Do you remember when Tom Cruise was defending Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and Private First Class Louden Downey in the movie A Few Good Men? One of the big selling points he was trying to make was whether or not it was possible that Private Santiago could have died from some other condition that didn’t involve poisoning the rag. He did a great job and in the end Jack Nicholson lost his cool and owned up to the whole "Code Red" thing. It was some impressive lawyering.
Sitting here pondering the fate of the Cowboys 2016 season, there are some factors that are creating reasonable doubt that the season has taken a turn for the worse. So, pleading to you today, the Blogging The Boys jury, answer this one simple question - is it possible the Cowboys could perform just as well with Dak Prescott?
It is important to preface my case by offering up this opening statement:
Tony Romo is a great quarterback. His value to the team shouldn’t be pushed to the wayside. There isn’t a better quarterback in the league that is more prepared for the play prior to the ball being snapped. He knows this offense inside and out. He’s a proven playmaker and his teammates love him. He’s also one of the more likable football players in the league, and while that doesn’t mean anything on the football field – he’s such a damn good guy.
While acknowledging Romo’s greatness it something everyone must do, it is also important to keep an open mind and examine the big picture as carefully as possible.
Exhibit A: Dak Prescott can run
What separates the good quarterbacks in the league from the great ones is how well they can pass the ball. You must have a strong and accurate arm to sustain success in this league. All the true greats can stand in the pocket and deliver. But that’s not all there is to being a great player. Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and even Pro Bowler Tyrod Taylor had great seasons last year and they all rushed for at least 500 yards. Even the great Aaron Rodgers tacks on about 300 yards rushing each season. Quarterbacks that can run pose a great threat to the defense. The ability to take off running can extend drives as well as keeping the defense honest. While all the other weapons remain intact for the Cowboys, they now also have a quarterback that can run on you at any given moment. It’s like having an extra player.
Prescott already has two rushing touchdowns this preseason. He’s has demonstrated what he can do with his legs. Defenses are going to have to respect that part of his game and it’s going to give them fits.
But it's not just about gaining yards when it comes to his elusiveness. One of Tony Romo's biggest strengths has been his ability to extend plays. How deflating is it for a secondary to hold your coverage only to be exposed for a few more seconds? Romo has made a living doing just that and Prescott can be just as mobile in the pocket.
Exhibit B: Dak has a strong arm
One of the biggest warts in the Cowboys quarterback arsenal last season is that they had no ability to go deep. Every deep pass attempt seemed like it stayed up there forever, or at least until the defender could catch up to it. The Cowboys had no presence of a deep threat with Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel.
That is not the case with Prescott. He has an arm. And it’s already been on display a couple times this preseason. He launched a huge bomb to Brice Butler against the Miami Dolphins for a big gain. He even hit Terrance Williams right in the hands on a deep pass against Seattle. Even though Williams couldn’t hold on to it, there is no doubt that Prescott can get the ball to him. This is an important element to the passing attack. The ability to go deep will keep the safeties in check and opens up the throwing lanes over the middle. This is one part of the offense that the Cowboys had with Romo and they’ll also have it with Dak.
Exhibit C: He is smart
No quarterback the Cowboys could bring in would ever match the level of intelligence that Romo brings to the offense. It’s one of the most underrated things about Tony, but it doesn’t go unnoticed here. While Dak isn’t anywhere close to having the knowledge from experience that Romo has, he’s still a smart player in his own right.
One of the things that is impressive about Prescott thus far has been his decision making. He has made good choices and distributed the ball extremely well. Many rookie QBs have a player that acts as a security blanket for them. Typically, it’s a tight end that they can check off to. But for Dak, he’s an equal opportunity passer. If you’re open, he’ll get you the ball. He’s thrown touchdown passes to all three of the Cowboys biggest targets – Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Terrance Williams. And Cole Beasley, who doesn’t catch touchdowns so much as he catches third downs – is right on cue doing what he does best with Dak. Even the Cowboys newest receiving threat, Brice Butler, is looking better than he’s ever looked and it has all came at the hands of Dak Prescott.
Open receivers get rewarded with Prescott under center and he’s going to make a lot of new friends this season.
Exhibit D: Kid’s got alligator blood
Rarely do you see a rookie quarterback step in and show the poise that Prescott has shown. It just doesn’t’ happen. He has extreme confidence in his ability. After Romo was hurt, Dak came in and immediately delivered a strike to Cole Beasley for a nice third down conversion. This kid seems unfazed by any of this. He’s spent his whole football life being "the guy" people depend on and he is strolling right along like the world is his stage. When he was relegated to the third-string QB, what did he do? He just kept playing. How did he perform went he had to take on the backup spot? He just kept playing. And then on Thursday, when Romo came out of the game after only three plays? He just kept playing. The kid doesn't get rattled. He’s never thought for a moment that he is playing for anything other than to be a starter on this team.
He’s going to have his moments where things don’t go well, and how he responds will be important. But early indication is he’s pretty comfortable with what is going on around him and that has to make fans feel pretty good.
It’s hard when any team loses their starting quarterback. The challenges that Dallas faces are obvious. But what is not obvious is just how talented this Prescott kid is. There certainly is no evidence to state the contrary.
"He’s only faced vanilla defenses" – I object your honor, see the Seattle game.
"He can’t win in the regular season" – I object, defense is speculating.
Everything we’ve seen thus far has been positive. He could be terrible once the season starts, but he could also be really good. It’s not such a rare find these days that a rookie quarterback comes in and leads their team to the playoffs. For a team such as Dallas, that has such a great assortment of offensive weapons, Prescott is armed and dangerous. Whether he helps make the Cowboys a winning team or not remains to be seen, but people of the BTB community, I ask you – is it possible?