ARLINGTON, Texas - From the day he was drafted, Stephen McGee understood the pecking order among Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks. Tony Romo was the starter, Jon Kitna the backup. His role was to be seen and not heard, to absorb as much as he could without getting in the way.
A former option quarterback at Texas A&M, McGee immersed himself in learning the pro game.
Dallas went into last week's game against Arizona with neither team having a shot at the playoffs and interim coach Jason Garrett said he would only use McGee if Kitna got hurt.
Well, that's exactly what happened.
McGee played the entire second half and took Dallas from 11 points down to leading by two in the final minutes. He didn't have any turnovers and made a terrific throw to Miles Austin for the go-ahead touchdown. It was the kind of performance worthy of an encore, yet Garrett is sticking with the original pecking order.
Kitna will start the finale Sunday against the Eagles if a strained abdominal muscle stops hurting. He said Wednesday he hopes to practice Thursday or Friday.
"Right now, there's no pain in it just standing here," Kitna said. "But certain movements make it feel like there's a knife in your side. I've got to be able to throw the football. I've got to be able to make all the throws. ... This is one of those injuries that can kind of linger for three or four days and then it can just be gone. Hopefully that'll be the case."
McGee is getting ready to make his first career start just in case.
He ran the first team in practice Wednesday. The second-year player had only three practice series with the starters before being sent out for his debut Saturday night against the Cardinals. He'd taken a few snaps from center Andre Gurode, but had never thrown to Austin or Jason Witten as Kitna's backup the last nine weeks.
"I had fun going out there in practice today, competing, getting guys in and out of the huddle," McGee said. "I love that. I love playing football, being around the game. This is my dream job, playing quarterback in the NFL, especially for the Dallas Cowboys. I'm having a blast and just continuing to get better this week and making strides toward Sunday."
Against Arizona, McGee went 11 of 17 for 111 yards with a touchdown. He also ran four times for 19 yards.
"I was encouraged with how Stephen did," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I must say, I was pretty impressed to have McGee come in, having not played at all, under those circumstances, and see our team keep going and competing. That's pretty impressive."