NFL

When Was the Last Time the Dallas Cowboys Started 4 Different Quarterbacks in a Season?

The 2020 NFL season certainly hasn’t gone how the Dallas Cowboys would have liked. Most expected the Cowboys to win the NFC East but they’re currently sitting in third place in what could turn out to be the worst division in NFL history. Dallas is 2-6 overall and has lost all four games away from AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys are on a three-game losing streak and things don’t look to get much better this weekend as they host the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon.

While the defense is still the biggest problem, the Dallas Cowboys have struggled to put points on the board since Dak Prescott suffered that nasty ankle injury in Week 5 against the New York Giants. They’ve scored just 22 points over the last three games and with Prescott and backup Andy Dalton both on the shelf, Mike McCarthy was forced to start third-string rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci, which obviously didn’t go like he’d hoped as he’s now benched DiNucci and will start either Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush.

So that’ll be four different starting quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. Sunday will mark just the third time in franchise history that the team has started four different quarterbacks in a single season and the last time wasn’t that long ago.

The Dallas Cowboys are set to start their fourth different quarterback in five weeks

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So how did the Dallas Cowboys get here?

Well, we all saw what happened to Dak Prescott against the Giants. He caught an unlucky break (literally) as his foot got caught in the turf while being tackled by Logan Ryan and will miss the remainder of the season.

Andy Dalton, who stepped in and led the Cowboys to victory over the Giants when Dak went down, started the next two games but suffered a concussion in Dallas’ Week 7 loss to Washington after taking a dirty hit from linebacker Jon Bostic.

With Dalton out, seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci got his first NFL start this past Sunday against the Eagles and struggled, completing just 21 of 40 passes (eight of those completions were behind the line of scrimmage) for 180 yards. He also fumbled twice, which led Jerry Jones to say that the moment was just too big for him.

Mike McCarthy says that he’s looking for a little more experience when the Cowboys play the Steelers on Sunday. So he’s benching DiNucci and will start either Cooper Rush or Garrett Gilbert. And how is that more experience? Sure, they’ve been in the league a little longer but the two have combined to throw nine NFL passes. No, that’s not a joke. Nine. But that’s the 2020 Dallas Cowboys for you.

So when was the last time the Cowboys started four quarterbacks in a single season?

The Dallas Cowboys last started four quarterbacks during the 2015 season

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One doesn’t have to go back very far to find the last time the Dallas Cowboys started four quarterbacks in a single season. Prior to 2020, the last time Dallas had four different signal-callers was the 2015 season, the year before Dak Prescott came to town. The Cowboys went 4-12 that season, the team’s worst record since a 1-15 finish in Troy Aikman’s rookie year of 1989.

In his final season as QB1, Tony Romo started the first two games for the Cowboys in 2015 but suffered a broken clavicle in a Week 2 victory over the Eagles. Brandon Weeden started the next three games, all losses, and was then benched for Matt Cassel, who was acquired from the Bills following Romo’s injury. Cassel started the next four games and the Cowboys lost all of those as well.

Romo returned in Week 11 to lead Dallas to a win over the Dolphins and started the next game as well, a Thanksgiving Day loss to the undefeated Panthers in which he reinjured his collarbone. With Romo back on the shelf, Cassel started the next three games, going 1-2, but was benched for current Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who started the final two games and went 0-2.

The only other time it happened was in 2001

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys helmet | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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The first season in which the Dallas Cowboys started four different quarterbacks was in 2001, the first campaign following Troy Aikman’s retirement.

Rookie Quincy Carter started eight games and went 3-5. Second-year quarterback Anthony Wright started three games and posted a 1-2 record. Former No. 2 overall pick Ryan Leaf also started three games and went winless in what proved to be his final NFL season. Clint Stoerner, also in his second season, went 1-1 in his two starts.

The Dallas Cowboys finished the 2001 season with a 5-11 record. The 2020 Cowboys will be lucky to get to five wins with the way things are going.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference