Is Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott a system quarterback or did he just happen to land in the most favorable situation in the NFL?
The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2016 NFL Draft with an aging quarterback under center in 36-year old veteran Tony Romo. The previous season, Dallas went 4-12 following two shoulder injuries that limited Romo to four games.
Despite that fact, drafting a quarterback wasn’t necessarily the Cowboys’ top priority as there was still a widely held belief a now healthy Romo could lead Dallas to a Super Bowl title. So as the top two quarterbacks were drafted ahead of them at numbers one and two, the Cowboys were content to stay put at the fourth overall selection and pick Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.
After two failed attempts to trade up in the draft to selected other quarterbacks, the Cowboys used their late fourth compensatory selection, 135th overall, to grab Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. The 22-year old passer was viewed by many as primarily being a “running quarterback” who played in a spread scheme and struggled with accuracy.
And when Prescott did join the Cowboys squad, some considered him the fourth quarterback on the depth chart behind Romo, Kellen Moore and Jameill Showers. But injuries suffered by both Tony and Kellen open the window for Dak to start in Dallas’ first preseason game, and the young rookie never looked back.
Prescott strung together amazing preseason performances that earned himself the starting role in Week One. He would go on to lead the Cowboys to a 13-3 record (including an 11-game winning streak), a first-round bye in the playoffs and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Through his excellent play and leadership, Prescott was able to do what many thought was impossible by a fourth round rookie…he dethroned Romo as the starting quarterback of America’s Team.
Recording 3,667 passing yards, 29 total touchdowns and only four interceptions with a 67.8 completion percentage and a 104.9 passer rating, Prescott recorded one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history in 2016. Yet the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year still faces criticism going into his sophomore season.
The latest knock on Prescott comes from a former player turned analyst for NFL.com, in which he calls Dak a “system quarterback”.
"“The 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year certainly looked like a star as a surprising first-year starter for ‘America’s Team,’ wrote Bucky Brooks on the league’s official website. “But he landed in a perfect situation for a young quarterback with the league’s best offensive line and a pair of elite playmakers at the RB1 (Ezekiel Elliott) and WR1 (Dez Bryant) spots. Not to mention, he had one of the most reliable tight ends in NFL history at his disposal (Jason Witten), which provided the rookie with a security blanket when things got chaotic in the pocket.”"
Brooks went on to say that the burden of carrying the Cowboys’ offense was also made much lighter due to the fact his offensive line is composed of three first round selections in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. All of which are perennial Pro Bowlers.
According to SportingCharts.com, the term “system quarterback” is considered to be used as a slight as it places more of a quarterback’s success on the system rather than their own abilities. And the term also suggests that any other quarterback could be put in his same position and succeed.
Has Dak Prescott benefited from landing in the perfect spot with the Dallas Cowboys? Absolutely. But I believe calling him a system quarterback does not properly account for Prescott’s true impact within this offense.
And as for any other quarterbacks being able to thrive in this Cowboys’ offense, you may want to ask former Dallas’ passers Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden about that. Along with Kellen Moore, the trio were only able to muster one win between them in 2015 behind this very same offensive line, wide receiver corps and with a 1,000 yard rusher in the backfield in veteran running back Darren McFadden.