There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Any quarterback the Cowboys select, no matter where in April's upcoming draft, will have to sit behind franchise man Tony Romo until the time comes to accept the mantle of quarterback of America's Team. Memphis QB Paxton Lynch knows that Romo is still the man in Dallas, but in his visit with Fish (and Pete Stein) on 105.3 The Fan, Lynch made it clear he would not let that situation deter him from preparing for every game as if he were going to start. In the NFL, there are no redshirts.
"It's possible that if he goes down, you're the next guy in line," Lynch said. "So, you go in with that view you kind of have to prepare that you are the starter and always be ready, kind of like Tom Brady who was in a similar situation where he was behind Bledsoe and then he went down. And he was the next guy and never looked back after that."
In 2000, Bledsoe was a three-time Pro Bowler who led the Patriots to their second ever Super Bowl appearance in the '96 playoffs. To that point, he and Steve Grogan were the two best quarterbacks in Pats franchise history. Nevertheless, first-year head coach Bill Belichick took Brady out of Michigan in the sixth round of that year's draft. New England finished 5-11 in 2000 with Bledsoe starting all 16 games and Brady seeing spot duty. That off-season, the Patriots even signed Bledsoe to a 10-year contract to further prove how much of "the man" he was. However, two games into the following year, Bledsoe was sidelined with a chest injury, Brady took over, six Super Bowl appearances and four championships later, the rest is history.
Lynch did get a chance to visit with Dallas at the combine in Indianapolis last month, though there was nothing spectacular about the visit.
Said Lynch: "They didn't really not lay anything out. We just kind of talked about my offense at Memphis, some of the stuff we did, some of the stuff they do at Dallas obviously. But the situation there is kind of self-explanatory. They got a guy, Tony Romo, and I think that they're looking to bring somebody in to learn. So, I think that's a situation there. But obviously I don't know 100 percent. But they didn't lay out any framework with me."
According to former Cowboys scouting director and current NFL.com draft analyst, Gil Brandt, owner and general manager Jerry Jones has indicated to him that the club won't be taking a quarterback with their fourth overall pick in the draft, the reward for going 4-12 in 2015. A bevy of mock drafts have Lynch going anywhere in the first round from the top-5 down to the bottom-5. If the Cowboys don't use their first-round selection to take Lynch, then they may not get another chance when their second-round pick rolls around at pick 34.
Lynch is a fascinating prospect in part due to his size. Standing at 6-7, 245 pounds, the Trinity Christian Academy alumnus is more comparable to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or new Texans signal caller Brock Osweiler. Lynch's towering frame and 11.5-inch hands are built for cold weather games.
"I never really knew it was such a big deal until I got to the next level and I realized how much they paid attention to it," Lynch said. "But, yeah, I've got some pretty big paws."
Perhaps the best comparison one could make between Lynch and a present NFL starting quarterback would be Carolina's Cam Newton. Lynch and the 2015 NFL MVP weigh the same, but Lynch has the two-inch height advantage. Lynch claims he is Newton-esque in his ability to scan the field in the pocket but also break contain to either scramble for yards or buy time to make a big completion.
"That's definitely something I pride myself in because I know there's some guys in the league who are bigger guys, taller guys. And there's also some guys in the league who are really athletic. I see myself as kind of a whole package who is big and can see downfield, has a big arm, but also if the pocket breaks down or I need to get around the edge, I can do that as well."
Like Newton, Lynch came from a Memphis program run by head coach Justin Fuente, where the Tigers offense rarely put the signal-caller under center, a component in NFL offenses.
"It's not too big of an adjustment in my opinion because a lot of the teams nowadays you see are getting in the shotgun more than they did under center," said Lynch. "I know that under center has been a big part of the NFL and it still is. But I think you see more and more teams take more and more snaps out of shotgun.
"But getting under center, taking three-step, five-step, seven-step drops and running play action and things like that won't be a big problem to me because obviously I see myself as a big, athletic guy. So, just get under center and take a few drops doesn't seem like that big of a deal."
What also helps Lynch's case is that his former head coach has a track record of developing franchise-caliber quarterbacks that can play at the pro level. From 2009-10, Fuente was Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's position coach at TCU. In the 2011 draft, Cincinnati took the redhead in the second round and have subsequently made the playoffs five straight seasons with two division titles. It was under Fuente's stint as TCU's quarterbacks coach that Bengals franchise man Andy Dalton grew as a quarterback prospect in the 2011 draft. It is for this reason that Lynch is not at all disappointed he didn't attend a bigger school or play in one of the Power-5 conferences.
"I knew [Fuente] knew what an NFL talent quarterback was supposed to look like. And I wanted to be around that and I wanted to be around somebody who could push me to give me the opportunity he did. And we had a great career at Memphis together. And everything that he's getting now with that job at Virginia Tech, he deserves. So, I'm happy for him."
Despite meetings with the Browns, 49ers, and Rams, teams which also have significant needs at quarterback, Lynch can't get a feel for who really covets him. In time, it will all work out come draft day. The 22-year-old knows for certain he had good interviews with those clubs and their respective coaching staffs.
Lynch's mother undoubtedly would be excited if her son ended up wearing a blue star on Sundays this fall, even if he were Romo's understudy.
"My mom grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan her whole life," said Lynch. "But my dad is a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. So, that's how I grew up was as a Steelers fan. So, every time my mom hears us talk about the Cowboys this, Cowboys that, she gets real excited. And then my dad's like, 'No, there's no way you'll wear a Star.' But I'm sure wherever I end up, they'll both be happy."