When a child breaks a toy, first there are tears, and shortly after a parent rushes to replace it. Usually the new toy isn’t nearly as good as the original, but children have a short memory, and before long their gleeful smile returns.
In the second quarter of a Week 7 game against the Giants last season, god’s team lost its favourite toy. Tony Romo, Dallas’ Miss Missouri-marrying quarterback, broke his collarbone after a hit from Michael Boley. In the two weeks that followed Romo’s season-ending injury, the Cowboys added two more losses onto a season that had already started with five defeats in six games.
A coach was fired and the interim–now permanent–replacement brought in a fresh attitude, and suddenly with the season lost the Cowboys were winning, or at least winning a few games to restore respectability. During this magical transformation, a veteran backup quarterback did the job that’s expected of a veteran backup quarterback, and provided steady leadership. Jon Kitna was efficient in his nine starts, winning four games after Romo’s injury and passing for 300 or more yards four times.
But to suggest he should be given a chance to compete for the starting job in Dallas is foolish, even if the idea is just coming from a backup. Martellus Bennett, a third-year tight end for the Cowboys out of Texas A&M, told ESPN radio that he wouldn’t mind seeing an open QB competition.
“Kitna is one of my favourite people to play with. Just being out there on the field with that guy just makes you play even harder. He made some things happen in limited time, so I think if he got a longer chance, he’d be able to do more. I hope there’s a chance for a quarterback competition this year. Every position, I think we need to put more competition into it.”
We could easily shrug off the suggestion of more training camp competition as a ploy by a backup for playing time. But Bennett isn’t the first to make this suggestion. As ESPN’s Tim McMahon noted, veteran wide receiver Roy Williams said Kitna is “just as good” the night Romo was injured, an opinion he repeated later on in the season.
Asking Kitna to become a regular starter again is a consequence of a short-term memory, forgetting what he’s done to become a 38-year-old backup. Kitna’s yardage totals were impressive while he was under centre in 2010, and he showed surprising mobility. But piling up yardage on a team that was constantly fighting from behind and gave up an average of 30 points per game during Kitna’s starts isn’t a steep challenge. Kitna showed steady leadership–again, an expected intangible of a backup quarterback–but still reverted to the poor decision making he showed in Detroit.
Over his last two seasons as a starter for the Lions in 2006 and 2007, Kitna threw 39 touchdowns and 42 interceptions. Despite his yardage numbers this season in Dallas, that poor touchdown/interception ratio didn’t improve much, with Kitna throwing 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. By comparison, Romo threw 26 TDs and only nine interceptions during his last full season.
Romo is eight years younger than Kitna, and still has three years remaining on his six-year, $67.4 million deal, a contract that makes it clear he’s the franchise arm. He has to re-establish himself after four losses to start the season prior to his injury, but Romo isn’t going anywhere.
Bennett saw his favourite toy tumble down a flight of stairs, and he forgets just how much fun it was to play with.