FRISCO - This was not exactly Andy Dalton's plan. But it may work out, anyway.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback, who signed a one-year deal here last May, knew he might have to sub for starter Dak Prescott. That did indeed happen.
But Dalton, the decade-long veteran first-team in Cincinnati who came home to join the Cowboys this year in part over COVID concerns and his family, could not know that Dak would be knocked out for the year in Week 5, that Dalton would deal with a concussion, and then with COVID, and then with Sunday's end: a 23-19 loss at New York that raises as many questions about him as it answers.
“Absolutely,” Dalton said, expressing his view on his ability to remain an NFL starter. “I feel like I can play, and I feel like I can help a team win. Hopefully, with the film that I put out this year, people see that and value me in that way. I obviously feel like I still got a lot of good football left, and we’ll see how it all plays out.”
If that sounds like Dalton is considering leaving Dallas ... you are hearing him right. Part of the plan in signing the short-term, $3 million base deal, was to use 2020 as a springboard back to the top.
What did Dallas do? He played valiantly. But erratically.
Through the first two quarters of this loss that sealed 6-10 Dallas' fate as a non-playoff team, Dalton completed only 11 of 20 passes for 99 yards - and two or three of his tosses should've/could've been interceptions.
READ MORE: The Biggest Loser - Giants Kill Cowboys' Playoff Hopes
READ MORE: Cowboys Get No. 10 Pick in 2021 NFL Draft
Later, he did rally the Cowboys, but after a key CeeDee Lamb drop, with a red-zone chance at winning the game, Giants' defensive pressure forced Dalton (in total, 29 of 47 for 243 yards) out of the pocket and he chose an ill-advised third-down Hail Mary that was intercepted.
Also involved in the judgment of Dalton: He played with a torn-up left hand, the result of a Giants cleat.
Dalton made nine starts. He helped Dallas win three straight before Sunday. He's a high-quality guy and certainly an "elite bus driver'' as a No. 2 QB - and the Cowboys would love to have him back in that role, if affordable.
But Dalton can be expected to get a more lucrative offer elsewhere, leaving him to once again make a family-vs.-finance decision.
Sunday, after the game, he certainly left open the door.
“There’s a lot to be decided this offseason,” Dalton said. “This is my first time being a free agent when the new league year starts, so I’ll go through the process of everything and weigh all of my options and see what I got.
"I’ve really enjoyed my time in Dallas. Just a good chance to play back at home where I’ve had a lot of family and friends that are able to come to games.''
Does that sound like Andy Dalton talking in the past tense?
“I’ve really enjoyed everything here with (coach) Mike (McCarthy) and the staff ... and our quarterback room. Getting to see Dak work and see how he operated early on and just getting that opportunity to play. We’ll see what happens come March.”