Cowboys refuse to draft a QB -- and it's costing them

ARLINGTON, Texas -- At times like this, when we're scrutinizing the Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback, it's easy to wonder why Brandon Weeden is the next man up after Tony Romo.

It's the same reason the Cowboys felt compelled to swap low-round draft picks to acquire Matt Cassel to be Weeden's backup -- at least for now. The only other quarterback on the roster, Kellen Moore, has yet to throw a pass in an NFL game, despite having been in the league for four seasons.

This is the Cowboys' way. They're philosophically opposed to drafting quarterbacks.

What else can you say about an organization that drafts a quarterback about once a decade?

No team has drafted fewer quarterbacks since 1990 than the Cowboys.

Dallas has used just four draft picks on QBs in the past 25 years, and one of those, Isaiah Stanback, was switched to receiver when he arrived in Dallas in 2007.

The true QBs the Cowboys have drafted since 1990: Bill Musgrave (fourth round) in 1991, Quincy Carter (second round) in 2001 and Stephen McGee (fourth round) in 2009.

In the same period, Green Bay has drafted 15 quarterbacks, and 17 other teams have drafted at least 10.

"Once you got a good one like Troy (Aikman) or Tony (Romo), you feel like you want a veteran guy behind them like a Cassel or like a Weeden," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "We didn't feel the pressure to add a young one.

"I won't necessarily say we've been right, but for whatever the reason we just haven't pulled the trigger because we felt there were bigger needs."

Actually, the Cowboys' reluctance to draft quarterbacks goes back to a time before the rookie wage scale was adopted in 2011.

They took Troy Aikman with the first pick of the 1989 draft. When Aikman became a star, the Cowboys wanted a veteran backup like Bernie Kosar, Rodney Peete, Steve Beuerlein or Wade Wilson who could still win games, if needed, with a roster littered with Pro Bowl players.

Before the rookie wage scale, owner Jerry Jones had no desire to invest tens of millions of dollars in a player who might not be worth the money, so he used free agency and trades to find quarterbacks because the price wasn't nearly as prohibitive.

When Aikman retired after the 1999 season, Jones tried several non-traditional ways to find a quarterback. He offered Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson, a couple of good college quarterbacks who failed at Major League Baseball, millions to sign with the Cowboys.

Neither worked out.

Undrafted free agents Anthony Wright and Clint Stoerner started for the Cowboys at various times, as did veterans Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf.

Jones, desperate for a quarterback in 2001, reached for Carter in the second round, but he couldn't handle Bill Parcells' strong personality, and the Cowboys cut him in training camp in 2003, a year after he led the team to the playoffs.

McGee is the only quarterback the Cowboys have drafted since Romo became the starter. A dual-threat quarterback with a strong arm at Texas A&M, McGee played in three games and threw just 82 passes before the Cowboys released him. He never played for another NFL team.

Of the 32 quarterbacks starting in the league, 27 were taken in the first three rounds of the draft, including 19 in the first round. New England's Tom Brady, Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor, Washington's Kirk Cousins and the New York Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick are the only starters selected after the fourth round. Romo, who's on the injured reserve/designated to return list with a fractured collarbone and could return in seven weeks, is the only undrafted free agent.

If the Cowboys want to draft a backup capable of playing at high level, they probably need to draft him in the first three rounds.

"I don't know that you want to make that complete blanket statement," coach Jason Garrett said, "but if you look at who's starting in the league, that's where they come from.

"A lot of teams in the league have taken shots at guys later in the draft and sometimes they have materialized to be starters -- the best example would be Brady -- and then you have a guy like Romo, who is a college free agent."

When a team has a quarterback such as Romo, they don't want to spend a premium draft pick on a player who's probably going to spend his first three or four seasons wearing a baseball cap on the sideline holding a clipboard.

And no team wants to spend four seasons developing a quarterback and have him leave as a free agent, which is what Taylor did. He signed a three-year contract with Buffalo after being drafted by the Ravens in 2011.

The Cowboys signed Weeden, a first-round pick in 2012, to a two-year deal in March 2014 after Cleveland released him.

"Do you want to make that investment? That's what you have to ask yourself," college and pro scouting director Will McClay said.

"If it's clean and it's right, you think about it. But we've been picking down in the draft where the good ones are gone."

Actually, the Cowboys have opted to spend their draft choices on players designed to help them win games now.

"You're always looking for right guy," Stephen Jones said, "and if the right guy is not there by the time you're willing to draft one in the third or fourth round, you tend to put it off."

And that's how Weeden ended up being the quarterback of America's Team.