OXNARD, Calif. -- In a perfect world, Brandon Weeden's only start of the season will be Thursday against the San Diego Chargers, but the NFL is hardly a perfect world and Tony Romo's surgically-repaired back is hardly perfect.
The Cowboys have not officially ruled out Romo, but he has said he will likely not play, which will give Weeden the start.
“We want Tony to play all 16 games but if I’m thrown into the fire these are the guys I’m going to be communicating with and relying on both ways to get the job done,” Weeden said. “This is exciting but at the same time it’s important for me. I want to go out and play well and put together as many drives as we are out there and put together some successful drives.”
Weeden started 20 games in two years for the Cleveland Browns and made his last start against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13 last December. The Browns released him in March, and the Cowboys signed him five days later with the idea he could be their No. 3 quarterback in 2014 and possibly the backup in 2015.
The timetable was fast-forwarded when the Cowboys decided to cut Kyle Orton before camp after the veteran’s offseason-long absence. Weeden’s performance in the spring with the first team as Romo sat out helped make the Orton decision easier for the Cowboys.
With Romo practicing two days in a row and sitting a third, Weeden has continued to take first-team snaps.
“Basically it’s a chance to sit back and watch (Romo) run the offense and then every third day he’s the one there actually doing it,” quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson sad. “It’s been a good experience for him.”
The expectations for Thursday are not gargantuan. The coaches want to see Weeden take command of the offense, get the team into the correct run or pass calls, and stay away from turnovers.
“I’m not worried about numbers,” Weeden said. “I’m not worried about any of that stuff. Just go out and function and communicate. Sometimes when you get jacked up, it’s hard. Sometimes you get a little spastic and you don’t communicate well enough. That’s going to be my main focus.”
Weeden is learning his third offense from his third different offensive coordinator in as many years. The Browns ran the West Coast scheme his rookie year. They ran a similar offense to what the Cowboys use last year with Norv Turner. Cowboys passing game coordinator Scott Linehan has added some alterations to that scheme.
He’s had a real solid camp,” Wilson said. “To me the best thing that he’s done is the no-huddle code word stuff. It’s similar to what he did in college. He’s adapting to the new system he’s here with now, but the hardest part for him is calling the play, the verbiage. A lot of that is new words and just getting the play called, there’s a lot of verbiage. But he’s very confident in what he’s doing. He’s throwing the ball extremely well. I’ve been very impressed.”
Since joining the Cowboys’ coaching staff in 2007, Jason Garrett has had a veteran backup to Romo. Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl and had 122 career starts before he joined the Cowboys in 2007. Jon Kitna had 115 career starts before he came to the Cowboys in 2009. Orton had 69 starts.
Weeden has just 20 starts. He will be the Cowboys’ most inexperienced backup since Romo held the job in 2006 behind Drew Bledsoe. Up to that point Romo had yet to throw a pass in an NFL game.
“Him coming into this offense for the first time this year and him being where he is in his career, he just needs to take snaps,” Garrett said, “and we got to give him a chance to do that.”
The Cowboys’ hope, however, is that it’s just a chance they don’t have to take in the regular season.