What a new coach means for Dak Prescott’s contract situation

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 24: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 24: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) /

Will the Dallas Cowboys saddle a new coach with a long term contract for Dak Prescott or apply the franchise tag to their starting quarterback?

Barring some sort of Christmas miracle for Jason Garrett, this week’s game against the Washington Redskins will likely be his last as the Dallas Cowboys‘ head coach. While they aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs, they need some big help from the New York Giants just to make the postseason. Even then, a playoff appearance probably won’t be enough to save Garrett’s job.

More than likely, the Dallas Cowboys will enter the 2020-21 season with a new head coach, which puts the current contract talks between the team and current starting quarterback Dak Prescott in a precarious place. Do the Cowboys sign him to a long-term deal or do they give their new coach the freedom to go out and get his own quarterback?

In four seasons as the team’s starter, Dak has put together a 39-24 regular-season record (1-2 in the playoffs) while throwing for over 15,000 yards and 90-plus touchdowns. Yet there’s still uncertainty in terms of whether or not he’s a legitimate franchise quarterback — at least one worthy of being paid $40 million annually, which is reportedly what Dak and his agent were demanding in a new deal. That would make him the league’s highest-paid quarterback in annual average value, according to Spotrac.

Dallas’ management has expressed unwavering support of Dak Prescott. Vice president Stephen Jones recently told 105.3 The Fan that he remains bullish on Dak, even after Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"“We’ve never blinked on (paying Dak Prescott). We’ve had a very aggressive offer out there every step of the way … I think Dak has given us every opportunity to have success this year. I’m as bullish about Dak as I’ve ever been.”"

Statistically speaking, Dak Prescott is having one of the best seasons of his young career. His passer rating (97.4) and QBR (71.2) are both second-highest of his career, behind only his rookie season. He’s thrown for a career-high 4,599 yards and 26 touchdowns, both of which place him among the league leaders this season.

On paper, Dak Prescott is a franchise quarterback worthy of being paid top-dollar. But too often, especially this season, he fails to pass the eye test. And despite Jones’ confidence in the quarterback, you know deep down there’s some indecision there as well — even if he’s not talking about it publicly.

Whether it’s an errant throw, a turnover or just offensive inconsistency in general, too often have we seen Dak just disappear in big games. This is especially true this season when he’s faced top-ranked defenses.

Now to be fair, not all of the blame should be pinned solely on Dak Prescott. Football is a team sport in which the other 23 players on offense and defense also have to do their part. And, of course, I’d be remiss to not bring up head coach Jason Garrett and the role he has played in the Cowboys’ problems over the past decade.

In fact, the problems with Jason Garrett are a big reason why there is still so much hesitancy surrounding Dak Prescott. We don’t quite know who’s to blame for his struggles in big games. Is it poor game planning and coaching not putting him in a position to succeed? Or does he just not have the “it” factor that we so often unfairly judge quarterbacks by?

The problem now is that the Cowboys are at the end of their trial period with him. Dak Prescott’s rookie contract, which pays him just $2 million per season, is up at the end of this year. The Dallas Cowboys must decide if they are going to sign him to a multi-year deal or simply apply a 2020 franchise tag worth a projected $26.7 million.

With a new coach likely coming in, the safest route at this point seems to be the franchise tag. This would give Dallas ownership another year to see if Dak can flourish under a different head coach.

If he succeeds, then you lock him up long-term. If he performs poorly, then perhaps you move on from him and allow the new coach to go with his guy. Or if you’re still uncertain, you apply the franchise tag again for a second year, but I suspect this will come with all sorts of drama.

The point is, I don’t think you sign Dak Prescott to a multi-year deal at this stage of the game. Ownership may be expressing confidence in their quarterback, but there’s just too much uncertainty surrounding him and the team right now to be doling out record-setting, multi-year contracts.

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The last thing the Dallas Cowboys should do is hamstring a new head coach with limited cap space. Dallas already made Ezekiel Elliott the highest-paid running back in the league with a six-year, $90 million contract and delivered a $105 million extension to DeMarcus Lawrence. Do they really want to saddle the new coach with another player he may not have confidence in?