Rating Jon Kitna’s Performance as a Backup in 2010
Jon Kitna took over for Tony Romo during the first half of the Cowboys’ week 7 loss to the Giants. Kitna then started nine games, going 4-5 in the process.
The question for the day: Where does Kitna’ performance rank among other backup quarterbacks in team history?
Only two other true backups in team history have had to start as many games as Kitna did in 2010, so it is difficult to rank all of them. One of those QBs was Craig Morton, who lost the starting job in 1971 but then started all 14 games in 1972 because of an injury to Roger Staubach. The other QB was Steve Pelluer in 1986, who struggled to replace an injured Danny White. Pelluer started a total of nine games in 1986 but only went 1-6 after White was injured for good against the Giants that season.
As for other quarterbacks, a few have started at least three games as replacements for injured starters. Others have started a few games during seasons in which the team lacked a clear-cut starter. Such was the case during the early 2000s, when Dallas went through the likes of Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, and so forth.
The list below includes those quarterbacks who started at least three games as injury replacements for firmly established starters. Kitna’s overall performance falls somewhere in the middle of this list.
Here’s a brief review of these players:
Steve Beuerlein, 1991
Beuerlein took over the starting position when Troy Aikman was hurt against the Redskins in week 11. The Cowboys improved from 6-5 to 11-5 thanks to Beuerlein’s play during that time.
Craig Morton, 1972
One year after the Cowboys won Super Bowl VI, Roger Staubach suffered a shoulder injured that kept him from playing most of the season. Morton returned to the starting role and led Dallas to another playoff appearance.
Craig Morton, 1967
The Cowboys were trying in 1967 to accomplished what they couldn’t in 1966: An NFL Championship. The 1967 season was tough, though, as Dallas struggled to a 9-5 record. Starting QB Don Meredith suffered some injures, but the Cowboys were able to turn to Morton, who went 2-1 as a replacement.
Jason Garrett, 1998
Many remember Garrett’s Thanksgiving performance in 1993, but he also started five games in 1998 when Aikman broke his collarbone. Garrett’s play was inconsistent, but he managed to post a 3-2 record that season.
Jon Kitna, 2010
Kitna didn’t bring everything that Romo could, but Kitna appeared to be a more vocal leader after Romo’s injury. Kitna’s 4-5 record could have been better had Dallas pulled out wins against the Saints, Eagles, and Cardinals (though he was injured during the Arizona game).
Steve Pelluer, 1986
Pelleur didn’t look terrible in 1986 when Danny White was temporarily injured. However, when White was lost for the season with a broken wrist, Pelluer looked awful. Thanks to the team’s 1-6 record in the final seven games, Dallas finished with a losing record for the first time since 1964.
Randall Cunningham, 2000
Aikman suffered through injures and boos during his final season in 2000. Cunningham showed flashes of his great play from 1998 as a replacement with the Cowboys, but Cunningham could only manage a 1-2 record as a starter.
Brad Johnson, 2008
Johnson had won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2002, but by 2008, he had a dead arm. He posted a 1-2 mark as a starter, but one loss was to the woeful Rams and one of the wins was thanks mostly to a defensive effort against Tampa Bay.
Steve Walsh, 1989
Walsh didn’t set the world on fire in 1989, but he led the team to its only win of 1989 by defeating the Redskins.
John Roach, 1964
Roach had played with the Cardinals and Packers before joining the Cowboys in ’64. He made fans miss Eddie LeBaron by going 0-4 as an injury replacement for Don Meredith that season. Point of interest: he was the only player besides Roger Staubach to wear #12 for the Cowboys.