Starting a rookie quarterback in the National Football League isn't an easy thing to prepare for. Especially when you look at the way the Dallas Cowboys came about in getting their rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott. It was no secret that this team met with Prescott perhaps more than any other quarterback in the process. They liked a lot of guys, though.
We now know that they had Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Paxton Lynch all graded as first-round talents in 2016. We know that they tried to execute a trade with the Seattle Seahawks in order to get Lynch but he wound up with the Denver Broncos. They also had Connor Cook (Raiders) as a second-round talent and Jacoby Brissett (Patriots) in the third. They wound up married to Dak Prescott with the 135th-overall-pick and now you couldn't pry him away with any of the talents aforementioned in this draft. It's funny how some things work out, isn't it?
If not for a season-ending injury to backup quarterback incumbent, Kellen Moore, we may not really know much more about Prescott than we do know Jameill Showers. As the majority of us were sitting around with plenty of "I told you so's" directed in the way of the Cowboys' backup situation, it somehow worked itself out.
Even so, how could we ever imagine that Dak Prescott would play as well as he has? 39 of 50 passing for 78% completion percentage? Seven offensive touchdowns to 0 turnovers (some were luckier than others)? This guy has put up a perfect passer rating, a darn near perfect passer rating, and a 99.2 against the NFL's best defense that was bringing the heat on him. As good as that all is, he'll now be facing his biggest task. Why are we cautiously optimistic? Perhaps it's because we've seen guys with similar skillsets do it and they had one common denominator; a fantastic rushing offense.
If you're looking for a path to optimism for the young Prescott, don't look at rookie campaigns for Dan Marino or Peyton Manning. Instead, look at the likes of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and even Vince Young to an extent. Sure, two of those options are much-maligned in some NFL circles. However, they all had supreme rushing campaigns which made it a lot easier for their teams to succeed. Is there much doubt that the same rushing success could be had for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys? Let's revisit the rookie campaigns of those three guys and start with the worst of the bunch:
'06 Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
The Titans weren't excited after Kerry Collins dropped the first three games. As a result, Jeff Fisher decided to start his rookie quarterback Vince Young in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Titans got the pants beat off them by the Cowboys 45-14 but Young showed he was ready for the challenge. Vince would start 13 games in his rookie season and win eight of them. They leaned on a heavy rushing attack from Travis Henry and his 1,211 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Young also added 552 rushing yards and seven touchdown runs of his own as Tennessee had the NFL's fifth-best rushing team.
Sure, the Titans were an 8-8 football team but after dropping the first five games, but behind Young they went 8-5. Young's numbers as a passer weren't great with only a 51.5% completion percentage, 2,199 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. However, he did lead five game-winning drives in 2006 and won 2006's Rookie of the Year honors. Perhaps the most impressive feat for Young and his Titans was the fact that they finished the year with promising aspirations all while sporting the NFL's 30th-ranked defense.
'12 Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
As Cowboys fans, we're well aware of the stellar rookie campaign of Robert Griffin III and it was strange to see how fast that went sour. Still, we would be remiss to not mention him. Griffin started 15 games in 2012, winning nine of them. He also had the help of a fantastic running back in Alfred Morris. As a sixth-round pick, Morris would rush the ball 335 times for 1,613 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns in his rookie campaign. Griffen, with his legs, added a whopping 815 more rushing yards with seven rushing touchdowns. The Redskins most assuredly had the NFL's top rushing unit with a 169 yards per game average.
As a passer, Griffen completed 65.6% of his passes for 3,200 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Griffin also set the rookie passer rating record at 102.4 and highest touchdown to interception ratio at 4:1. He was named Rookie of the Year and led the Redskins to a 10-6 record and a division title. He was named to the Pro Bowl but was rehabbing and ACL injury he suffered in the postseason. Injuries have plagued Griffin ever since but he really shined under the right environment. Again, he had help but Griffin was able to complete these tasks while also having the NFL's 28th-ranked defense.
'12 Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Now, Wilson is the most interesting story of them all because that's who everyone likens Prescott to. At least for now, Prescott is following the Wilson path to the the NFL. Wilson lit it up in the preseason leading to a lot of trust from head coach Pete Carroll and was named the starter. Wilson would start all 16 games and showed to be a true dual-threat quarterback. Not only did he have the jets to keep it and take off but he was a proficient passer as well. He completed 64.1% of his passes for 3,118 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also added nearly 500 yards rushing with four rushing touchdowns.
It helped tremendously that the Seahawks were the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL and that they also sported the third-ranked rushing offense behind Marshawn Lynch. "Beast Mode" had 1,590 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Wilson tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdowns thrown by a rookie quarterback. He also led the Seahawks to an 11-5 record and won a playoff game. In his second year, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
Out of all of these stories, Wilson is by far the one you would hope for. But again, Wilson has had the NFL's premier defense on his side for going on five seasons. Still, as you can see these teams ran the football and that's what was pivotal to their successes.
The Dallas Cowboys showed last season that the one thing they know how to do is run the rock. You can talk about how poor the quarterback play was last season but they turned Darren McFadden into the fourth-ranked rusher with 1,089 yards. Now, they spend their fourth-overall pick on what many believe to be the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, Ezekiel Elliott. Behind him is the renaissance man, Alfred Morris, with something to prove. They also still currently have their workhorse from last season in McFadden.
With a bevy of weapons at his disposal such as Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and a powerful running game, everything is front of Dak Prescott. It'll be up to the coaching staff to keep everything in front of him. Slowing the game down for Prescott will make his transition into the league a lot smoother. There is a place to start and it's with their rushing abilities.