Ben DiNucci’s time as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys has lasted for one week. The team has decided not to start the rookie quarterback for their Week 9 home game with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and instead will choose between third-stringer Garrett Gilbert and practice-squad QB Cooper Rush.
Dallas had hoped to go back to Andy Dalton, who missed last Sunday night’s contest with the Eagles due to a concussion, but he was moved to the COVID-19 reserve list. Dalton was not asymptomatic of the virus and must return several consecutive negative tests to suit up again, so he’ll miss his second straight game.
DiNucci was uninspiring but courageous against Philadelphia. He completed 21-of-40 passes for just 180 yards and lost two fumbles in the 23-9 defeat, as Dallas failed to score a touchdown for the second straight week. Even Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was critical of the rookie in a radio interview on Tuesday, which all but spelled the end of the short-term experiment.
“I think that it was a lot for him. I think we certainly, as a team, paid the price to have him come in and under those circumstances. And that’s almost trite. It was frankly more than he could handle,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan.
Gilbert signed with the team on October 12, having entered the league in 2014 as a sixth-round draft pick of the then-St. Louis Rams. Gilbert bounced to the New England Patriots during his rookie campaign, where he earned a Super Bowl ring as a member of their practice squad.
Gilbert would eventually land with the AAF’s Orlando Apollos, drafted in November 2018. He started the Apollos’ first-ever game and won Offensive Player of the Week with a 393-yard, two-touchdown effort in Orlando’s second contest. Gilbert led the AAF in passing yards, completions, and passer rating and ranked second in TD passes when the league shut down in April 2019.
Rush has been Dak Prescott’s backup for three seasons after joining the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He appeared in one game that season and has bounced back and forth between the main roster and practice squad, as well as the Giants when Jason Garrett went there to become the offensive coordinator.
Making History, In a Bad Way
This will be the first time since 2015 that the Cowboys have started four different quarterbacks in the same season. That year, Dallas finished 4-12, using Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore, the current offensive coordinator.
Current Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy used four in 2013 but finished 8-7-1 and made the playoffs. Two of them were Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace, who are on the Dallas staff now.
The Cowboys enter Sunday’s game as 13.5-point home underdogs to the Steelers, the biggest spread of the weekend card. Dallas has yet to cover a single spread this year, becoming only the third team since 1970 to start a season 0-8 ATS.