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Cowboys QB Cooper Rush looks to make history against Giants with career 3-0 as a starter

Thrust into a starting role for the second straight year, the Cowboys backup quarterback has shown uncommon poise.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush (10) walks off the the field following an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

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It is moments after the clock strikes 10 on a Sunday night. Everything is pretty normal. He's just standing there like he always is. Watching.

Somewhere off to his left, a guy hurts his hand.

And his pulse quickens.

"The heart rate goes up, and bam you're in there," Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush said. "Obviously, that situation's a little different than usual, on the run in the middle of a two-minute drive. Never done that one before."

Such is life for an NFL backup quarterback. But unlike most backup quarterbacks, the Cowboys sixth year man is remarkably poised. Even in the aftermath of leading his team to a surprising win over the defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals, he had to be cajoled into cracking a smile in the postgame press conference.

RELATED: Last-second field goal lifts Cowboys, Rush to 20-17 win over Bengals

"Are you happy?" he was asked.

Rush laughed. He broke for the merest of moments.

"Oh yeah. Definitely. Winning NFL games is a lot of fun," he said. 

And that was pretty much it. Those few moments of a smile. And he was right back to stoic, even-keeled Cooper Rush.   

And perhaps that's why, unlike most backup quarterbacks, Rush wins. 

"Both games I've played, the defense has played really, really well. They've been team wins," Rush said. "Offense has come through late. Feels good. Now you just want to make it 3-0." 

He is 2-0 as a starter to begin his NFL career. On Monday night in New Jersey, he has an opportunity to join a shockingly short list of Cowboys quarterbacks to begin their career 3-0 as a starter.  

Roger Staubach did it. Because of course he did. He won his first three starts over the course of 1969 and '70. Steve Beuerlein went 4-0 as Troy Aikman's backup in 1991. And Jason Garrett went 3-0, in a trio of starts spread out over 1993, '94, and '98, replacing Aikman. 

And that's it. That's the list.  

Aikman didn't start 3-0 of course -- the Cowboys were 1-15 his rookie year. Tony Romo didn't do it. Don Meredith didn't do it. Craig Morton didn't do it. Dak Prescott didn't do it (although he did go a rather salty 12-0, after losing his first start against the New York Giants). 

Danny White, Eddie LaBaron, Steve Pelleur, Quincy Carter and Vinny Testaverde -- on and on and on. No, no, no, no and no.

Rush could expand the list to four on Monday night. 

And if he does, perhaps owner and general manager Jerry Jones will get his tongue-in-cheek wish for a quarterback 'dilemma' between Rush and Prescott. 

But Rush knows, just like anyone with a pulse should, that this job belongs to Prescott once he's healthy, regardless of any headline-making bluster from the owner. 

"Yeah, you know, we just want to win games. However long I'm in there, we just keep stacking them up," he said. "Whenever Dak comes back, whether it's 3-1, 4-1, 5-1, that's the goal."

It is his poise that allows him to enter a game under such adverse circumstances and succeed. He's not likely to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns. But he is likely to make smart decisions, keep the football safe for your team, and give your defense a chance to win the game. 

"I think you're able to be poised and calm in those situations if -- it really depends on if you know your stuff," he said. "If you're not prepared, and you don't know what's going on, you kinda [sic] don't give yourself a chance." 

So now, Rush takes that poise into the hustle and bustle of New York. A divisional game for the first time in his career. With significant stakes, a Cowboys loss would drop them two games behind the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East. 

Who knows how long he'll be in there after Monday. At first, the estimates were 6-8 weeks. Then, Jones said it might be four weeks. Then, even further optimism from Jones led to hopes that Prescott could be out for only a couple weeks.

RELATED: Cowboys' Jerry Jones 'optimistic' QB Dak Prescott could return in two weeks 

How long does Rush expect to start? 

"I don't know, knowing that guy, knowing Dak, he'll be back sooner than later. What he plays through, and how he recovers, how he works, it's incredible. I've seen it before, and I know how it operates. But as long as I'm in there, the goal is to keep playing ball, keep playing at a high level, trust in the guys around you, trust the defense, and do your job." 

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