Is Cowboys’ Dak Prescott a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback?
By Tyrone Starr
The NFL has just one game left to be played before the books officially close on the 2021 season. Unfortunately, for the 26th consecutive year, that game will not include your Dallas Cowboys.
Obviously, there are many reasons for such a long drought. For many years, this franchise featured aging veterans and terrible draft choices. For approximately an entire decade, the talent pool was laughably shallow. Bad drafts, terrible trades, and questionable free-agent maneuvers set this franchise back.
Finally, owner Jerry Jones woke up and decided to go back to a formula that once brought three Championships in a four-year span. Legendary coach Bill Parcells, a dual-threat talent (evaluating team builder and head coach) came to Dallas and resurrected the franchise.
Even though he was only with the Cowboys for four years, he posted three winning seasons and put Dallas back on the map, showing Jones how things should really be done. In the almost two decades since that time, Dallas has had 11 winning seasons and another four years going 8-8. Still, not only has the Super Bowl alluded them but so too has the NFC Championship game.
Is Cowboys QB Dak Prescott a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback?
If you ask almost any NFL front office person what the major piece to winning a championship is, that person will unequivocally start at the quarterback position. If you don’t have an upper echelon signal-caller, it is almost impossible to be playing in late January or early February.
Possibly more so than any other playoff season, 2021 has seen some very high-level quarterback play. Last week’s showdown between the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes was a showcase of how two players at that position can take over a game.
Of course, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was one and done in these playoffs. While Prescott did not have a transcendent game by any means, his performance was not terrible either. The playoffs, however, is when the best players need to be at their best. Sadly, that was not the case this year for the QB. Now, this begs the question of whether Prescott can lead Dallas to a Super Bowl at all.
Let’s start by first looking at a list of current NFL quarterbacks who gave gotten their team to the Super Bowl. The number of Lombardi Trophy wins will be listed by each player as well:
Tom Brady – 7
Patrick Mahomes – 1
Nick Foles – 1
Russell Wilson – 1
Aaron Rodgers – 1
Joe Flacco – 1
Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Jimmy Garoppolo – 0
As you can see, just ten active quarterbacks have taken their team to the biggest game and one of those guys is retiring. After Super Bowl LVI, you can add Matthew Stafford and Joe Burrow to the list, one of which will win his first-ever Super Bowl ring.
Now, let’s take a look at the playoff records of those twelve guys. Next to their records, the number in parenthesis represents the number of games that the quarterback had a passer rating above 95.0.
Tom Brady – 35-12 (21)
Patrick Mahomes – 8-3 (7)
Nick Foles – 4-2 (4)
Russell Wilson – 9-7 (9)
Aaron Rodgers – 12-10 (13)
Joe Flacco – 10-5 (8)
Jared Goff – 3-3 (1)
Matt Ryan – 4-6 (5)
Cam Newton – 3-4 (3)
Jimmy Garoppolo – 5-2 (1)
Matthew Stafford – 3-3 (4)
Joe Burrow – 3-0 (1)
As you can see, only two of the twelve have losing playoff records, while another two have won as many as they have lost. As for Prescott, he is 1-3 in his four playoff games with two games posting a passer rating above 95.0. Again, Prescott has played well but not good enough when the lights have been brightest.
Now, the ardent Prescott supporters will be quick to point out that no one man can do it alone and that it’s not fair to pin losses on one player. While that might seem fair to say, the inconvenient truth is that quarterbacks get the lion’s share of the praise when they win and the same amount of blame when they lose.
All three teams that Prescott has led to the playoffs have had statistically sound defenses, all finishing in the top ten in points allowed for their perspective seasons. All three teams had sufficient talent as well, winning 13, 10, and 12 games.
You can blame otherworldly performances like that of Rodgers in 2016. You can blame a porous run defense like the one that allowed almost 275 yards to the Rams in 2018. Heck, you can even blame the refs for calling 14 penalties along with the ball-spotting fiasco this year.
The bottom line still comes down to Prescott elevating his game when it matters most. In his four playoff games, he’s thrown for just one touchdown in three of them. He also has just one performance of throwing for over 300 yards as well.
When you look at the list above and see names like Foles and Flacco, you instantly think that Prescott is much better than both of them. While that may be the case, you cannot take away how those guys all performed when playoff time came. Foles threw for almost 1,000 yards with six touchdowns and one interception in three playoff games on his journey to a ring. Flacco, meanwhile, threw for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns in four playoff games when he led Baltimore to the promised land.
Circling back to the question posed earlier. Can Prescott lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl? I believe he has the talent to do so. He is surely as talented or more so than some of the names you see above. He has some high-level weaponry surrounding him offensively and a young, solid defense behind him as well.
For Prescott to be playing in February, it will simply come down to whether or not he can elevate his game as we saw Stafford and Burrow do this year. Time is not running out on Prescott, but with each passing year, the fan base will get more and more ravenous for him to play better when it matters most.
Prescott’s legacy and this franchise’s success are both on the line. It would be in both of their best interests for him to take his play to that next level in 2022.