The last time the Cowboys discussed Josh McCown in detail, they thought they needed a veteran backup quarterback for Tony Romo and were considering a trade with Cleveland in training camp.
Dak Prescott changed everything for Dallas, stepping in when Romo joined backup Kellen Moore among the injured and becoming the second rookie in NFL history to win six of his first seven starts.
No. 8 is Sunday at the winless Browns, who ended up needing McCown and four others after Robert Griffin III’s broken left shoulder triggered a series of injuries.
“That’s something I guess I’ll do after the season,” Prescott said when asked if he stops to think how much things have changed in four months. “I felt like I could be the starter at some point or another in this league and for this organization. It just happened sooner than I think we all expected.”
The Cowboys (6-1) are in the process of delaying their quarterback question, easing Romo back into practice because they can thanks to the surprising success of Prescott. Dallas has a two-game lead in the NFC East.
It was a more immediate concern for the Browns (0-8).
Rookie Cody Kessler, whose first chance came when McCown broke his left collarbone the week after Griffin got hurt, missed last week’s 31-28 loss to the New York Jets with a concussion, but was cleared this week.
McCown was solid against the Jets, throwing for 341 yards and two touchdowns. And the 37-year-old was great the last time he faced the Cowboys, throwing for 348 yards and four TDs in Chicago’s 45-28 win in 2013.
Coach Hue Jackson said Friday that Kessler will start against the Cowboys.
“It is not difficult at all because we both want to play and we both want to do what is best for the team,” McCown said. “I have said it before, but especially when you are 0-8, you are all for whatever it takes to get us a win.”
It will be Cleveland’s first game since acquiring linebacker Jamie Collins from New England in the most significant deal before the trading deadline. If the fourth-year player was affected by the sudden change in his team’s outlook, he wasn’t showing it.
“I know how to handle situations, and situations occur all the time,” Collins said. “I am up for the challenge, and like I said, I have been there before, so it is really no big deal to me.”
Things to consider as the Cowboys go for their first seven-game winning streak since 2007, and first ever after an opening loss:
BOOST AT RECEIVER: The Browns welcome back rookie first-rounder Corey Coleman, who broke his right hand in practice after catching five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 2 loss to Baltimore. McCown played that entire game despite breaking his collarbone in the first quarter. Coleman was born in Dallas and played for a suburban high school before going to Baylor. “It means a lot,” he said. “They are a really good football team, too, so it means everything.”
SPEAKING OF HOMETOWNS: Dallas coach Jason Garrett spent his formative years in Cleveland, one of many NFL stops in the coaching and scouting career of his dad, Jim Garrett. Former Browns quarterback Brian Sipe was one of his boyhood idols, and he has fond memories of old Municipal Stadium. He also has family in the area. “They were fun times,” Garrett said. “Lifelong friends were made there, and great memories.”
ANOTHER HOMECOMING: Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL’s rushing leader with 799 yards, plays close to his college home of Ohio State for the first time. The 21-year-old is the second-leading rusher there and won a national championship.
FAST FRIENDS: Prescott’s relationship with Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz, built mostly at the combine after both went to the Senior Bowl, was a prominent story line in the Cowboys’ 29-23 overtime win last week. Kessler attended both as well, and says his relationship with Prescott goes back even further, to the Manning camp. “It is going to be exciting to see him out there Sunday,” Kessler said.
SECONDARY SHUFFLE: With Dallas safety Barry Church (broken arm) out several weeks, J.J. Wilcox gets a chance to be a full-time player after his roster spot was in jeopardy at training camp. And rookie Anthony Brown will get more opportunities with cornerback Morris Claiborne sidelined by a groin injury. Claiborne’s latest setback also means a more prominent role for Orlando Scandrick, who had a sack and a pass breakup against the Eagles after missing four games with injuries to both hamstrings.