Support for Quincy

"I'm there today. I'm there today," Jones said when asked if the Cowboys were hoping, by season's end, to determine if Carter is the quarterback of the future or if they need to go find someone in free agency.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave struggling third year quarterback Quincy Carter a vote of confidence and says he has played well enough so far to come back as the starter in 2004.

"I'm there today. I'm there today," Jones said when asked if the Cowboys were hoping, by season's end, to determine if Carter is the quarterback of the future or if they need to go find someone in free agency.

"With what we've got and what we've seen today, I see nothing that says Quincy can't be our quarterback."

He said "not that I know of" when asked if anything could happen in the next three weeks to change his opinion.

"Listen, all I am saying is, here we are poised to get in the playoffs, and the kind of quarterbacking I like is to be sitting here with three games to go in the season; and we have a chance to have that kind of success," Jones said.

"Based on how far he has come, how far he has evolved, everything in the book, I don't have going out and getting a veteran quarterback on my mind."

Jones left himself wiggle room, of course. The caveat, "as things stand today," punctuated almost all of his sentences. None of which dampened his immediate message, which was, "Carter is our guy. We believe in him."

Because the Cowboys realize, whatever Carter's shortcomings and failings may be, he is their best and only hope to make the playoffs.

"Oh no, I'm playing him," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said Monday when asked if Carter was his guy no matter what. "That's what he has to do. No one else can do it. He has to do it."

What is unknown is how Carter will respond to the pressure. He mentally imploded last season when criticism from within and elsewhere intensified after he started poorly. And while Carter has shown a lot of growth in a lot of areas this season, poise under pressure is only something that can be demonstrated in pressure situations.

"You know me. I never get shaken by anything," Carter said. "I'm looking forward to coming out this week and letting it rip again and keep ripping it and ripping it again. So, that's just me. You know me. Don't nothing shake me."

Which is good, because the Cowboys' next three games are the biggest of Carter's NFL career.

The Cowboys probably need to win two to guarantee a playoff berth. And while Jones parked himself firmly behind Carter, he readily admits that failing to make the playoffs after a 5-1, then an 8-3 start, would be a major disappointment. That said, he remains confident they can reach the postseason.

"We're having some struggles right now," Jones said. "You don't want to be struggling as you go into the end of the year, but, if you're going to struggle, I'd rather struggle after having some success early so that we've got the wins and we've got a lot to play for."

"I think [the loss to Philadelphia] is overstated relative to it being a curtain for the season, casting a shadow on the season or undermining the success we've had this season."

What Jones reminded Carter when he pulled him aside for a sit-down Tuesday morning was Carter is a big reason for that success.

He reminded Carter of how he has gone from being benched and left for waiver-wire fodder to Dallas' starting quarterback and a candidate for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He suggested that Carter draw strength from his achievements when fingers begin pointing in his direction and his shoulders get burdened with blame.

Which is now and which is why Jones went public Tuesday.

He realized Carter needed a show of support, and Jones delivered, privately and publicly. "If you are asking me if these next three games are a laboratory to evaluate Quincy Carter, I'm saying Quincy has been evaluated around here the last three years, and what he has done since he was benched last year is admirable in my mind," Jones said. "He has competed, won the starting job and been the quarterback to get us to where we are today. And, as of today, I'm in good shape for what Quincy can be for the Cowboys in years to come."

SERIES HISTORY: The Cowboys (8-5) at the Redskins (5-8). 88th meeting. Dallas leads the series 51-34-2. The Cowboys won the earlier meeting this year, 21-14 on Nov. 2 in Dallas. Dallas has won 11 of the last 12 meetings but the Redskins won last meeting at FedEx Field, 20-14 in 2002.

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