His coach sees a potential incarnation of former Pro Bowler Marc Bulger, which in itself is a stretch. And his boss likened DiNucci to franchise legend Tony Romo, which is … something else.
“(McCarthy) said he’s a baller. He’s very athletic. Certainly no one is saying he is, but if you remember, Tony Romo was a college free agent,” Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones said Friday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, per The Athletic. “(Ben) has some of those type of tools, instinctive and seems to make plays.”
DiNucci, a James Madison product, and Romo, who played collegiately at Eastern Illinois, both hail from small, non-descript programs. They both stand 6-foot-2. They’re both heady players. They both can say they’ve donned the star.
That’s where any similarities end.
Unlike DiNucci, Romo was a true gunslinger with a lightning-quick release and magical improvisational ability inside the pocket, a sixth sense that carried over to his post-retirement gig as CBS Sports’ top color commentator. He made four Pro Bowls, led the NFL in passer rating (2014), and accrued more than 34,000 air yards over a sparkling 14-year career that cemented him among the greatest signal-callers in Cowboys lore.
DiNucci, suffice to say, has a ways to go. The one-time Pitt passer finished his JMU tenure with 5,716 yards, 46 TDs, and 18 interceptions across 29 games. He saved his best for last, completing 70-percent of his attempts in 2019 for 3,441 yards, 29 scores, and only six picks, earning AFCA First Team All-American honors.
Although accurate and capable of using his legs, DiNucci’s physical limitations cap his upside as a No. 3 QB at the professional level. Such is the reason he nearly went undrafted and probably would have if McCarthy’s brother wasn’t DiNucci’s eighth-grade basketball coach.
McCarthy, though, genuinely liked what he saw on tape, enough to draw a comparison between DiNucci and the ex-Rams starter.
“He’s very accurate,” McCarthy in his post-draft conference call, via The Athletic. “He reminds me of a young Marc Bulger.”
But not enough to station him behind Dak. The Cowboys tapped Andy Dalton for that role, signing him shortly after the draft — an indictment on DiNucci’s short-term prospects.
With Cooper Rush no longer in the building, DiNucci will absorb the entirety of third-string “reps” during the club’s virtual offseason program and, if applicable, training camp. Then Dallas assuredly will waive DiNucci around final cuts and attempt to bring him back to the taxi squad, where he’ll continue his development, barring the unforeseen.
In other words, there’s zero guarantee DiNucci will pan out in the slightest, let alone succeed Dalton as Prescott’s understudy.
The Romo dot-connecting? Take it with an industrial-size grain of salt. It’s completely quixotic, even for the Cowboys’ standards.
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