Don’t blame Dak Prescott for the Dallas Cowboys’ failures
By Tyrone Starr
Last week, I wrote about Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott asking whether or not I thought he’s capable of leading this team to a Super Bowl. This week, I’m here to tell you why Prescott is not to blame for the Cowboys’ inability to advance in the playoffs. Now, before we get to all that, I firmly expect to lose some of my audience because there probably isn’t a more polarizing topic than Prescott and his play.
If we are being completely honest, I am almost 100% sure that you can dissect Cowboys fans into five different components. One section loves the quarterback no matter what he does because they like him as a person. Another section loves his look and vibe more than his on-field play. There’s the unfortunate section of fans who dislike him or find immediate fault in the little things he does or doesn’t do based on the color of his skin. The last group is compromised of those who just love the team and want him to do well because that obviously translates into team success.
Of course, you can have a foot in one or two of those camps simultaneously. Clearly, there is one that will forever be a “you” problem, and that’s all there is to say in that matter. Regardless, if we’re going to be fair and analyze the situation without bias, all of this must be left at the door.
Rebuking the argument that Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is not worth the money he’s making on his contract
Now that we have gotten past that necessary disclaimer, the biggest complaint I usually see on social media is the discussion about his contract. Some people just love to say he’s not worth the money he’s making.
This is ridiculous for three very obvious reasons. The first reason is the ineptitude of the front office to get a timely deal done. Dallas probably could have signed him to a cheaper deal, but being the football wizards they are, Jerry and Stephen Jones elected to not get a long-term deal done before the 2020 season and put Prescott on the franchise tag.
Prescott responded by throwing for over 370 yards per game, completing 68% of his passes, and leading the team to 133 points in four and a half quarters before losing the rest of his season due to injury. That performance added money to the inevitable deal that was about to come his way.
The second reason this is absurd is that the market, to a large degree, decides what a player is worth. In 2019, one year before Prescott was set to hit free agency, then Rams quarterback Jared Goff signed a four-year, $134 million deal. Not to be outdone, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signed a four-year, $140 million deal.
As we touched on before, Dallas put off a long-term deal with Prescott, and guess what happened next? Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year, $450 million deal. The money kept going up and up, leaving Dallas no choice but to either fork over $160 million to Prescott or start from scratch. The latter, obviously not being a real option.
Lastly, I have never understood any fan bemoaning money that a player earns. If the roles were reversed, they would certainly not turn the money down. The expectation of another human doing so is so silly it is literally not worth any further discussion.
A deeper look at Cowboys’ Dak Prescott’s quarterback stats
Now that we’ve challenged the preposterous notion that Prescott is overpaid, let’s look at the numbers. When you actually research the facts, the picture clears up significantly.
I looked at what the overwhelming majority of football fans would consider the top 13 quarterbacks and found that only three have winning records against playoff teams in the regular season since 2018.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Mahomes, and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson are the only quarterbacks that have been successful against the best of the best. Now, unless you’re just going to say everyone else is trash or overpaid, you instantly realize that having Prescott as your signal-caller isn’t all that bad.
It’s not just about the records against the best of the best, however. It’s also about performance in those games. As you might expect, Rodgers and Mahomes are otherworldly. Rodgers is 14-8 against playoff teams and has a quarterback rating of 110.8. Plus he threw 35 touchdowns and just three interceptions in those wins. Mahomes, meanwhile, has a quarterback rating of 111.6 with 38 touchdowns and five interceptions in 14 playoff wins.
How does Prescott compare? I’m glad you asked. The answer is quite favorably actually. While Prescott has half the wins those two do (we’ll get to that in a second), his quarterback rating in the wins is actually better than both of those guys. The Cowboys QB has a rating of 118.7, which is only bested by one other quarterback, the Chargers Justin Herbert. In those wins, by the way, Dak has thrown 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Everything can’t just be about the good though. You have to discuss the bad stuff as well, which ironically bodes even better for Prescott.
How does Dak Prescott compare to the league’s best QBs against playoff teams?
Prescott is just 7-13 against playoff teams in the regular season since 2018. His quarterback rating drops all the way to 82.6 with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Obviously, you would like him to play better. But guess what, this is not an uncommon occurrence for anyone else either.
Rodgers’ quarterback rating in his eight losses drops to 87.5. Wilson’s is 86.8 in 14 losses. Jackson’s is 80.7 in nine losses. In fact, only Mahomes, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, and current Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson have a quarterback rating over 90 in their losses against elite teams.
The fact is that every quarterback struggles against top-notch talent. For only three guys to have a winning record and just six to have better records than Prescott against such opponents, it is very fair to say that Prescott is doing his part to help the Cowboys be successful.
I think it is impartial to say that Prescott is probably not an elite quarterback. At this point, I think that’s reserved for Rodgers and Mahomes exclusively. I also think it is equitable to say that he is squarely in that next group with Wilson, Kyler Murray, Jackson, Josh Allen, Herbert, and Burrow with the rankings coming down to your personal preference.
Whether Prescott is third, ninth, or somewhere in between, you can absolutely win with a guy like him. At a minimum, you’re already a step or two ahead of over a third of the league.
Depending on how long you have had skin in the game or your level of care, the postseason struggles of this team are understandably frustrating and annoying. To put that on Prescott, however, is misguided. The numbers say to be grateful for having an upper-echelon quarterback and to put your crosshairs onto another target.