ARLINGTON, Texas — Stephen McGee may not have won the Cowboys’ No. 3 quarterback job Wednesday night, but he didn’t lose it, either.
If the Cowboys keep a third quarterback, it will be McGee. He started and played the entire first half of Wednesday’s JV scrimmage of a preseason game against the Dolphins.
The Cowboys won, 30-13. Because the game was played just four days after the third preseason game, and just seven days before the season opener at the Giants, there wasn’t anything on the line but the final roster spots.
McGee will likely make the cut once again. It’s hard to imagine the Cowboys not having a third quarterback, although with one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league in Kyle Orton, there’s always a chance the third QB could be sacrificed for a deficiency in another area.
McGee was given a chance to show what he could do Wednesday and it was pretty much like he’s done in his other appearances: he didn’t exactly dazzle, but he didn’t hurt the team, either.
He struggled in the first quarter. He was just 1-of-5 passing, and some of those passes wobbled a little or were underthrown.
McGee picked up the pace in the second quarter and finished the half 9-of-18 passing for 124 yards. No touchdowns, but no interceptions, either.
During a halftime television interview, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sounded like McGee’s agent.
“I think we have some things out of McGee tonight that are really encouraging,” Jones said. “It’s been vintage McGee. Other teams have shown interest in Stephen McGee. We know somebody thinks he’s a pretty good ballplayer. We do, too.”
It’s hard to imagine what those other teams see in McGee, since his lack of progress has been a topic this preseason. McGee was drafted in the fourth round in 2009 as a project since he ran so much option at Texas A&M.
But it’s even harder to imagine Rudy Carpenter usurping McGee for the No. 3 job after he didn’t see the field until the second half. Carpenter was a mere 4-of-10 passing against the Dolphins for 48 yards.
But unlike the staid McGee, Carpenter plays at a higher tempo and seems to attack the defense. One of the main criticisms of McGee is that he doesn’t get the ball downfield.
McGee certainly got the ball downfield when he hit Tim Benford with a 36-yard pass to set up the Cowboys’ first offensive touchdown. McGee used his feet to escape pressure and zipped the pass down the sideline.
“I thought he did a good job once we got going a little bit on offense,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We were trying to be pretty balanced early on, then we started throwing a little bit more he started making some plays. You could see him get a little bit more comfortable, get a little rhythm.”
The question is, do the Cowboys feel comfortable carrying a third quarterback?
“I think there are a number of factors,” Garrett said. “The first is the quarterback himself: Is he worthy of a roster spot?”
If McGee isn’t worthy in the Cowboys’ eyes, there are pressing needs elsewhere.
“We value the quarterback position,” Garrett said. “Having said that, you have to manage the rest of your roster. Injuries sometimes are a factor. You might be a little bit light at a particular position because of injuries, so you have to be a little bit long with your roster.”
The Cowboys already have a lot invested in Orton, who could start for some teams. If Tony Romo stays healthy, no other quarterback will see the field in 2012. A third quarterback is insurance, but sometimes it’s a luxury, too.
“If we think we can live with him or do we think we need a third quarterback?” Jones asked himself. “That will be something we’ll go through tonight after the game, and we’ll make a decision tomorrow.” Heading into what would be his fourth season, the chances are remote that McGee, the former project, will develop into a star. The only question is whether he will have a star on his helmet a week from now.