This is not the article I was prepared to write. I was going to argue that Dak Prescott hasn’t been as much of a reason for the Cowboys’ success this season as the headlines make it out to be, that it was in fact Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line’s success this season, and that because of this, Romo should return as the starter. Then, Sunday happened. Prescott threw a game winning TD pass to send the game versus the Eagles in to overtime, then throws another during overtime to win the game. All with Elliott only rushing for 96 yards. That threw a huge wrench in my whole article, bigger than Peyton Manning’s forehead, so bear with me as I attempt to reorganize and scramble together a reformed argument as to the Dak vs. Romo debate.
Dak Prescott is good. No one can debate that. For a rookie, he’s exceptionally good. And for a rookie fourth round draft pick, he’s phenomenal. Not much was expected from Prescott after Tony Romo went down with a back injury during the preseason that was potentially season-ending for Romo. Prescott had a promising preseason and looked to be a potential QB of the future for Dallas, so when Romo went down, he was expected to win the easy games, not make losing mistakes, and maybe surprise some experts. During the first few weeks of Prescott as the starter, he rarely threw more than five to ten yards downfield, and the Cowboys’ offense relied on Ezekiel Elliott and playmaking from the receivers. This seemed to work however, as the Cowboys only lost one of their first three games to the Giants, and only due to a botched play by Dallas wide receiver Terrance Williams. So, the Cowboys seemed to be in an okay position for when Romo becomes healthy and takes the reigns again.
Here’s the thing about athletes though: confidence can go a long way. The longer Prescott was behind center, and the more snaps he took at quarterback for the Cowboys, one could physically see the growth. It was exponential growth in confidence, which lead to growth in everything else. As Prescott’s confidence grew as a quarterback, he became more poised in the pocket, becoming aware of the defenders rushing around him and the shifts in the pocket the offensive line was giving him, and with this he became less hesitant and less reluctant to get rid of the ball so quickly. With increased pocket presence and patience came an increased trust in not only his receivers to make tougher catches in traffic, but also came a huge increase in trust of his own throwing ability. The throws Prescott was making in the game against the Eagles look almost nothing like the throws he was making early in the season. He’s making the post-snap reads of the defense well, making the correct reads, and making accurate throws to make catches easy for his receivers. That’s a lot of checked boxes down the list of what you want from your starting quarterback. It is worth mentioning that he is still a rookie, so he still needs improvements. He’s made some bad throws near the end zone, he gets a little hesitant to sling it to the sidelines when he plays exceptional defensive backs, and his pre-snap blitz reads need practice as he has found himself chucking the ball early after the snap when a large blitz package is called against him. But he’s still just a rookie! He’s a 23-year old young man who is already an above-average quarterback in the NFL.
This controversial case brings to memory one very similar case about 15 years ago. Drew Bledsoe led the New England Patriots to the Superbowl in 1997 where they lost to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers 35-21. After the next three years, failing to make it past the divisional round of the playoffs, in 2000, the Patriots drafted a scrawny quarterback from Michigan named Tom Brady. After sitting his rookie season, Brady found playing time in his sophomore season after Bledsoe came down with a chest injury in the second game of the 2001 season. We all know what happens next: Brady takes over, leads the Patriots to six Super Bowls, won four of them, and will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Now before I become crucified for comparing Dak Prescott to Tom Brady, let me prove why they aren’t so different so far as interim starting quarterbacks.
|QB(1st 7 starts)
|Total TD’s(Run + Pass)
|Total Turnovers(INT + FUMB)
|Passer Rating(158.3 = perfect score)
|11(0 + 11)
|8(5 + 3)
|13(4 + 9)
|5(2 + 3)
Granted, these are two different players playing 15 years apart on two different teams, but they’re strikingly similar, are they not? Combine these stats with the intangibles that Dak Prescott has, refusing to lose (6-1), clutch (two touchdown passes late to tie and beat the Eagles), calm, and confident. Some of these intangibles even Romo has been known to lack at times, and because of this, Prescott seems to be Dallas’ quarterback of the future as well as the present. Tony Romo had a great year in 2013, leading the Cowboys to an 11-5 record and making it to the divisional playoffs and losing a close game to Green Bay. But other than this one shining year of hope, I think most football fans, including Cowboys fans, can agree that Tony Romo has been a disappointment. The constant injury problems, the choking in must-win games or must win situations late in the season, and the just general lack of success as that 2013 playoff run was only the second of Romo’s career, has opened the door for a new era in Dallas Cowboy football. A youth movement, rooted around Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line, gives the perfect opportunity for a young and talented quarterback who is playing exceptionally well to step in and completely take the reigns over for a new era in Dallas.
Before I make my final decision, I would like to say I believe that with this Dallas team, having arguably the best offensive line in NFL history, having a talented defensive depth chart, and having a rookie talent in Ezekiel Elliot that I personally have not seen since Adrian Peterson in 2007 or even Randy Moss in 1998, I think it wouldn’t be as difficult to win as a quarterback as it would be on any other team in the NFL. Because of this, I urge you not to focus so much on the record of Prescott as a starter, because I feel as though Romo could have had a win total just as good, but rather look at Prescott’s individual performance, and how much his improvements have affected the team’s success.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a winning fundamentalist and a sports skeptic. I don’t believe in disrupting chemistry or morale or fan bases in a decision like this. I believe you put in the quarterback who gives you the best chance to win the game, and I will stick with that philosophy. If Prescott begins to slump and play poorly and gives Dallas less of a chance to win the game than Romo would, then I reserve the right to make a new statement of opinion, but as of right now, the way he has improved and is playing, if it can continue at a consistent level, I feel as though Prescott gives the Dallas Cowboys the best chance to win, and therefore should be the starter, even when Romo becomes healthy.