Following an embarrassing Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the D in Big D certainly stood for doom. The offense scored just three points, and Dak Prescott left that game in the fourth quarter with a thumb injury that sidelined him for the immediate future. Enter career journeyman backup quarterback Cooper Rush. Since that season-opening loss, Rush and the Cowboys are 2-0. Rush is now the talk of the town and could set himself up to be the next smoke screen QB to get a significant pay raise in the offseason.
Most hadn’t heard of Rush before his first start for the Cowboys last season. This is technically Rush’s fifth year in the NFL. Or the fifth year out of college, however, you’d prefer to phrase it. Rush has had a couple of different stints with Dallas — with a five-month stint with the Giants mixed in — but mainly as a practice squad player. Now Rush is finally getting an opportunity, and he hasn’t disappointed. Going undefeated in three career starts says something.
Exactly what it says is still being determined. Three stars isn’t a huge sample size, but no losses on Rush’s record can be misleading. The 28-year-old QB has played well, and some might say very well, but he hasn’t been great. He’s doing what a good “game manager” does by not making too many mistakes. In his two starts this year, Rush hasn’t committed a turnover. That’s what you want from your backup. Keep the seat warm and the team on track until the franchise QB returns.
The biggest issue the Cowboys face now is the controversy around Rush playing better than Prescott. Dak didn’t look great in game one against Tampa Bay, completing just 48 percent of his passes for 134 yards and an interception. That was before he got hurt.
In the two weeks that Rush has been the Cowboys starter, we’ve heard owner Jerry Jones seemingly fan the flames of a potential QB controversy only to walk those comments back. Head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t give much energy to his boss’s thoughts, but everyone knows who runs the Cowboys, and that’s Jones. It almost feels like Jones wants to recreate that Tony Romo magic that happened when he replaced Drew Bledsoe in 2006.
Dallas just paid Dak a king’s ransom to be their franchise QB, so in reality, he isn’t going anywhere. But this situation could turn into a big payday for Rush. We’ve seen average NFL quarterbacks/journeymen get that big contract after just a few games in the spotlight.
Matt Flynn might be the best example of this in the past 10 years, as he had one start in Green Bay during the 2011 season, and that was all it took for Seattle to ink him to a three-year, $19 million contract with $10 million of that guaranteed. (Remember that the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson that year and he beat Flynn for the QB1 job). Sure, that doesn’t sound like a massive QB deal, but for a guy who was making less than $1 million a year and had been a career backup, that’s what you call hitting the jackpot.
It’s looking like that might be the route we’re headed down with Cooper Rush. Prescott is going to miss at least another couple of games, and all Rush needs to do is not look horrible. Let the defense and run game continue to carry the team and make throws when necessary.
If Rush can stay away from playing the hero’s role, he will probably be in line for a nice pay raise after the season. Even if it’s just from Dallas to remain Dak’s backup, a raise is a raise. Rush is making just over $1 million this year and will be a free agent in the offseason. Some team will be willing to triple his salary, at the least, if he continues playing well and not losing games for the Cowboys. Sounds like a great gig if you can find it.