Dallas Cowboys quarterback debate: Dak Prescott or Tony Romo?

Tony Romo, Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tony Romo, Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

As Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys still negotiate new terms, here’s a look at how the quarterback compares to the man he replaced.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have yet to agree on a new contract. In the meantime, fans debate Prescott’s worth. I have argued that Dak hasn’t earned a big contract. His 2019 statistics are impressive in some ways but lack a single fourth-quarter comeback or game-winning drive. He also failed to outperform opposing quarterbacks in the eight Cowboys losses this past season.

Determined to prove my argument, I looked through every game from 2006 through 2019. I calculated the number of opportunities for fourth-quarter game-winning drives and how many times former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and Prescott came through. I also compared the two quarterbacks’ career stats. Here is what I discovered:

In almost every statistical category, the two quarterbacks are nearly equal. Both Prescott and Romo have career completion rates of just over 65 percent. Each has a 97 rating, and their winning percentages are around 62 percent.

The Cowboys average offensive rank under Romo was 12th in points and 9th in yards out of the 32 NFL teams. Under Prescott, it’s been 12th and 11th respectively. Only the defensive ranks have major differences. Romo’s defenses averaged 18th in points and 16th in yards. Prescott’s have averaged 9th and 10th.

So, then there are game situations, right? How have the two performed with the game clock ticking away? Interestingly, both Prescott and Romo have had a nearly identical percentage of comeback opportunities (Prescott—43.75 percent, Romo—43.48 percent). With such a surprisingly close ratio, it seems like an excellent opportunity to compare how they respond under pressure.

In 2019, Prescott missed five opportunities to lead the Cowboys to fourth-quarter comebacks. Despite zero percent success, Prescott’s 55.56 percent career success rate still exceeds Tony Romo’s 53.57 percent. And 2019 was certainly an off year for Prescott.

In each of his first three seasons, Prescott’s ratio of game-winning drives to missed opportunities is better than two to one. Plus, Dak reached 14 game-winning drives in three seasons. It took Romo five.

As if that’s not enough, Prescott nearly broke Romo’s single-season passing record in 2019, falling short by one yard. He reached 4,902 yards with 52 fewer pass attempts than Romo needed to post 4,903.

And although I criticized Dak for only defeating one winning team in 2019, he has a career 47.06-win percentage against teams that finished the season above .500 and an 82.76-win percentage against teams that finished below .500. Romo, on the other hand, posted win percentages of 33.33 (teams finishing above .500) and 66.67 (teams finishing below .500).

Because there are so many variables that factor into winning and losing in the NFL, I’m certain my research will not end the debate. Romo and Prescott both have their die-hard supporters and haters.

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A deeper dive into the statistics has revealed more than I expected, however, and I’m not so confident in my previous criticism of Romo’s replacement. Perhaps Mike McCarthy’s hiring will not only help him overcome a bad year but also prepare him for a level of success none of us debaters have been predicting.