‘Wrong, Wrong, Wrong’: Time to Re-evaluate Cowboys 'Franchise QB' Dak Prescott

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - Let's all make a simple admission about Dak Prescott: We were wrong. All of us. About all of it.

The NFL teams (including the Dallas Cowboys) who let him slide until the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft? Wrong. The GM quoted by ESPN a year ago saying Dak wasn't worth $15 million a year? Wrong. The critics who thought Dallas should intentionally not sign him to an extension this season as they were dubious about whether he'd "prove himself''? Wrong. Those of us who thought his upside was "elite bus driver''? Wrong. Everybody who thought $30 million APY would be too much? Wrong.

The entire football world, respecting Prescott though it might have, convincing itself that he'd never be able to consistently lead a team to wins as a passer?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The old narrative wasn't a hateful one, not as it was expressed by reasonable people. Put Dak in the middle of a lineup featuring elite talent at running back, wide receiver and O-line - and don't demand that he throw 40 times a game - and his leadership qualities, athletic ability and "winner'' mentality can mean team success.

The new narrative, and one that has been building for some time now: The ball needs to be in Dak Prescott's hands. Some of the decision-making needs to be there, too. And when all else fails - or, as was the case in a 35-27 win Sunday at Detroit, before it fails - let Dak win the game for you.

“Dak is playing the best football I have ever seen him play,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “He definitely took his game to the next level, just the things he has been able to do. Come up to the line, change the plays, getting us in the right plays versus certain looks.

"And he’s throwing the shit out of the ball.''

OK, maybe Zeke, who counts Prescott as his best friend on the team, is biased. Or maybe everybody should now be as biased as Cowboys legend Troy Aikman, the former QB who after the Lions game tweeted, "Pay The Man.''

Now that Prescott has elevated himself to next-level, to a statistical place where named like "Aikman'' and "Montana'' and "Marino'' and "Manning'' exist, "Pay The Man'' is the easy part. It'll happen, as it always was going to, north of $30 mil APY and, the longer the two sides wait, the more we go north of $40 mil APY ... and the Cowboys have cap room earmarked for that.

Those numbers aren't the issue for the 26-year-old success story of whom owner Jerry Jones told me last spring, "We are going to bet our future on Dak.''

No, it's the other numbers. The ones that, to the credit of Jason Garrett and his coaching staff, obviously earned attention after last week's 28-24 loss to Minnesota in which an "Institutionalized Stubbornness'' regarding the running game contributed directly to the defeat. Dak threw it 46 times in that game, the number Garrett rebutted with when I brought up to the coach the over-reliance on the run.

"All the '46' means,'' I said on 105.3 The Fan that day, "is that they should've thrown it 47.''

Dak threw it exactly 46 times again in Detroit. He completed 29 of them, with three TDs, no picks and a 116,6 passer rating. Over the course of the two games, Prescott's got 841 passing yards - the most ever by a Cowboys QB in back-to-back games. Oh, and his 1,098 passing yards since Week 9 are the most in a three-game span in franchise history.

Want more? Prescott is the first player in team history to pass for 3,000 yards in the first 10 games of a season. With 3,221 passing yards through the team's first 10 games, Dak's achieved the 12th-highest total in NFL history. Also, Prescott has thrown for over 400 yards three times this season. Romo did that. Throw for 400 yards in four games? That's Dan Marino (1984), Peyton Manning (2013) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) territory.

With all due respect to Fitzpatrick, his presence on the list establishes that passing yards are not the be-all/end-all. None of what Dak has done for 6-4 Dallas this year guarantees a win at New England next Sunday, or guarantees a playoff berth after that. But the development of Dak - now averaging 322 passing yards per game, up from 243 last year, 208 in 2017 and 229 as a rookie - is inarguable.

“I know I can continue to play better,” Prescott said. “That’s what I focus on. I don’t think about performances in the past. I’m not going to sit here and live too much on this performance. It’s about what we can do now, how I can get better.'' 

And he can, which means we now know this, a fact that only the ignorant would debate: In a given game, Dak can make this "his team'' if needed. And for the next half-decade-plus, the Dallas Cowboys are in possession of professional football's most elusive, most valuable asset ...

A franchise quarterback.