Can Dallas Cowboys’ third-string option Ben DiNucci capture some “Romo” magic?
It has been almost fifty days since the start of the 2020 NFL season. Fifty days ago, hope and excitement were at their highest for Dallas Cowboys fans. As the calendar turns to November, however, the season cannot finish fast enough.
Sitting at 2-5 and just a half-game out of first place, the Dallas Cowboys play Sunday night against their bitter rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles. With a win over the Eagles, Dallas would make a pathetic divisional race even more of a laughingstock.
Whoever wins the NFC East will likely do so with no more than seven wins and get the brakes beaten off of them come playoff time. If you happen to reside in the camp of wanting the Dallas Cowboys to be that team, Sunday is your shot to start that process.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, much like the offensive line, the quarterback position is managing an unusually high number of injuries. Starter Dak Prescott was lost for the season against the Giants while backup Andy Dalton will miss this game due to a concussion sustained last week against Washington.
In their place walks rookie Ben DiNucci, affectionately already known as “The Nooch.” For those who are not in the know about the Nooch, don’t feel so bad. The lowly-touted quarterback was drafted in the seventh round by the Dallas Cowboys out of James Madison University.
DiNucci transferred to JMU after two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh where he struggled. At James Madison, however, DiNucci became a draft prospect by totaling over 5,700 passing yards with 45 touchdowns and 18 interceptions while completing almost 70% of his passes over two seasons. He finished his two-year career there with an overall record of 23-6.
From small school to America’s Team on Sunday Night Football
Now in the NFL, DiNucci hopes to emulate another small school “nobody” who took his opportunity with the Dallas Cowboys to become a franchise legend. There are some similarities to the situation is in with how Tony Romo rose to superstardom in Big D.
While Romo was not a rookie in 2006, his first career start did come on the road, on Sunday Night Football against an NFC opponent. Romo, himself, was undrafted, coming from a small school in Eastern Illinois where he had success as the big fish in a small pond.
Romo also got his start for Dallas when they were underperforming expectations. Back in 2006, the Cowboys were sitting at 3-3 looking a lost season squarely in the face. Thanks to Romo, the season was rescued as Dallas finished 9-7 and made the playoffs.
Can Ben DiNucci emulate some of that “Romo magic” and save the 2020 season? While anything is possible, it is highly unlikely.
The biggest difference between Romo’s situation and DiNucci’s is that the rest of the team around was not a train wreck for Romo. Yes, it was a rudderless ship, but it was a ship nonetheless. The 2020 version of the Dallas Cowboys is barely a dingy.
DiNucci will be taking snaps behind protection provided by a rookie center, an undrafted rookie at right tackle, a journeyman at left tackle, and an underperforming guard. Only returning starter Zack Martin, one of the game’s best guards, is a pillar to lean upon.
Even if DiNucci is able to put some points on the board, a feat this team could barely manage last week, they likely won’t be enough as the defense is a dumpster fire. Last week, Dallas did finally break their five-game streak of giving up 34+ points last week, they still gave up 25 (who basically stopped trying to score most of the fourth quarter to Washington.
Prior to that, Washington cracked 20 (exactly) just once all season. The Cowboys, once again, made an opposing running back look like Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders as rookie Antonio Gibson put up a buck twenty-eight. Previously, D’Ernest Johnson of the Browns (13 carries, 95 yards) and Kenyan Drake of the Cardinals (20 carries, 164 yards) had career days against this Cowboys “defense.”
Almost fourteen years exactly to the day, DiNucci has an opportunity to revive a team dead in the water. No one would have ever thought back on October 29, 2006, that Tony Romo would be on his way to the most yards and touchdowns in franchise history. The odds are not in his favor with so many holes on this team but Sunday night begins his NFL journey. Hopefully, that number seven jersey has similar magic to what number nine provided for so many years.