Dallas Cowboys must make Dak Prescott earn his big payday

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

With Dak Prescott’s contract over, the Dallas Cowboys have to consider the truth lurking below those inflated 2019 stats.

Heading into the last year of his contract, quarterback Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys failed to agree upon a long-term deal. Reports have suggested the Cowboys offered $30 million per year but Prescott wanted $34 million. Despite the apparent disagreement between the two sides, Dak did not help his case, unless, of course, surface stats seduce Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

It was a contract year for Prescott, a chance to prove his worth for a big payday. On the surface, he seems to have done so. The gunslinger amassed 4,902 yards in 2019 with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and a completion percentage of 65.1 percent.

Unfortunately, Prescott’s impressive stats are inflated. They are the product of a neglected running game and bullying weaker teams. The Cowboys’ eight wins were against teams with a combined record of 40 wins, 87 losses, and one tie.

America’s Team won those games by a total score of 297-136 (+161 difference). The eight losses, however, were against teams with a combined record of 82 wins and 46 losses. In those games, the Boys only scored 137 points to their opponents 185 (-48 difference).

As I have reported in the past, opposing quarterbacks outperformed Prescott in every Cowboys loss. What’s most disturbing, however, is Dak’s inability to come through for his team when needed most. Dallas still had a chance to win in the fourth quarter of each loss. Yet, Prescott could not lead them to victory.

For instance, in their first loss of the season, the Cowboys remained within two points of the New Orleans Saints throughout the fourth quarter. However, Prescott completed only five passes on 13 attempts for a measly 38.5 percent. During his final drive, he took a long sack and drew criticism for throwing into quadruple coverage, ultimately failing to move the offense into field goal range.

For the season, Prescott completed only 57.9 percent of his passes in the fourth quarter. Subtracting “garbage time” stats in games against the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills, the percentage falls to 53.9. And, Dak had zero comeback wins in 2019.

Interestingly enough, Pro Football Reference split stats indicate that Prescott was at his worst nearly every time he was needed most. On third and fourth down, his completion percentages were 60.27 and 33.33 respectively. On third down with four to six yards to go, he only completed 55.56 percent of passes. In the red zone, he posted a 52.46 percent completion rate, and between one to ten yards in an opponent’s territory, his percentage fell to a dismal 47.62.

While eyes may be popping all over Dallas because Prescott fell one yard short of a franchise record for passing yards in a season, I’m rejoicing that he failed to break it. What good are records from a .500 season? What good are inflated stats that deflated when it mattered most?

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If the Dallas Cowboys are certain new head coach Mike McCarthy can improve Dak Prescott’s play, then I suggest they give him the franchise tag. Let them see how McCarthy’s coaching improves his play before making a long-term, high-priced commitment.