Carter hoping new coach, freedom enables him to regain QB job

Updated: July 31, 2003, 9:00 PM ET

SAN ANTONIO -- Quincy Carter drops back, scans his receivers, then takes off running. He's looking ahead for yardage, not over his shoulder to see if coaches are barking at him for leaving the pocket.

Carter is once again free to flee. And by showing off the mobility that once made Jerry Jones consider him the heir to Troy Aikman, Carter hopes to once again become the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

New coach Bill Parcells has thrown open the competition between Carter and Chad Hutchinson. Although their styles are different, each is being allowed to play to their strengths.

Parcells admits it's more difficult to pick when the candidates are doing different things. But he also stressed that what matters most is sustaining drives and scoring points.

"All things being equal, the more versatile you are the better," Parcells said Thursday. "But if Hutchinson moves the team better, or anybody else moves the team better, I'd go with that guy and forgo the other."

All Carter wants is a fair chance, something he's not sure he always got last season under offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet,

Coslet considered Hutchinson a better fit in his version of the West Coast offense. But because Hutchinson was returning to football after playing baseball for four years, Carter opened the season as the starter.

He struggled in the new system, partly because running was discouraged. He was benched after a 3-4 start and never played another game.

While Carter prefers not to discuss last season, his praise of the new staff indicates how happy he is with the change. He said he doesn't mind competing for the job as long as everyone knows it's an open competition.

"That in itself makes you feel more comfortable," Carter said. "We can go out and just play football and not have to worry about anything else. Then you get into a comfort zone where you feel like everybody is supporting you. ... Your play is going to speak for itself."

Parcells is so adamant about letting each do their own thing that both practice differently.

During a simple drop-back drill, Carter almost always takes off running. He runs at the end of many phantom plays, too.

In a play-action drill Thursday morning, Carter faked a pitch, rolled out and threw; Hutchinson faked a handoff, stepped back and threw deep.

Carter said it's all part of being put in position to succeed.

"They've given me the freedom that when nobody is open, or when the pocket collapses, that I don't have to sit back there and find (options) one, two, three, four and five," Carter said. "As long as I make sound decisions, and quick decisions, they don't have a problem."

Quarterback has been a major weakness for Dallas since Aikman left after the 2000 season. The Cowboys were ranked last in passing two years ago, when Carter was a rookie, and were second-worst last season.

Carter has completed 54.2 percent of his passes, with more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (12). He's also been sacked 41 times in 15 games. Yet he's 6-9 as a starter, which isn't so bad considering Dallas has gone 4-13 in games he hasn't started the past two years.

Carter hasn't had it easy since turning pro after his junior season at Georgia. Even then he was chastised for being a year late since he was better as a sophomore.

Jones was ripped for drafting Carter in the second round when he might've been available later. Almost as if to justify the choice, Carter became the starter right away as Tony Banks, who was signed to ease the Aikman-to-Carter transition, was cut in training camp.

The following offseason, Jones signed Hutchinson to a deal featuring a signing bonus worth nearly as much as Carter's entire contract. They shared snaps in training camp last summer, the next sign that Carter's time was running out.

"I went through a lot last year. This year, what more can you bring my way?" Carter said, laughing. "Now, I'm ready for anything."< ^Extra points: DE Darrell Wright underwent successful surgery Thursday to repair a broken bone in his left hand. He's expected to be out a week. When he was injured Wednesday, the team initially hoped he'd be able to play while wearing a cast. ... WR Randal Williams, back from celebrating the birth of his first child, made another great catch on a deep ball, something he's done almost every session since camp opened. ... Parcells said he doesn't like the way plays have been going inside the 20-yard line. "We're really not smooth," he said. "I haven't gotten a feel for what we can do." ... CB Mario Edwards is having a good camp, as is WR Ken-Yon Rambo. "I think Rambo, compared to the spring time, has looked much improved," Parcells said. "I'm happy about that."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index