5 Dallas Cowboys
Team Page | Schedule | Depth chart | 2000 Stats
With a rookie under center, things will get worse before they get
By Josh Elliott
Jerry Jones leaned back in a folding chair at the Cowboys' Oxnard, Calif., practice site in mid-August, chewing on a request that seemed simple enough: Characterize your decision to cut projected starting quarterback Tony Banks three weeks before Dallas's regular-season opener. After several aborted attempts at an answer -- and nearly tipping his chair over once while deliberating -- the Cowboys' owner and general manager spoke slowly. "It was ... a move we thought ... well, would be considered ... bold and aggressive," he said. "We knew we'd create debate, but I firmly believe that to succeed, you must take unconventional actions, ones that seem to go against sound decision-making." He then apologized for all of the hemming and hawing, saying he had wanted to choose his words carefully.
Somewhere, thousands of Dallas faithful wail in unison: If only he'd taken such
care in choosing a new quarterback to begin with. In an off-season during which
the Cowboys' primary mission was to find a replacement for three-time
Even grimmer news for Cowboys fans: The offense will be expected to carry the team this fall. Last year the Dallas defense ranked last in the NFL against the run and had only 25 sacks. Three of that unit's best players -- tackles Chad Hennings and Leon Lett and end Alonzo Spellman -- are gone. The Cowboys' attempts to stop opponents this fall will be recognizable only to fans of NFL teams based in Ohio.
That puts a considerable burden on the hardworking, soft-spoken Carter, who's as game as he is overmatched. Carter looked competent in camp, and he will be asked to make safe, short passes in offensive coordinator Jack Reilly's ball-control offense. But he didn't inspire much confidence in his first exhibition game as the starter, completing three of 12 passes for five yards and having an interception returned 19 yards for a touchdown. "Quincy needs this experience," says Jones. "I think the doubts of our veterans will be offset by the promise of the future." Carter's cause won't be helped by the fact that his two starting wideouts, Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail, are returning from major knee injuries suffered last season.
Nevertheless, Carter is upbeat. "I feel good about this situation," he says, "especially with Emmitt [Smith] lined up behind me." In truth Carter's promotion most likely scuttles any chance Smith had of gaining 1,560 yards this season and breaking Walter Payton's career rushing record of 16,726 yards. Opponents will stuff eight defenders into the box and force Carter to beat them as a passer. Ever the good soldier, Smith seems at ease with that prospect. "In a perfect world I'd break the record, and Troy and Jay [Novacek] and Michael [Irvin] and Daryl Johnston would still be here," he says. "But this isn't a perfect world. Quincy will benefit from this, and I'll do all I can to help him."
Whatever his shortcomings, Banks could have helped nurture Carter along too. But the five-year veteran -- who Jones and coach Dave Campo had stated was their starter from the day of his signing -- inspired nothing but frustration among management and teammates with his questionable off-season work habits, such as missing voluntary throwing sessions with Galloway and Ismail because he was too busy overseeing his relocation to Dallas. Cowboys players didn't openly criticize Banks in the wake of his departure, nor did they say they longed for his return. "You earn the position, so I look at it as though we never had a new starting quarterback," says Smith. "With Troy, our starter was a 365-days-a-year guy who was always prepared because of his work with Michael and Jay. That's what we need at that position."
Though Banks wasn't the man for the job and has since found a home with the Redskins, he made sure to burn any bridges in Dallas by lambasting his release, saying he'd only wanted "a fair shake" and that he "just wasn't one of Jerry's guys."
Trust us, Tony: By season's end, not being one of Jerry's guys will seem like an awfully good thing.
Issue date: September 3, 2001