Prescott Backing Jerry Into A Corner The Owner Has Long Tried To Avoid
Three weeks is a long time by NFL standards. Long enough to change a season, and long enough to back an owner into a corner that he has strove for years to stay away from.
Dak Prescott on Sunday night did what no other Dallas Cowboys quarterback has been able to do during the Jerry Jones regime. By leading the Cowboys to a convincing 31-17 victory over Chicago at AT&T Stadium, Prescott inadvertently started a quarterback controversy brewing in Dallas that nobody, not even Jones himself, can run from.
The Cowboys are above .500 and the winners of consecutive games for the first time in twelve months because of a fourth-round draft selection from Mississippi State who defies all odds with each performance. Rookies aren’t supposed to look so calm in the pocket. Nor are they supposed to complete nearly 67-percent of their passes through their first three games without throwing an interception. But Dak has done all of that, and more. Dak has given head coach Jason Garrett more than enough reason to ponder leaving Romo on the bench when, in late October, the 36-year old is declared fully recovered from an August back injury.
Were Jerry anything but the master and Jason anything but a puppet, this situation would be a quite simple one. Without Jerry deviously pulling the strings from his sky-suite above, Garrett would have a free hand in the matter, and be free to make Romo the league’s highest-paid backup without anyone to say nay.
But that’s not the way things work in Dallas. Jerry is the king, he is the boss, and a certified wizard of quarterbacking conundrums. Jerry has his philosophy, a foundation for operations which he hasn’t been moved from for a quarter-century.
Jerry Jones, that oil wildcatter of long ago who could wheel and deal with the best of ‘em, prefers to avoid quarterback controversies at all costs. Jones wants his franchise quarterback to enjoy unquestioned stability, both financially and emotionally. To Jerry, two starting quarterbacks is too many. That’s why he surrounded Troy Aikman with a host of serviceable veteran backups like Bernie Kosar, Rodney Peete, Wade Wilson, and Jason Garrett during the 1990s. And that’s why he did the same for Tony Romo over the last decade by bringing in Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, Kyle Orton, and Brandon Weeden.
Not until last season when three quarterbacks not named Romo combined to go 1-11 did Jones alter his tactics somewhat. During April’s NFL draft, Jones went shopping for a quarterback to groom as Romo’s replacement. He wanted Paxton Lynch in the first-round. After Lynch landed in Denver, Jones was forced to settle for Prescott in the fourth-round.
Jones figured to bring Prescott along slowly as a rookie, but when Kellen Moore and then Romo went down with injuries during the summer months, Prescott was forced into the starting lineup. If Jones is wise, he’ll give serious thought to leaving him there permanently.
Dak is more than just a rookie fill-in enjoying a run of rare luck. He gives the Cowboys a chance to win each week.
Prescott has protected the Cowboys’ under-manned defense by starting fast each week, leading the offense to opening-drive scores in all three games to start the 2016 season. The offense’s production isn’t merely concentrated on first-quarter action either. Through three weeks, the Cowboys lead the league in time-of-possession (34:58) and third-down conversion rate (52-percent). The Cowboys’ 31-point outburst against the Bears was their first contest with 30 or more points in 21 games, and upped their season scoring average to nearly 26 points.
To say that Prescott is merely a beneficiary of a strong supporting cast around him is a sign of a bad memory. Remember, this is the same supporting cast that helped Matt Cassel & Co. bury the Cowboys in the NFC East cellar last December. Prescott is making the plays with his arm that no Dallas QB did a year ago. He’s making plays with his feet that Romo never could. So far, that’s been a good combination for the Cowboys.
“He seems to handle anything that we give him,” said Garrett of his rookie quarterback. “So you always want to grow as an offense and evolve throughout the year, but there’s never been a situation where we say, ‘OK, he can’t handle that. Let’s not do that because Dak’s our quarterback.’ That hasn’t been the case at all.”
The only mistake that Prescott has made as a rookie has been throwing to wide receiver Terrance Williams upon occasion. Williams cost the Cowboys a chance at a Week 1 victory over the Giants when he failed to run out of bounds in the waning seconds, and Dallas out of timeouts. Versus Chicago, it was Williams who ruined a 47-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter by fumbling the ball away and giving the Bears a ray of hope. Sooner or later, Prescott will come to realize that Williams is bad news waiting to happen.
The skeptics who suggest that Prescott’s low amount of touchdown passes (1) is a sign of red-zone incompetence are comprised primarily of fantasy football players giving way to venting. With Prescott under center, the Cowboys have already tallied seven rushing touchdowns in 2016. They had eight all of last season.
This coming Sunday in Santa Clara, Prescott will attempt to make it four games in a row to start his career without tossing an interception. Tony Romo hasn’t gone four consecutive games without a pick since 2011, before all of the many back injuries started piling up on him.
Prescott has started three games so far, and will play at least another three before Romo is deemed healthy enough to play. If, at that time, he is still the 22-year old Boy Wonder who can do no wrong, then Jerry should surprise us all by doing something right for a change.
The countdown has begun. Three weeks… If Jerry can’t recognize the future by then, well, maybe he and his Cowboys don’t deserve one at all.