Matt Cassel is insurance; Dallas Cowboys have faith in Brandon Weeden

By The Sports Xchange
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden. UPI/Ian Halperin
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden. UPI/Ian Halperin | License Photo

IRVING, Tex. -- Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett admits that the team acquired quarterback Matt Cassel in a trade with the Buffalo Bills for insurance.

Tony Romo is out the next eight weeks with a fractured clavicle. He has been placed on reserve/injured, designated for return the short term and won't be able to play again until at least Nov. 22.


It's Brandon Weeden's job to keep the undefeated and 2-0 Cowboys afloat until Romo returns, starting Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, who are also 2-0.

The Cowboys believe in Weeden, though he is largely unproven. But they are leaving nothing to chance. The stakes are too high.


The situation is too important in what the Cowboys believe is a Super Bowl season once they get everyone healthy.

"We felt it was good to bring a veteran quarterback in," Garrett said. "We felt like we could get a guy who learned our system quickly, has played in games in the NFL ... At this position it's a very important position on the football team."

The Cowboys are confident that Weeden can and will play well because he is his second year with the team and the second year in the same system under offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

The Cowboys believe Weeden is more ready to take over for an injured Romo than he was last year when he threw two interceptions in his only start in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

"I think his command is significantly better, I think he learned from his experiences playing last year," Garrett said. "He had a really good offseason for us, a really good training camp. I think a lot of that has to do with his comfort level with the system and with the guys around him."

Weeden certainly looked comfortable and confident in a flawless performance in relief of the injured Romo in Sunday's 20-10 victory over the Eagles. He completed 7 of 7 passes for 73 yards, including a game-sealing 42-yard touchdown strike to receiver Terrance Williams.


"Just being here for the second year in the same system first and foremost gives me confidence," Weeden said. "Being around the same guys, hearing the same language, being around Tony, I have learned a lot from him. Being around Scott and understanding how he does things and his mindset going into games. This is year four for me. I'm in a system I love, a system I'm comfortable in. Being in a second year with the same guys gives me more confidence than I had my second year in Cleveland."

But Weeden is a former draft bust in Cleveland who is 5-16 as a starter.

And if he doesn't hold up and help the Cowboys hold on, the Cowboys have an alternative in the well-traveled Cassel. The 10-year veteran has 72 career starts and a record of 34-38 in stints with New England (2005-08), Kansas City (2009-12) and Minnesota (2013-14) before the brief time in Buffalo in 2015. He lost the starting job to Tyrod Taylor in training camp.

The Cowboys thought highly enough of him and the need for a veteran option that they gave up a fifth-round pick in 2017 as well as taking on his contract that includes a $2 million base salary with $2.15 million in incentives.


"He's played a lot in his career," Garrett said. "He's had starts with a couple of different teams. He's played for stretches of games as a backup quarterback. He's played as a starting quarterback over the course of a few seasons. He's a very physically talented guy. He's the right kind of guy mentally. He's tough. He loves to play football. He's a great teammate. I think he understands the situation he's coming into, and he's going to embrace the opportunity."

--Tight end Jason Witten has played in 189 consecutive games with 133 starts in a row since missing a game against the Eagles as rookie in 2003 with a fractured jaw. He expects to make it 190 and 134 on Sunday against the Falcons, despite injuring both ankles and a knee against the Eagles Sunday.

Witten was limited in practice on Wednesday but plans to play.

"I'll be fine," Witten said. "Getting that swelling out there a little bit," Witten said.

"Track record matters," Garrett said. "He's demonstrated a lot through his career that he can get himself ready to play when things don't always look so good for him early on in the week. But we have to be ready with a lot of different alternatives."


Witten has two sprained ankles and a sprained knee.

--Wide receiver Dez Bryant has yet to return to practice after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured bone in his foot. He is expected to be out at least five more games.

But Bryant is getting advice from everyone on his foot and got some from Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who suffered the same injury.

"With Dez, he's just going to have to take time and get healed up properly," Jones said on a conference call Wednesday. "You don't want to rush it and then it sets you back. If you come back too early, then it can put you back again. So, my thing to Dez is, just get fully healthy and then you can go out there and help your teammates."

Jones was diagnosed with a broken foot a day after the 2011 NFL combine, and eventually underwent surgery. Atlanta still made him a first-round pick (sixth overall) in that year's draft, and he was ready to go for the regular season.

But Jones reinjured the foot during the 2013 season, something that ended his season after only five games. That required a more extensive surgery that put him on bed rest for about two months.


Going through it twice, Jones is well aware of how difficult it is to be patient.

"It was very difficult for me, but I understood the bigger picture," Jones said. "The next year I didn't want to be going through the same thing again, and I've been back a year now and going into this year I haven't had a foot injury or problem at all with my foot."

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