Dallas Cowboys – A History of Backup Quarterbacks Stepping Up

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There’s still no confirmation on whether Tony Romo will play in the crucial season-ending game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Kyle Orton is anxiously waiting for a decision to see if he’ll get the rare start or not, and can look back at some quarterbacks of the past in this franchise who stepped up big when called up to fill in for the starters.

Clint Longley last very long in the NFL. He was a backup for the Cowboys during a couple of seasons but was kicked off the team eventually, moving on to the San Diego Chargers and out of the league. His big moment came quite early in his career, during his rookie season in 1974.

In a Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins, Longley came on for an injured Roger Staubach with the Cowboys trailing 16-3. He completely turned things around, throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Billy Joe Dupree, followed by leading the team down a 70-yard drive for another score. With the team trailing 23-17 with 28 seconds left an no timeout, Longley hit Drew Pearson with a 50-yard hail mary pass, winning the game in what was later described by Cowboys lineman Blaine Nye as the triumph of the uncluttered mind. Two years later, Longley punched Staubach in the locker room and was thrown off the team.

Fast forward to 1993 and Bernie Kosar. Kosar was signed from the Cleveland Browns to help fill in for the injured Troy Aikman as the Cowboys were trying to defend their Super Bowl title. Near the end of his career, he did pretty well when opportunity knocked, but is mostly remembered for coming in for Aikman in the NFC championship game against the 49ers, leading to a 38-21 win, completing a touchdown pass to Alvin Harper. He got a Super Bowl ring for his efforts.

A year later Jason Garrett was the one who stepped up for Aikman, although it wasn’t going to end with a Super Bowl, at least not in that season. Usually a 3rd-string quarterback, Garrett got the start in a Thanksgiving game against the Green Bay Packers, pushing the Cowboys to victory (42-31), coming back from 14 points of deficit. Garrett finished with 311 yards, 2 touchdown passes and an interception, getting a lot of help from Emmitt Smith rushing for 133 yards as well.