FRISCO, Texas. Two years ago, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t think Cooper Rush was good enough to be one of their quarterbacks.

Now that starter Dak Prescott is recovering from a broken right thumb in his first loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rush has given them hope with two wins. And he enters Sunday’s game against the Washington Commanders (13:00 ET, Fox), aiming to do what no Cowboys quarterback has ever done (more on that later).

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Sometimes it’s funny how things work.

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Cowboys might also want to send thanks to the New Orleans Saints.

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During the offseason, the Cowboys were in talks with seasoned free agent quarterback Andy Dalton to return to Dallas to support Prescott, according to multiple sources. The Saints then offered Dalton a deal worth up to $6 million, which he could not refuse.

And Rush, originally signed by Dallas in 2017 as an undrafted free agent from Central Michigan, has remained in business.

In 2020, the Cowboys signed Dalton to a one-year contract worth up to $7 million to become Prescott’s backup. Quarterback Ben DiNucci was selected in the seventh round of the 2020 Draft. About two weeks later, they dropped Rush.

“You look at it like [QB]1 and [QB]2, and develop a third type [of quarterback] format,” said coach Mike McCarthy. “A lot of that influenced this decision.”

The New York Giants (with former Rush Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator at the time) demanded waivers from him, but ended up dropping him from the practice team after three games.

Rush returned to Texas with his family and worked at Exos, a training center near The Star. He had a tryout with the Houston Texans, but with Prescott out for the season with a sprained ankle and Dalton suffering a concussion, the Cowboys signed Rush to the practice team and Garrett Gilbert to their active roster from the Cleveland Browns practice team.

“At this point, you want to be back in the building, wherever it is,” Rush said. [offensive coordinator] Kellen [Moore], knew a lot of guys, knew the staff, so it definitely fit. At this point you just want to go back – P[ractice] in a squad, in a team, whatever works, because once you get on a team, at least you have a chance.”

DiNucci struggled in his only start, while Gilbert started against the Pittsburgh Steelers and played well enough to become Prescott’s No. 2 in 2021.

During the 2021 training camp, Gilbert took all the first team shots while Prescott dealt with a right lat strain that kept him out of preseason games. Gilbert started three of the first four preseason games, but Rush was called up for the last preseason game. Against the Texans, he completed 4 of 8 passes for 16 yards.

The Cowboys left Rush as a backup and freed Gilbert.

Even this summer, there was talk of Will Grier winning second, but a groin injury limited his preseason play and allowed Rush to lead as Prescott’s understudy. Hell, the Cowboys released Rush late in the preseason in wink-wink-nod-nod style for some roster flexibility. Technically he could have gone anywhere, but there was an agreement to stay and he wasn’t going to get a better opportunity elsewhere.

Through it all, Rush figured out how to survive.

“You learned a lot mentally, how to deal with things. Stories like this are all over the NFL locker room,” Rush said. “Just what this league is about, you get knocked down. It’s about coming back, learning from it and moving on.”

Last season, Rush won his first NFL start with a touchdown to Amari Cooper with 51 seconds left in a Week 8 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, when Prescott was out of action with a calf strain. In the second week of that season, he beat the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals with three passes on last gear and a game-winning field goal.

Last week, in light of Sportzshala’s Monday Night Football show, he threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb to beat another team that didn’t think he was good enough, the Giants.

By defeating the Commanders, he would become the first Cowboys quarterback to win his first four career starts.

“I think you understand how he plays quarterback,” McCarthy said. “He has played very well the last two weeks. He is in full command of the attack. We’ve been a complete blueprint for the things you’re trying to get and get out of, and that’s to his credit.”

In his two starts this season, he completed 40 of 62 passes for 450 yards and scored two goals. His statistics are modest, but his behavior has won over his teammates. They called him balanced and collected. The game wasn’t too big for him. Nor are the attributes of this success.

After defeating the Giants, he calmly walked into the locker room, having a public relations assistant follow him for a post-match interview on the field.

“If you want hype or hype, I’m not the guy,” Rush said. “But in the crowd and on the street, try to keep your command, keep your balance. It works as a quarterback.”

Ezekiel Elliott took to Twitter and called him “Cooper Clutch,” as defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna came up with on Monday night.

“The self-confidence continues to grow with him, which is great,” All-Pro right-back Zach Martin said. “As long as it takes Duck to come back, these are huge games and last year was a big one when he came into the game with Minnesota. It gave me some confidence and then these last two weeks just keep going up. This football team has a lot of confidence in the number 10 when he’s there.”

Prescott will be back soon—maybe as early as next Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams—and Rush will once again fall into the shadows.

If Rush is needed again at some point after Prescott returns, he will be ready. And the Cowboys won’t worry.

“He just plays the game really well, plays every situation, handles the ups and downs,” Moore said. “He does a great job throughout all the games. You can just see confidence and I think every time you see QB take his fall, put his back foot in, see that, trust him and let him rip, that confidence is right there. You see a lot of that in Coop right now.”