Tony Romo is out, perhaps for as many as ten weeks this time according to reports, and that means that the Dallas Cowboys are left with a rookie passer to guide the offense. Dak Prescott has experienced one heck of a preseason during his brief NFL career. Now he will be thrust into the limelight of professional football and it will be happening on one of the game's biggest stages. He almost assuredly will be the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in week one.
It is unfair and unrealistic to ask any backup quarterback to be Tony Romo. That has been tried and all who have made the attempt, save Jon Kitna, have fallen on their faces. That situation is not unique to the Dallas Cowboys, most backups are in that position for a reason. If they were NFL starters, they would be starting somewhere else around the league. The only exception is when a team invests in a young passer to groom to replace the current man at the helm. This is likely what the Dallas front office had in mind on draft day.
You have to assume that Jerry Jones and the rest of the brain trust were thinking a few years ahead when they made the call to take a quarterback, not 2016. Fate had other plans. We hate that it happened, but sometimes the football gods use the exact situation that the Cowboys are in to elevate another man to the role they have in mind.
Let's take a look at a few quarterbacks who have gotten their first taste of success thanks to an injury.
Tom Brady - During Brady's second season in the league Drew Bledsoe was the man in New England. In the second game of the 2001 season the New York Jets knocked Bledsoe out of the game. The Patriots were forced to turn to a young and not-highly-regarded backup passer to take the helm. That man stepped up into the role that he was given and delivered immediately. There were times during that season when Tom Brady's inexperience cost the Patriots, most notably in a week ten loss to the St. Louis Rams, but that proved to be the last time they would lose during the season, and Brady received the first of his Super Bowl rings.
Kurt Warner - Since we briefly mentioned the Rams, let's move on to the man who was stocking shelves in a supermarket when the team reached out to him. He saw limited action during the first season he was in the league, but when Trent Green suffered an ACL injury the following year in preseason, Warner moved into the starting role. He led the "Greatest Show On Turf" to a record of 13-3 during the regular season and he went on to double dip with a league and a Super Bowl MVP to conclude the season.
Jim Plunkett - Plunkett was a journeyman backup quarterback who finally got his shot when Dan Pastorini suffered a broken leg short of the midway point in 1980. After a disastrous debut for Raider fans, the the team's backup passer righted the ship and wrote himself into Oakland lore. By the time he was done the Raiders had won nine of their last twelve games and managed to claw their way into a Wild Card berth. They went on to become the first team who won the Super Bowl without having won their division, and Al Davis had his second Super Bowl trophy.
Matt Cassell - This one touches a sore spot with Cowboys fans, but Cassell did find success replacing the above mentioned Brady in New England. One year removed from their perfect regular-season run, the Patriots lost their MVP in week one. No problem; the hooded-one trotted out his backup quarterback, who was making his first start since high school at the helm of the defending AFC Champions. Although Cassell wasn't able to win a Super Bowl like those listed ahead of him, he did turn in a respectable 10-5 mark for the remainder of the season. It also earned him an opportunity to move elsewhere to attempt to build a name for himself.
Earl Morrall - Since we are talking about perfection, lets hit on the team who stayed perfect to the end. That 1972 Miami Dolphins started the season with Bob Griese as their starter. That lasted five games. When Griese broke his leg out came an aging journeyman passer named Earl Morrall. He reeled of nine consecutive wins to put his team in position to complete a perfect season. Griese returned for the Super Bowl, but it was his back up who did the lion's share of the quarterbacking to make the 72 Dolphins immortal.
Realistically speaking, nobody expects that kind of success from any backup, but the opportunity is there for Dak Prescott to make a move. If he starts to approach the level of success these passers experienced through the season's first ten weeks, Jason Garrett will be hard-pressed to take him out of the line up. If Dak continues to progress as he has so far it would not be out of the question for the Cowboys to find themselves in contention for an NFC East crown. Remember last season when the Redskins made their move behind Kirk Cousins? There is reason to believe that the Dak Prescott era in Dallas, and perhaps a new run of success, is about to begin.