Competition forced Tony Romo to elevate his game, but Dak Prescott was given the keys to the Dallas Cowboys early. So what is motivating him to improve?
It didn’t take long before I realized that Dallas Cowboys passer Dak Prescott didn’t take a major step in his quarterback development. It was against the Denver Broncos in Week 2. I watched Prescott struggle as the Broncos were determined to contain running back Ezekiel Elliott. For Prescott’s regression, part of me blames Prescott, but there’s plenty of room to fault the Cowboys organization.
Some of the flaws that are obvious in Prescott’s game are common in first year quarterbacks. For example, Prescott continues to stare down his receivers. In other words, if the pass is going to receiver Dez Bryant, then Prescott looks at Bryant the whole time.
There are other problems – often he’s not an accurate passer and Prescott is ranked 23rd amongst NFL quarterbacks with 6.9 yards per pass attempts. Against the Atlanta Falcons, Prescott had 30 passes with 20 completions (66% completion rate) but 12 of them went to running backs and tight ends. Rod Smith had 4 catches, Keith Smith had 1 catch and future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten had 7 catches. Witten led the team in receptions and yards. That’s not the key to victory when you’re down 17 – 7 in the 3rd quarter.
There are other flaws in Prescott’s game, but how do I blame the Cowboys front office? For years, many have criticized the lack of development in the Cowboys lower round draft picks. Players arrive with the talent they have and rarely improve. When a player drafted in the 5th round or lower doesn’t make the roster, Cowboy Nation just says that they were long shots.
Prescott, a fourth round draft pick was given the keys to the spaceship in the House that Tony Romo built. Relying heavily on the legs of running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys enjoyed a winning streak. Instead of returning the franchise to a healthy Romo, they protected Prescott by eliminating and shielding him from competition. Prescott was selected to a Pro Bowl and didn’t face any competition during training camp.
In his rookie year, the front office basically told Prescott that he was better than Romo. We won’t trying to find a veteran free agent quarterback to compete for your job. Where’s the incentive or motivation for Prescott to get better as a quarterback?
Maybe this is why Prescott isn’t reading defenses pre-snap or taking advantage of man coverage on his receivers. Now compare that to the path of the awesome Tony Romo who entered the league undrafted.
As third on the depth chart, Romo had to compete with former quarterbacks Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson and Drew Bledsoe. Always appreciative of just being on the roster, Romo worked on his craft tirelessly.
The constant competition and fear of being released by the Cowboys motivated and inspired Romo to elevate his game. As starter, the drive to improve never left Romo. He became the most prolific passer in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Coaching and training can only take a player so far. You have to want to be the best and prove that you belong. Romo had that inner drive, because for him – football was a meritocracy. That wasn’t the case with Prescott, but for the future of the Cowboys, let’s hope that Prescott can find his inner Romo.