10 Points: Should Cowboys Sign QB Cam Newton as Dak Prescott's Backup?
FRISCO - Jimmy Johnson used to call what the Dallas Cowboys have recently done with the QB depth chart "hangin' out.'' Meaning, basically, they are taking a risk with no real depth at all.
And suddenly - with all due respect to in-the-building backups Cooper Rush and ...... - the NFL is offering some big-name ways to end the "hangin' out'' behind Dak Prescott. (A story, of course, all by itself, as Dallas is moving toward making him the highest-paid player in the NFL.)
At this moment, not only do Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton not have starting jobs - they don't even have jobs. At all. Let's walk through a 10-point analysis of the situation.
1) Pure Talent. In terms of pure quarterbacking talent that has been realized, Cam tops the other two - and, in terms of body of work in this department alone, Newton - a No. 1 overall pick, a Super Bowl QB and an NFL MVP - even tops Dak Prescott.
2) Is 'Too Much Talent' A Problem? Let me take you back to Troy Aikman's early years. Aikman was a tough SOB - not just body but mind, too. Yet he felt betrayed when shortly after his arrival here, Jimmy brought in Steve Walsh to compete with him. Not long after Walsh was gone but Steve Beuerlein - a classic NFL QB, a charismatic winner with talent - was acquired.
That wasn't Aikman's ideal, either.
It's not that Troy was afraid of the competition; rather, he felt that he was the No. 1 QB and that his backup should be his helper, an assistant, a sounding board. The locker room worked best when those No. 2 QBs were exactly that - not "vying'' with Aikman for snaps, at Beuerlein (well within his rights did) but working to help Aikman. That was the way of the late Wade Wilson, of Jason Garrett, and of others.
Here and now? Dak's never had a backup QB who was truly a threat to his job. Kellen Moore, Mark Sanchez and Rush are here to help Dak, not to compete with him.
3) Would Cam Enjoy Being A Backup? My gut - not knowing Newton personally - says "no.'' Nor do I think it is the career path envisioned by Winston, like Newton a Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick.
TCU product Dalton, a former second-round pick who overshot expectations as a long-time starter with the Bengals? Maybe.
4) Who Can Win You One Game? That should be one consideration. The Cowboys' perception of Dak is that he's durable. So maybe a No. 2 guy has to pop in, short-term, one game.
That guy by far is Cam Newton. It's easy to envision him entering mid-game and completely taking over. He's not a perfect player; he wouldn't be on the street if he was. He can be an erratic thrower. And he seems awfully goofy sometimes.
But he can also be a force-of-nature player. One game, one time, it's Cam.
5) Who Can Be The Bus Driver? What if Dallas' view of Dak as virtually indestructible is wrong? (Which, by the way, it obviously is.) The best "bus driver'' of this group - that is, the "steadiest'' QB to serve as a placeholder until Dak was to return?
That'd be Dalton.
6) What About Health? I assume this is a major issue at the moment as it regards Cam's lack of popularity. The COVID-19 crisis has shut down teams' ability to perform medical tests on prospective players. Newton plays a physical style of football - he's undergone a pair of shoulder surgeries - and is coming off a season missed due to foot surgery.
This is a gigantic obstacle.
7) What About Development - Or Even Replacing Dak? Dalton is 32 and he is what he is; the ceiling has been met. The smart bet is that Cam is in decline - a truly loud and disturbing reminder of the meat grinder that is the NFL, as he was the MVP at 26 and is now just 30.
Jameis Winston? He's just now 26. His play in Tampa Bay was equal parts spectacular, moronic and lackadaisical in terms of ball protection. And the Bucs head coach, Bruce Arians, is a QB guru who just gave up on the kid.
But personality aside (even as colleague Peter King reports he's a "model citizen'') - and I'll get to that in a moment - I can see coaches who believe in their abilities as teachers wanting to take a crack at working with Jameis.
Not necessarily in Dallas, though, and here's why. ...
8) Personality Problems? Winston is well-liked in his own locker room but "attitude'' isn't for everybody. And he's not been good enough to overcome that blockade. Newton's "attitude'' isn't for everybody, either ... but for a few years there, he was a "Superman,'' and so the ostentatiousness and the flamboyance drew mostly giggles.
But as a backup? Football remains, for better or worse, a place with an almost "military'' vibe. It's about standing in line and wearing the clothes and "being a good soldier.'' Those things are especially true of the backup QB.
Cam Newton might very well be a good person. (We should work on the assumption that he is.) But accepting the traditional "shut-up-and-help-out'' role of a sub QB? It's been done before, of course, from Jim MacMahon to Randall Cunningham and more, guys who turned down the "flash'' later in their careers when appropriate, even to the point of being subs.
For a person who for most of his entire life has been the biggest, baddest, best and most colorful athlete on the field ... that's difficult to envision.
9) It's A Copy-Cat League. I know the Cowboys, like all the other clubs, pride themselves on doing things "Our Way.'' But I also promise you that scouts and coaches and GMs across the league compare notes ... and sometimes glance over shoulders to see if they can steal a glimpse at even more notes.
So surely the Cowboys are wondering ... The New England Patriots need a No. 1 QB. Why isn't Bill Belichick signing Cam? What does Belichick know? Why don't the Chargers think he's better than Tyrod Taylor? Why don't the Bengals think he'd be good as a bridge to Joe Burrow?
Why isn't anybody calling him?
It's a copy-cat league.
10) Follow The Money. No, the Cowboys aren't "cheap.'' They are going to spend $198 mil of cap money, just like everybody else. But Cam Newton is coming off a contract that was paying him $23 million (in salary and prorated bonus).
Worth noting: Dalton is coming off a $16 mil salary. Winston is coming off a $20 mil salary.
Cooper Rush just signed on again for 2020 for $2.133 million. Is he "not even one-tenth'' the player that Cam is? (Or one-tenth of Winston? Or one-eighth of Dalton?) That's an unfair way of lookin at it; Dallas is taking that calculated risk by "hangin' out'' with a $2 mil QB. I've seen some media mention of viewing Cam as being "worth $15 million'' in some NFL city. But nobody is paying that for a backup.
Cam Newton, gifted and outlandish and out of work, finds himself between a rock and a hard place. And all things considered, there is not a softer "place'' or a place at all for him with the Dallas Cowboys.