Dallas Cowboys' Future Is Now: Should TCU Quarterback Andy Dalton Play a Role?

Christian Blood@@cowboysguruContributor IIIJanuary 24, 2011

Andy Dalton led the TCU Horned Frogs to a 21-19 victory over Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
Andy Dalton led the TCU Horned Frogs to a 21-19 victory over Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The quarterback position is generally the most important position in football, period. No other player will touch the ball more often or go as far to determine his team’s fate in any football game. This goes without saying.

If you remember the first few seasons following the Hall of Fame career of Troy Aikman, I don’t have to remind you of the importance of having a franchise quarterback. They do not grow on trees, despite the fact that close to one hundred QBs can be found throughout NFL rosters and practice squads.

Coming through the turnstile at the position following Aikman, the Dallas Cowboys finally struck some gold with little-known Tony Romo, an undrafted free agent coming out of Eastern Illinois in 2003. Having turned into a multi-Pro Bowl performer and obviously capable of winning a Super Bowl, the Cowboys should already be looking into the future a bit.

Not to rush Romo out the door by any means, but let’s be aware that he will turn 31 years old prior to the beginning of the 2011 regular season. Unless you believe that Romo will play as long as his childhood idol, Brett Favre, then the end is already closer than the beginning as far as Romo’s career as a professional quarterback.

To put it into better perspective, Aikman played his final football game December 10, 2000, at the age of 33. If Romo were to play until the same age, that puts Dallas’ need for another franchise quarterback at around 2013.

Granted, Romo could play until he’s anywhere from 35 to 37 years old with reasonable likelihood. After all, he does not have nearly the number of concussions that Aikman sustained from almost day one of his career.

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So who knows how long Romo will play?

Nobody knows. That’s why it’s never too early to look at possibilities.

Despite the disaster that was a 2010 regular season record of 6-10, owner Jerry Jones can’t really expect a near-future draft position that would seem to increase the chances of landing one of the future’s top college quarterback prospects. There is too much talent in Dallas for the foreseeable future, so value and opportunity will be an intriguing combination.

Unless you believe that Jon Kitna can keep playing the backup role for several more years, the time is now to at least search for a long-term backup for Romo—and a cheaper one, probably. 

So what about TCU quarterback Andy Dalton?

No disrespect to Stephen McGee, but I have to think that Dalton is an upgrade at the position. All that Dalton did at TCU was win, especially following his first year as a starter for the Horned Frogs.

This trend goes back to his high school days in Katy, Texas. But while most quarterbacks that end up even sniffing a job at the pro level won lots of games in high school, there is another quality in Dalton I really like—he does not turn the ball over.

At Katy High School, Dalton completed 52 percent of his passes for 3,555 yards. That included 52 touchdowns to only 17 interceptions.

Moving on to TCU, Dalton helped to completely change the face of a program that seldom was taken seriously in any college football discussion. Sure, LaDainian Tomlinson brought the Horned Frogs added exposure some 10 years ago, but it isn’t like TCU was performing as a program the way it did the last four seasons with Dalton under center.

Sure, TCU head coach Gary Patterson deserves much of the credit for the Horned Frogs' success in recent seasons. It’s also true that the Frogs defense was arguably a better side of the ball than any other unit.

But a great defense cannot generally accomplish what TCU did in 2009 or 2010 without a pretty outstanding offense. Just look at this team's scoring the past two seasons. Enough said.

Say what you want about the level of competition Dalton played against. Fact is, he did exactly to the Mountain West Conference what any other highly ranked team from another BCS conference would have done.

If that is not enough, then the Horned Frogs’ Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin earlier this month closes the case. About all you could have said against Dalton, prior to that game, was that he can’t win the big game; that argument is dead.

Back-to-back undefeated regular seasons are something to behold no matter where they are accomplished.  You realize that TCU went 25-1 the last two seasons? Let that sink in for a minute.

The only loss was in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl to Boise St. The Broncos went undefeated that year, as well. There’s probably not too much shame in that game unless you consider that the Horned Frogs beat Boise St. the year before in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Dalton’s 3-1 record in bowl games is impressive. But no victory was more impressive than his year's Rose Bowl win over a Wisconsin team that was easily bigger, stronger and definitely built to win on the ground. The Badgers also won the Big Ten, one of the strongest conferences in football.

It’s sad enough that TCU, despite only one loss the last two seasons, could not even compete for the national championship based on the badly outdated, if not corrupted, BCS system. But that’s another article altogether.

In most pre-draft scouting reports, Dalton is projected to be drafted anywhere from the third round to not getting drafted at all. Not drafted at all? Please.

The knocks on Dalton appear to be level of competition and his height. Yes, his height.

Aikman stands 6’4”. Romo is listed at 6’2”. Dalton is between them at 6’3”. What’s the problem? There is not one unless you believe that a franchise quarterback has to be 6’5” or taller.

So why has nobody signed 6’6” JaMarcus Russell, arguably the biggest draft bust in NFL history?

Height must not be everything.

They say you should always draft a franchise quarterback unless you already have one. While this is true, any given franchise has to be factoring in how long they might have their current franchise signal-caller if, in fact, they do have one—like the Cowboys.

If I am Jerry Jones and I have already addressed more than three critical needs approaching the middle of the 2011 NFL Draft, I have to give some serious thought about Dalton if he is still on the board. His accomplishments are just too abundant to ignore.

It may be a tad too early to be looking for another quarterback to replace Romo one day. Then again, there is a lot to be said for having an extra quarterback that other teams would have interest in.

For the Cowboys, the future is now and it is a safe bet that numerous changes might be coming as soon as the CBA war is over. Some of these changes might be a huge surprise, although a change at quarterback would not seem likely at all. Then again, Jones knows better than anybody what it’s like to be unprepared for the future at the most important position in the game.

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