Cowboys Hint at Cutting QB Who Mike McCarthy Blasted After Loss

Cowboys QBs Ben DiNucci, Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush

Getty Cowboys QBs Ben DiNucci, Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush

Ben DiNucci’s time as a Dallas Cowboy could be winding to a merciful end.

Even before his disastrous showing in Saturday’s preseason loss to the Houston Texans, the second-year signal-caller appeared primed for a pink slip, with Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones failing to acknowledge DiNucci in a conversation about the ongoing backup battle that includes Garrett Gilbert and Cooper Rush.

“I think Gilbert and Cooper have got to continue to work, and they’re fighting for that Number Two spot,” Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan, via Todd Brock of USA TODAY. “Obviously, Gilbert’s got a little advantage there, but they’re obviously working to hold on to that role there.”

A day later, the former seventh-round draft pick was a dollar short. He actually was a few dollars short, figuratively speaking. DiNucci completed 14-of-19 passes for 120 scoreless yards and three interceptions — he also took two sacks — amid Dallas’ 20-14 loss to Houston, its third-consecutive exhibition defeat.

Not unlike his lone spot start as a rookie, DiNucci’s turnovers proved the difference in a close affair. And not unlike last year, he was rightly criticized for his careless play. This time, by the strongest ally in his corner.

The teacher’s pet project has become the worm in his apple.

“I’m sick about the turnovers. … We’ve talked about it and I’m sure you’ll be talking about: You can’t win that way,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy espoused to reporters after the game, via Jori Epstein of USA TODAY. “You’ve got to take care of the damn football and we didn’t do that tonight.”

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Calls for DiNucci’s Release Intensify

There are many a fan within Cowboys Nation who want (and have wanted) the club to pull the plug on the DiNucci experiment, which at this point is veering toward abject failure. There are some in the media who wholeheartedly agree.

“Don’t know if the Cowboys are viewing Cooper Rush as their backup, but Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci took themselves out of the running tonight,” tweeted ex-Cowboys QB Babe Laufenberg.

“Cowboys probably need to move on from Ben DiNucci and let Rush and Gilbert battle it out for No. 2,” tweeted beat reporter Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News.

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Evaluation Still Ongoing?

In fairness to DiNucci, he wasn’t the lone Cowboys passer to stink up AT&T Stadium. Gilbert — the widely-held favorite to back up Dak Prescott in 2021 — also failed to generate much productivity, completing just 3-of-5 passes for 30 yards.

Believe it or not, the club’s best performer under center was Rush, who connected on a pair of TD passes and logged a sterling 139.9 rating against Houston’s second- and third-string defense.

McCarthy left open the possibility, in light of the above stat lines, that his QB2 decision could wait until after Dallas’ preseason finale versus Jacksonville on Aug. 29.

“We have one more week and we’re going to need it,” he said, per Watkins.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL