Cowboys need to wait to start McClain

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain

Tim Heitman/Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As if you needed another example of how desperate the Dallas Cowboys were on defense, let me point you toward middle linebacker Rolando McClain. When this man isn’t retiring from football, he’s convincing men such as Jerry Jones that he still has the ability to be a game-changing player.

The Cowboys are in such bad shape on defense that they’ve been trying to give McClain a starting job for the past three weeks. The only thing standing in the way is his inability to make it through consecutive practices. He returned to the field Thursday, but he was backing up rookie Anthony Hitchens at middle linebacker.

"He has some things that have side tracked him here for a day or two throughout training camp," head coach Jason Garrett told reporters. "But obviously, being out at practice playing play after play, day after day matters."

It also matters that the Cowboys continue down this foolish path. There is no evidence that McClain has a passion for football. In fact, he’s said in the past that it’s not important to him. Jerry insinuated at the start of training camp that McClain is in trouble financially. An old wildcatter like Jerry has a soft spot for folks down to their luck.

And I understand why the Cowboys are intrigued by McClain. His pedigree suggests he’d be a playmaker on defense. The problem is that he’s at least three years removed from being an elite-level talent. Maybe that’s finally getting through to the Cowboys.

Justin Durant and Bruce Carter lined up as the starting outside linebackers Thursday. This team is still searching for the right combination. Sadly, Devonte Holloman is no longer in the mix because of a career-ending neck injury.

What the Cowboys need to do is slow things down with McClain. He has no business being a starter right now. They need to monitor the mental side of his approach even more than the physical.

I get the sense that Jerry is trying to earn McClain’s trust by offering him a starting role. That’s a flimsy premise for dealing with such a volatile personality.

The Cowboys ‘ lack of talent on defense opens the door for a reclamation project like McClain. The best players on this defense – Henry Melton and Orlando Scandrick -:are dealing with their own issues. Josh Brent might be a premier talent on this team, once the commissioner delivers a ruling.

Starting safety Barry Church told reporters this week that McClain had similar passion to Dez Bryant. And I’d have an easier time believing that if McClain weren’t trying to retire all the time.

For now, McClain needs to be a backup player. If he learns how to stay on the field for consecutive days, maybe that can change.