Garrett Gilbert’s Road to Starting for the Dallas Cowboysby Logan Lockhart November 11, 2020 0 comments
On November 20th 1982, Gale Gilbert quarterbacked the California Golden Bears to one of the most memorable wins in the history of college football. It was an improbable finish against the Bears’ rival, Stanford. 38 years later Gale’s son, Garrett, had the chance to pull off an incredible finish of his own in his first career NFL start.
29-year-old Cowboys quarterback Garrett Gilbert made his first start last Sunday against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. Though he did not lead the woeful Dallas team to a win, his final drive reminded many of his father’s famous moment almost four decades earlier.
Draft Day for Gilbert
The road to being named the Cowboys starter ahead of the team’s Week 9 clash with Pittsburgh was a long one for the native of Buffalo, NY. Gilbert was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft by the then St. Louis Rams, and has been on seven NFL teams since. He had only appeared in games for three of those squads, and spent the spring of 2019 playing for the Orlando Apollos in the now deceased Alliance of American Football (AAF). Despite getting the start due to injuries to both Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton, Gilbert took the opportunity and embraced it on Sunday.
“It’s been a long journey to get here,” said Gilbert in his post-game presser after the Cowboys 24-19 loss in Arlington. “It makes it even tougher to swallow just not being able to finish that one off and get a victory in my first one.”
The Fourth Stringer
Prior to last Sunday, Gilbert had seen action with both the Panthers and the Browns. In a total of six appearances, he had only completed two passes. With his label of “fourth-stringer” in Dallas, it was remarkable for the quarterback to lead the Cowboys to a competitive game against Pittsburgh’s resilient defense. For a player who has spent most of his NFL career on practice squads, walking into the role he was given under the circumstances in Dallas would have been difficult. This has been a season to forget for Cowboy faithful. However, the son of Gale led Dallas to a memorable game, despite the loss.
The Cowboys’ signal-caller was an AAF standout in 2019, throwing for over 2,000 yards in eight starts for Orlando. Much like current Panthers backup quarterback P.J. Walker in the XFL, Gilbert was considered an MVP frontrunner in the short-lived league. Both the AAF and XFL provided the opportunity for players to rejuvenate their careers. For Walker, it landed him a backup role behind Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina. But for Gilbert, it appeared to only stagnate his career, until last Sunday. The 29-year old is not the answer for any team, however another chance to start a game has been deserved. If Dalton is cleared from his injury to start for the Cowboys in their next game at Minnesota, Gilbert will likely be lurking behind him on the depth chart.
Something to Build on
For the first three quarters of the game, it appeared as though Gilbert was going to lead Dallas to one of the great upset wins of the 2020 NFL season. With the 29-year-old under center, the Cowboys showed signs of life for the first time in four weeks. Head coach Mike McCarthy has recently preached to his team that they simply improve game by game, and that improvement was evident with Gilbert at the helm. It has not been since the early going of the season that the Cowboys had something to build on. As the team enters its bye week, there is finally some much-needed encouragement.
Gilbert threw for 243 yards and one touchdown against the first-place Steelers, a 32-yard completion to Amari Cooper in the first quarter that sparked some life for the now 2-7 Dallas squad. The former Texas Longhorn was not spectacular, but in the context of the 2020 Cowboys season it was a performance that can be used for the team to keep pushing through the difficult campaign.