ARLINGTON, Texas – Stephen McGee hasn’t played that well since he sawed off the Horns as an Aggie.
McGee played the entire preseason finale, leading the Cowboys to a 27-25 win over the Miami Dolphins. He completed 27 of 42 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown and engineered a pair of two-minute drills that resulted in field goals.
There were some Valley Ranch folks on the fence about whether the 2009 fourth-round pick merited a roster spot this season. He earned the right to continue his development with the Cowboys by displaying the attributes the Cowboys liked so much last spring: arm strength, athleticism and competitiveness.
“It was just almost like right before your eyes, you could see him start getting comfortable,” said owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who claimed that cutting McGee was never a consideration for him. “You could see his body language. You could see all of those things happening, so I’m proud for him.”
McGee wasn’t in the mood to discuss his performance. He took only two questions from the media and bristled about the criticism he’s received since his disappointing career in College Station.
“I just wanted to come in and play to the talent I know that I have,” McGee said. “A lot of people like you guys always seem to say I’m not good enough, but I know in my heart how good of a quarterback I am. I’ve said that since day one I got here.
“It’s just a matter of a good opportunity, and I think the most exciting part for me today was when our twos and threes came out from the get-go and played pretty good against their first team defense for a while.”
This was the first time that McGee didn’t look gun-shy in an NFL game. He attacked the Dolphins’ defense, including a beautiful deep ball to Sam Hurd for a 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Hurd beat Miami starting cornerback Sean Smith for the score.
The coaches had been concerned with McGee’s pocket presence and tendency to take the easy way out with checkdown passes. They were impressed that he let loose but still made smart decisions.
McGee even showed some swagger on the sideline. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett smiled as he recalled McGee having a “little attitude” between series.
“He threw the ball and he threw it with some authority,” quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. “He wasn’t trying to get completions by making the safe throw.”
McGee also got high marks for his poise, particularly in the two-minute drill situations. His only incompletion on an eight-play, 51-yard drive at the end of the first half was spiking the ball to kill the clock before David Buehler’s 51-yard field goal. He completed five of six passes for 68 yards to set up Buehler’s game-winning 31-yarder.
“That takes a lot of poise,” Wilson said.
It proved that McGee belonged, at least for this season. And it quieted the critics, at least for one night.