran journeyman linebacker and signed Uche Nwaneri signing” href=”http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2014/6/25/5839674/dallas-cowboys-uche-nwaneri-reading-between-the-lines” target=”_blank”>another guard, held their annual 3-day minicamp in mid-June and continued their standoff with Kyle Orton.

Ah, Kyle Orton. More than the position battles and practice scrums, Orton’s absence has been the juiciest story of the Dallas summer so far. I’m surprised TMZ hasn’t released a video of him in Cancun, 40 pounds overweight and riding a dolphin. Where is the guy?

Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett expected Orton at OTAs and minicamp, and now they expect him to report to Oxnard. Their logic isn’t unreasonable–Orton lost nothing, of course, for missing the voluntary OTAs, and was fined around $70,000 for missing minicamp. A sizable chunk, to be sure, but nothing compared to the $30,000 per day Orton would forfeit at training camp, or the $3.4 million he would owe the team should he retire.

[Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Preview]

My guess is that Orton will suit up for the Cowboys this season. But after this power play, don’t expect him to go in behind Romo even if he does come back.

cleveland browns

Brandon Weeden with the Browns

Brandon Weeden has spent all summer taking reps with the first-teamers and is trying to win the backup job whether Orton comes back or not, per the team’s official site. I wrote in March about the logic behind the Weeden signing, one that left many fans scratching their heads. It was hard to imagine at the time a scenario where Weeden would become the backup.

Yet here we are with training camp just weeks away and no Orton in sight. Is Weeden ready for the responsibility of the No. 2? We all know he couldn’t really handle the No. 1.

The thing about Tony Romo is that he could leave a game at any time for any reason. This is true for any NFL quarterback, but especially so for a 34-year-old with a bad back and a growing injury history. Orton, for all his flaws, was widely regarded as one of the league’s best backup QBs, and he gave the Cowboys a legitimate chance to win in Week 17 (before, you know, he threw that pick and made Jerry a little upset).

Weeden can’t really be considered a project, either. He’s 30 years old. Throw him together with Caleb Hanie and you have a backup corps that is definitely NOT the future of the position in Dallas.

All this means much less, however, when you consider what Romo truly means to the team. Yes, it would be nice to have Orton behind him on Week One. But if Romo goes down, all indications say that the Dallas season goes with it, no matter who steps in.

Romo is one of the few NFL quarterbacks who could cover for a historically bad defense and take his team to 8-8. It’s easy to blame Romo for mistakes like this (and this), but he means more to the Cowboys than most QBs do to their team.

So is Weeden ready to back him up? Probably not. But he’s got nowhere to go but up, and he’s learning from one of the best. When he does take his snaps, don’t be surprised to see some significant improvement.

In the meantime, Orton can shut up and get paid. Or not. Remember to check out isportsweb’s Cowboys page for all your team news and updates.