Imagine if you will a day, any day will do, that is a decade or so from now. The Cowboys have returned to the elite of the NFL, they are displaying a few more Lombardi Trophies, and much of the praise is going to their veteran quarterback, Dak Prescott. An All-Pro and multiple MVP winner, Prescott is the model of a modern quarterback. Okay, that’s a little rich for you? Perhaps too much a beautiful dream? Let’s go with this: On that day a decade hence, Dak Prescott is being celebrated as the key piece that helped the Cowboys return to prominence as perennial contenders.
If Dak Prescott is the Cowboys quarterback of the future, and has a long, impressive run as such, there will surely be Jerry Jones claiming credit for drafting Dak. He will, until the end of his time, say it’s more proof that he’s a great evaluator of NFL talent. He singled Prescott out as the guy the Cowboys needed, and was smart enough to get him at great value in the fourth round. That’s a nice dream, but let’s stake a little reality into the ground.
The Dallas Cowboys need to send thank you notes to every team in the league for passing on Prescott multiple times, and that includes some very quarterback-hungry teams. But most of all, they should thank the Denver Broncos, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders for making this happen, with a special shoutout to the Cleveland Browns.
The Cowboys tried hard to not draft Dak Prescott, but thanks to others, they ended up doing so anyway.
But at 9:56 p.m. Central Time Thursday, after 67 minutes talking to nine teams trying to deal for a [Paxton] Lynch-enabling pick, reality bit. Word filtered into the room that Denver had traded up with Seattle to pick Lynch. Pall over the room. Observers say owner Jerry Jones, who’d been standing next to the draft board trying to figure the math it might take to move up, looked and sounded crestfallen.
“Well,” Jones said wearily to no one, “guess I’ll sit down now.”
Yes, thankfully because the Seattle Seahawks demanded a trade that was just a little too rich for the Cowboys, they didn’t move back into the first round to get Lynch. The Denver Broncos instead made the move, starting the dominoes that eventually led to Prescott in Dallas.
But the Cowboys weren’t done with trying to pick another quarterback not named Prescott.
Given his druthers, Garrett was okay settling for Connor Cook or Prescott down the road in the draft, maybe in Round 4 if they lasted that long. With needs on defense, Garrett preferred to take two defensive players in rounds two and three from among this pool: Oklahoma State pass-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith and Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins.
Garrett did get two of the three players he wanted in rounds two and three, Jaylon Smith and Maliek Collins. Collins has already proven to be a wise investment. But the Cowboys were looking quarterback in the fourth round, and Connor Cook was the man they coveted.
On day three, Dallas sat at pick 101, the third pick in the fourth round. Cleveland owned picks 99 and 100. The Cowboys favored Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook marginally over Prescott. Cleveland wasn’t going to take a quarterback, having just taken USC passer Cody Kessler near the end of round three. So the Cowboys offered Cleveland next year’s sixth-round pick to move up from 101 to 100. The Browns said no. Then the Cowboys offered this year’s sixth-round pick. The Browns said no. Cleveland took picks 114 and 154 from Oakland, and the Raiders jumped Dallas and picked Cook.
Fate intervenes once again. The Oakland Raiders swoop in and make the trade to secure the rights to Connor Cook, finally leaving the Cowboys free to choose Dak Prescott. Thanks Oakland and Cleveland, with the Cowboys next pick, they secure their QB of the future and the right now! Wait, what? Oh, that’s not exactly what happened. With the 101st pick they took Charles Tapper. That means that another 33 picks would happen, with teams passing on Prescott until with the 135th pick, the Cowboys finally drafted Dak Prescott.
As much as the Cowboys tried not to draft Dak Prescott, it finally happened. But that’s not the end of the story. Once Kellen Moore was out of the picture due to injury and Tony Romo was injured in the preseason (thanks Seattle?), the Cowboys seriously thought about trading for a veteran, and had their eyes set on Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown. In the last stroke of luck for the Cowboys, the Browns asked too much (Ron Leary) and Dallas balked. Instead they decided to see what they had in Dak Prescott for a bit, then decide. Thank you, Cleveland.
We don’t know what Dak Prescott will be in the future, it looks promising right now, but only time will give us the true picture. And this whole article was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Still, when you look back and see how much the Cowboys did to avoid drafting Prescott, and how many other events had to fall into place for Prescott to get this opportunity as the starter, it’s a wonder it happened at all. Maybe it was fate.
But just to cover ourselves on the karma scales, here’s a thank you to the rest of the NFL, and especially to a handful of franchises that made it happen.