Dak Prescott has exceeded everyone’s expectations. But is he good enough to take the Cowboys to the Super Bowl and hoist the Lombardi trophy?
The Dallas Cowboys want what the Kansas City Chiefs have. It took Kansas City 50 years to win their second Super Bowl. It has been 24 years since Dallas hoisted their fifth Lombardi trophy.
There is a difference between wanting to win the Super Bowl and being capable of winning the Super Bowl. Right now, the Cowboys fit in the wanting to win category.
With the offseason just getting started, the 2020 roster will begin to take shape. Free agents will soon be signed, players will be drafted and the new coaching staff will make decisions on the best 53 players for the 2020 roster.
Part of the offseason process is to understand what made other teams successful and where Dallas needs to improve. Red zone efficiency and turnover differential are the biggest areas Dallas needs to improve. So what can Dallas learn from Kansas City?
Captain Obvious would take notice that the Chiefs have the 2018 NFL MVP at quarterback. Patrick Mahomes was ultimately the difference between winning and losing the Super Bowl.
With 7:13 left in the fourth quarter and the 49ers leading 20-10, Mahomes faced a third and fifteen from the Chiefs 35 yard line. The 44 yard completion to a wide open Tyreek Hill flipped the momentum with the Chiefs scoring three touchdowns over the next three possessions.
For most of the game, Mahomes looked pedestrian as the 49ers defense was able to contain the Chiefs offense. Mahomes had 6.8 yards per passing attempt which was much lower than his 8.3 yards per attempt in the regular season.
But Mahomes found a way to ignite his team for the win. It certainly looks like the Chiefs knew what they were doing when they moved up in the first round to draft Mahomes in the 2017 draft and then traded former quarterback Alex Smith to Washington.
In the Super Bowl era, the NFL has almost always been about quarterback play. Look at the number of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks who are in the Hall of Fame: Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway, and Kurt Warner. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson are likely to join them.
While quarterback play is essential to have a championship quality team, a closer look in the salary cap era shows an interesting trend. The starting quarterbacks salary cap percentage is predictive of who will win future Super Bowls.
In the 25 years with a salary cap, only seven times has the winning quarterback had a cap hit greater than ten percent. Three of the times have occurred in the last six years when quarterback salaries have become historically skewed.
Why does this matter? Nobel prize-winning economics professor Richard Thaler explains the secret to success in the NFL: having players exceed the value of their salary cap percentage.
Mahomes carried a 2.36 percentage of the Chiefs 2019 salary cap according to spotrac.com. It is safe to say that Mahomes’ performance far exceeded the value of his contract.
Mahomes contract allowed the Chiefs to stock their team with the required depth to withstand injuries including one to Mahomes. Despite the quarterback being the most important player on the team, championship teams are filled with 52 other players that are necessary to win – Mahomes needed Hill to catch the pass.
In 2009, Brees had a 8.3 percent cap hit when he won the Super Bowl. He has had a cap hit less than ten percent once since. The Saints have been a good team winning 37 games the past three years but have zero Super Bowl appearances since they won their one and only Super Bowl.
Roethlisberger has had two seasons with a cap hit below ten percent since the Steelers last won the Super Bowl in 2008. The Seahawks have not returned to the Super Bowl since Wilson signed his second and now third contract.
These three quarterbacks are Hall of Fame worthy Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. They have earned their large pay checks but it comes with a cost. The margin for error for competing for future championships is razor-thin when the quarterback consumes a large portion of the cap.
With Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott set to sign his next contract, Cowboys Nation should contemplate The Richard Thaler principle. Is Dallas’ chance to win a future Super Bowl greater with Prescott making north of ten percent of the salary cap or would the chance be greater drafting a first round quarterback, paying other players the quarterback cap savings and recovering draft capital for trading (once he has been franchised) or letting Prescott sign elsewhere?
Quality quarterbacking is essential to win the Super Bowl. Quarterback performance that far exceeds the value of the contract gives you a better chance to win the Lombardi trophy.
Max Kellerman from ESPN First Take makes the same argument. At the 5:37 minute of this video he shares an opinion that is likely giving the Cowboys front office pause – will paying Prescott market value help or hurt the team?
The Eagles, Lions, Rams, Falcons and many other teams would answer the question that paying average to above average quarterbacks top of the market money has set them back. The fairest solution for everyone involved would be to trade Prescott to a team that will pay him what he thinks he is worth.
It is clear that Dak Prescott wants the Dallas Cowboys to pay him top dollar. In doing so, he will make it nearly impossible to win the Super Bowl in Big D.