We’re just over 12 hours into the Cowboys’ 2022 season, and everything is on fire. Dallas got bodied on Sunday night against the Buccaneers, losing 19-3 in a game that didn’t seem close for a second. That might not sound terrible in isolation — until you realize that Tampa Bay was playing like garbage.
Tom Brady was barely a factor, the Bucs’ receivers didn’t really do anything special, and when Leonard Fournette is a highlight of the night, you know this was a ugly affair. Nobody is talking about Brady or the Bucs on Monday morning, now it’s all about Dallas who already find themselves in the middle of an absolute disaster.
Shortly after midnight Jerry Jones announced that quarterback Dak Prescott sustained a thumb injury on his throwing hand which would require surgery. Now the expected timeline for a return is 6-8 weeks. It’s not season-ending, but it’s certainly season destroying for the Cowboys as constructed. Now they turn to Cooper Rush, who I continually have to remind myself is the name of an NFL quarterback, and not a TikTok influencer.
All jokes aside, Rush has been fine when his number has been called by Dallas. Hell, he was pretty darn good in 2021, finishing the season completing over 63 percent of his passes, with a 3/1 TD-to-INT ratio. Any belief that this is indicative of a stunning, Tony Romo-esque ascendency to greatness should definitely have water thrown on it though, because that’s not really a realistic belief. The question now turns to what the Cowboys do now.
Cowboys Jimmy Garoppolo trade: Should Dallas do it?
Obviously this is the lead discussion on Monday morning. One of the biggest reasons the 49ers held on to Jimmy G was precisely for a moment like this. A franchise QB has gone down, and if the Cowboys really want to try and salvage 2022 this is likely their best option, while San Francisco would likely get a far better return out of desperation than they were offered up to this point.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think the 49ers are shortsighted enough to block a trade to Dallas simply because both teams play in the NFC. I believe they’ll take whatever good offer rolls around, and this is likely the best chance for a decent offer they’ll get. Garoppolo has a no-trade clause, but he would wave that in a second for a chance to start for the Dallas Cowboys. The no-trade clause is simply there to ensure he doesn’t have to move cities to find himself in the same backup role he’s in now.
Garoppolo will be a free agent, Dallas offers massive exposure, and for the Niners and Jimmy G this is really a dream scenario.
That doesn’t mean the Cowboys should do it, however. The team needs to be realistic about what its end game for 2022 is. Do they really think they can win the NFC East or make a deep playoff run with this team as constructed? Is Jerry Jones delusional enough to think Dallas is a QB away?
Truth is, they’re not. The offensive line was garbage on Sunday night, offering little protection for Prescott and getting almost no push for Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys don’t have good wide receivers, and there are very few redeeming qualities.
What does giving up assets to hope and push for a wild card exit do for Dallas, other than hurt the future of the organization? The only reason trading for Garoppolo makes sense is the preservation of pride, and we know Jerry is proud as hell. I mean, he shouldn’t be, but he is. This is logic vs. emotion at play, and trading for the best available quarterback is a purely emotional decision that defies logic.
Trade for someone else?
This seems like a more reasonable expectation here. Dallas should look for the sweet spot of “maybe this person and win some games, and won’t cost us much.” In this tier we get to guys like Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Case Keenum.
The best of the remaining options are players like Tyrod Taylor, Gardner Minshew and Taylor Heinicke — whom I’m all ruling out because they’re the backups on the Giants, Eagles and Commanders respectively. Unlike a Garoppolo trade I don’t see any NFC East team helping out Dallas at their time of need.
So, a Foles, Bridgewater or Keenum really fits the mold here. They’re not going to create quarterback controversy when Dak is back, the Cowboys get to front like they’re really trying to right the ship to make fans feel better than just staying pat, and if the rest of the team can turn things around then maybe it works out fine?
Play it out and let everything burn to the ground
This is generally the path I’m in favor of as a football realist. There was nothing about the Cowboys’ performance that led me to believe this team is a real threat to do anything in 2022 — especially without Prescott under center. Furthermore, the NFC East is actually looking really scary so far. This will not be a default cakewalk to a divisional title, as its been in recent years.
I know Sunday Night Football has morphed into yet another tired referendum on whether Prescott is “elite,” or worth the money he’s being paid. He definitely had an extremely poor game, but a lot of great quarterbacks did this week. Aaron Rodgers was awful, Tom Brady was mediocre, Matthew Stafford sucked out loud, Kyler Murray struggled, and Derek Carr was overwhelmed — just to name a few. The point is, players struggle. Not every game needs to become a deep dive into the abilities of a player as a franchise QB.
Time and time again Dak has proven he’s in the top half of NFL quarterbacks, and with help can be a Top 10 player. This year he has his absolute worst supporting cast, and that can’t be fixed with a simple quarterback trade.
The Cowboys should just let this flow, and plummet as low as they can stomach. The 2023 draft is QB-rich, but I’m absolutely not advocating they aim for a Dak replacement. However, they can at least scout the field and see if they fall in love, or trade a high pick for a haul to a team looking to move up for a passer. Hell, they could even stay at the top and get pass rush or secondary help.
This is very much a “take a step back to take two forward” proposition, and it’s the logically correct move. The question is, will the fans and the team handle an ugly season that only just began?
So, what will the Cowboys do?
This is Jerry Jones we’re talking about. He is not measured, he is not patient, he is not one to wait and let things develop. The most likely scenario is a snap trade for Garoppolo and try to salvage the year. It might not come immediately, and the team could let Rush try and start a game — but if he falters I expect they’ll pull the trigger quickly.
It’s not the right decision, but making the wrong move has become the Cowboy Way.