Definition of serendipity
: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also : an instance of this
There is a saying that it is better to be lucky than good. It stands to reason that if you can be both, you are really killing it. For the Dallas Cowboys, the 2016 draft is a case of both, and that is the reason why the team, in defiance of all logic and reason, has the best record in the NFL and has become a favorite to make it to the Super Bowl. The good was drafting Ezekiel Elliott, and to a lesser degree, Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown. Elliott has been all that the Cowboys wanted him to be and more, while Collins and Brown have been solid first-year players that have over-performed for their draft position.
But with Dak Prescott, the Cowboys hit the lottery. He was the consolation prize in the draft, after plans to trade up for Paxton Lynch fell through and Connor Cook was taken one spot before Dallas could get him. This left the team with Prescott, who was a favorite of the coaching staff, but who was behind the other two quarterbacks on the board. He was selected with a supplemental pick near the end of the fourth round. For him, expectations were that he was purely a developmental quarterback with a moderate chance of becoming a future starter. His primary role was to be a backup, and the best case scenario before training camp started was that he would challenge Kellen Moore for the number two spot behind Tony Romo.
You know the story. He was thrust into the backup job when Moore was lost for the season early in camp. His career started off with some stellar play in preseason, but he was still seen to be just an upgrade as the backup. The biggest advantage that he offered, it was thought, was that the Cowboys did not have to go and overpay for a veteran backup. Then apparent disaster hit when Romo was injured again. Based on the incredible effectiveness Prescott was showing in the preseason games, the team made the daring decision to roll into the season with him as the starter and try to survive until Romo could return, signing Mark Sanchez strictly as insurance.
Then the winning streak happened. In many games, we were told that he was finally facing a defense that would break him down the way rookies usually are. Stout pass rushes, blitz schemes, and disguised coverages were thrown at him. But game after game, the rest of the league was faced with an incredible thing about him: Dak don’t crack. Bolstered by the stellar running of Elliott and protected by what most consider the best offensive line in the game, Prescott just kept winning. He did in in every way, coming back from bad starts, putting together back-to-back flawless drives to first tie the game and then win in overtime, and just flat dominating some lesser teams. He was so good, he forced one of the best quarterbacks in team history to become his backup.
And, as the knowledgeable Bob Sturm has remarked more than once, it is no fluke. Earlier, our own OCC put together a comparison of the four starting quarterbacks in the NFC East, and the evidence is overwhelming. Prescott is the best in the division in almost any way of evaluating the QB position. Further, if you look at the way he stacks up in the various metrics, he is a top five quarterback in the league. His volume stats are not among the top, but that is partly because the Cowboys rely on the most balanced offensive attack in the league with Elliott now the leading rusher. Possibly the most important skill that Prescott brings to the field is his nearly flawless protection of the ball. He simply does not turn it over, especially in crucial situations. His accuracy is at its best in the fourth quarter.
Every team in the NFL passed him up for four rounds. 31 of them are probably kicking themselves right now. But you can’t put too much blame on anyone, including the Cowboys, for not seeing this coming. With Prescott’s college pedigree, there was not any clear evidence he would make the jump to the NFL so amazingly well.
But almost none of those other teams offered him the perfect situation that the Cowboys did, either. Years of investment in the line, a very good stable of receivers, and the daring move to take a running back with the fourth-overall pick built the perfect beast where a quarterback with poise, accuracy, and high football IQ could thrive. Prescott just has proven that he has all of those qualities in far more measure than anyone realized, along with a character that Jason Garrett could not have created to fit his team philosophy any better.
This was great luck. A staggering amount of it. While other quarterbacks might have done well, the chances of anyone else the Cowboys could have drafted in any circumstance doing more than Prescott are small, to the point of vanishing.
Some teams are called teams of destiny, which is usually applied in hindsight. The Cowboys are a team of serendipity, where the perfect solution for what should have been a nearly insurmountable problem fell largely by chance into their laps. Last year, Romo’s injuries left us bemoaning what might have been. This season, we revel in what is.
And this is just the beginning for Prescott. As good as he is, he should only get better with experience. Despite the many things he has done right, he is not at all a perfect quarterback. He still has plenty of room to improve in things like reading the field. Yet what he already is capable of doing has Dallas setting records, with the total regular season mark for wins now well within their grasp. It is incredible to think of how good he may become.
Of course, the concern now is this year, and the only thing that really matters is how far the team can go in the playoffs. No rookie quarterback has ever led his team to the Super Bowl.
But Prescott has already done things no rookie quarterback has done. Until and unless someone figures out how to stop him and the Cowboys, this team looks like it is clearly the class of the NFC, if not the whole league. And he is a huge part of that.
Sometimes, you just get lucky.