GOLDEN: COWBOYS’ MCGEE KNOWS ROLE
Mcgee is doing his best to become Romo’s No. 2 as quickly as possible
SAN ANTONIO — Stephen McGee finished his wind sprints, then went back to his favorite hobby: throwing the football.
The target was wideout Jesse Holley, who was standing 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage, on the left sideline. McGee took a seven-step drop and delivered a crisp pass. Right on target.
“That was much better,’’ came a voice from five yards away. “Good due respect to linebacker DeMarcus Ware, starting quarterback Tony Romo is the most important player wearing a Cowboys uniform these days, and he is one of those players who would be next to impossible to replace if he got hurt.
But if he does wind up on the injured list, the backup quarterback moves way up on the priority list. So does the third stringer. That’s where McGee comes in. Jordan Shipley’s former passing-game partner at Burnet High is out to unseat veteran Jon Kitna as Romo’s backup, a goal that’s easier said than done, given Kitna’s vast edge in experience and his knowledge of NFL defenses. With his second NFL camp under way, McGee is making progress, and while it may not be enough to win the job, he’s still headed in the right direction.
It hasn’t been easy. As the thirdteam quarterback, McGee doesn’t get a lot of practice time at camp, and when he does — to the tune job.”
The owner of those words will pocket $8.5 million in salary this season.
Said owner also carries much of the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl hopes on his right arm. With all
Continued from C1 of a couple of reps every 20 or 30 minutes — he’s going up against the starters of the NFC’s fourth-ranked defense in 2010. Not exactly a Tupperware party with those guys.
“It’s been good for me,’’ McGee said. “I’ve had a lot of challenges out there playing against the first-team defense. I know the looks we get in practice will be as good as any looks we get anywhere, so I’m just trying to stay on top things and take charge in the huddle.”
McGee believes his second NFL training camp is off to a better start than the first because his knee is healthy this year, and the experience of a training camp is not new to him. He relishes the time he’s spending after practice with Romo and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, as well.
Romo has been instructing McGee on technical issues, such as the correct positioning and balance when dropping back to pass. Garrett has been all about the same things, while preaching the importance of the correct reads in game situations.
“The maturity level of these young quarterbacks is important,’’ Garrett said. “A big part of it is decisionmaking, and that’s what to do when things are clean, and also what to do when things are not so clean. Sometimes young quarterbacks think they have to make a big play on every single play when the smartest thing to do is throw the ball away.”
McGee is taking those lessons to heart. After another solid throw to Holley, Romo gave another nod of approval, followed by some encouragement from Garrett, and for a young quarterback with no guarantee of having a job this fall, positive words are worth a million bucks. McGee may be low in the QB pecking order, but he’s starting to sound like a starting quarterback when discussing his job description.
“We’re not always going to win the play,’’ he said, “but if I get the ball where it’s supposed to be, and I react right and don’t turn the ball over, that’s a good play for me.
“There may be people on the outside saying that was a bad play by McGee, but in truth, it’s a good play.”
While McGee is still figuring out the intricacies of the position, the 37-year-old Kitna has the market cornered on experience with 13 NFL seasons in his rearview mirror.
He hasn’t been particularly sharp at the start of camp, missing Thursday on several throws that a polished NFL quarterback would make with ease. That’s not a huge deal at this point because this is the time of the year when veterans are ironing out the kinks, but it’s not an understatement to say Kitna’s best playing days are behind him.
McGee could close the gap between second-team and third-team quarterback with a strong showing over the next few weeks.
Coach Wade Phillips said his sophomore has “done some good things” over the last week, including Wednesday morning’s first practice where he took the majority of the snaps, even though he reportedly airmailed a handful of throws during the workout.
Kitna probably isn’t looking over his shoulder at this point, but we all know that a backup quarterback keeps his suitcase packed. He won’t go as far as to say it, but McGee has plenty of confidence, as well he should. Who knows if he’s ready to be Romo’s backup? And for those with short memories: Who knew a few years back that Romo would take Drew Bledsoe’s job?
“I’m just learning every day and trying to get better,” he said. “That decision is out of my hands. My job right now is to show improvement every week.”
You have to start somewhere. The former Texas A&M Aggie has started. Where he finishes remains to be seen.
Dallas third-string quarterback Stephen McGee practices on Wednesday. McGee is catching the attention of starter Tony Romo, whose primary backup is still veteran Jon Kitna. McGee might not take over for Kitna tomorrow, but the former Texas A&M Aggie appears to be headed in the right direction.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) and backup quarterback Stephen McGee, left, prepare to pass during drills in a morning practice at training camp on Sunday.