Commentary

Stephen McGee can't help Cowboys

Roster spots are too valuable to include athletic but cautious third quarterback

Updated: August 30, 2012, 12:41 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In three seasons, Stephen McGee has shown no indication he will ever become a starting NFL quarterback.

[+] EnlargeStephen McGee
Tim Heitman/US PresswireIf the Cowboys wanted Stephen McGee around, they would've given him an opportunity to compete for the backup quarterback spot.
So it's time for the Dallas Cowboys to move on. The same goes for Rudy Carpenter.

Roster spots are just too valuable to invest in a third quarterback, who has no shot to ever unseat Tony Romo or backup Kyle Orton.

When the Cowboys signed Orton to a three-year contract with a $5 million signing bonus in the offseason, it was an indictment of McGee, a fourth-round pick in 2009.

If Jason Garrett truly believed in him, he would've given McGee an opportunity to earn the backup job. The day the Cowboys acquired Orton, McGee's days were numbered.

Besides, McGee will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The odds he'd be on the roster next season are less than zero.

McGee entered Wednesday night's preseason game against the Miami Dolphins needing a strong performance to persuade the Cowboys not to release him.

He started and played the first half. The results, as you would expect, were mixed.

McGee completed nine of 18 passes for 124 yards playing with backups. Center Phil Costa was the only offensive starter who played.

McGee's best moments occurred in the second quarter, when he made a terrific throw from the near hashmark and completed a 32-yard pass to Andre Holmes, who was covered tightly along the sideline.

It was the kind of throw that will excite Garrett and the coaching staff when they see it on video. Then they'll wonder why they don't see throws like that more often.

Garrett doesn't like players who flash. He wants consistent playmakers.

Late in the second quarter, McGee showed his athleticism, scrambling and eluding several defenders before launching a 36-yard pass to Tim Benford as he stepped out of bounds.

The completion set up Phillip Tanner's 1-yard touchdown run.

"I thought he played a pretty solid half," said Garrett, who complimented McGee's ability to make plays out of the pocket.

McGee has every physical tool you want in an NFL quarterback, which is why the Cowboys used a fourth-round pick on a guy from a simplistic, run-oriented offense at Texas A&M.

They knew it would take time for him to develop and take advantage of his 6-3, 225-pound frame and 4.61 speed in the 40-yard dash.

The problem: McGee gets paralysis by analysis.

Whether he has difficulties reading defenses, making his progressions or is simply afraid of throwing interceptions, McGee throws way too many checkdown passes.

In the three games McGee has had substantial playing time, he's thrown three touchdown passes and no interceptions, which is fine. But he has averaged just 5.12 yards per attempt, which is awful.

He's cautious to a fault.

Understand, Tony Romo has a career average of 8.0 per pass and the best quarterbacks average at least 8.5 per attempt.

Last season in a 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, McGee completed 24 of 38 passes for just 182 yards. Two seasons ago, he completed 11 of 17 passes for 111 yards in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals and 11 of 27 passes for 127 yards in a win over the Eagles.

Now, it's time for Garrett to make a decision.

Garrett values the quarterback position, but he has to decide whether McGee or Carpenter, who was 4-of-10 for 48 yards, are worthy of a roster spot.

Then he must determine whether it's better to keep an extra receiver such as Andre Holmes, who has potential and size (6-3, 225 pounds) but can't be coached.

Or whether running back Lance Dunbar, who gained 105 yards on 15 carries, or linebacker Orie Lemon, who returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, deserve to be on the roster.

It's unlikely McGee or Carpenter will help the Cowboys win a game this season.

The Cowboys would be better served signing a quarterback to their practice squad after final cuts are announced Friday or drafting one next year and trying to develop him into a starter.

They had the right idea using a fourth-round pick on McGee. It just didn't work out.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

ALSO SEE