In an interview with Peter King of Sport Illustrated almost exactly a year ago, Tony Romo spoke at length about what distinguishes quarterbacks playing at the highest level. And what Romo spoke about is not hand size, accuracy, height or any of the other measurables we've been conditioned to look for in QB prospects. Instead, he talks about spatial awareness and the ability to quickly process information.
"If you understand spatial awareness," Romo said, "you process the coverage and leverage of the defenders and you do it all in one second.
"People talk about potential for quarterbacks, and it is one of the most overrated comments. To me, when I look at a young quarterback and a GM asks me, 'What do you think about his potential?' I can't answer until I see how fast he can get through progressions. And when I say that, I mean I need to see if he understands spatial awareness and his ability to go from his third to fourth to fifth even possible guy—and how fast and long that takes him when he doesn't know the coverage. You can teach someone footwork and teach them how to throw a football but it is very difficult to teach someone how to see things quicker. That's what separates the quarterbacks who are at the highest level."
Every year for the last 15 years, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been polling personnel people before the draft. McGinn uses the results of those polls to rank draft prospects at their respective positions and spices up the rankings with comments from anonymous scouts. Here's what three different scouts told McGinn about Prescott:
|Random Scout #1||Random Scout #2||Random Scout #3|
|"This was not a good team but for two years they competed against the best teams," one scout said. "He was the entire team there. The guy's just a winner. He's got patience, focus, makes quick decisions, good arm strength, nice touch, stands tall in the pocket under pressure."||"He motivated that team, held guys accountable," another scout said. "I just don't see the vision downfield. He's a very streaky thrower. There will be a place for him in the league. I'd take him overhands down."||"He's got no accuracy, got no vision," said a third scout. "I don't think he's an NFL quarterback."|
Combined, the three comments here help explain why Prescott lasted until the overall 135th pick, taken in the fourth round. Prescott did have accuracy issues earlier in his college career, there were questions about his vision, some scouts would have liked him a few inches taller, there were doubts about his ability to take snaps from under center, and not many people recognized his ability to make quick decisions.
But spatial awareness and the ability to process information, key traits of successful QBs according to Tony Romo, did not show up on most reports published by draft scouts about Prescott. And as a consequence, most scouts and draftniks were surprised by Prescott's early success.
One guy who may not have been quite as surprised: Bill Parcells.
|Parcells QB rules|
|Senior in college||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Graduated from College||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Started 30 games||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Won 23 games||Yes||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|2-to-1 TD/INT Ratio||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Completion rate > 60%||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
On Monday, Steven Ruiz of USA Today published an article about Dak Prescott titled "One play that proves Dak Prescott is the future of the Cowboys franchise," in which he explained that one play was all he needed to see "to conclude that Prescott is going to be a star."
Here's the play in question:
You'll have to read Ruiz's entire article - in fact, I urge you to do it right now - because Ruiz provides a terrific breakdown of the play and how Dak Prescott made that play possible.
Here's the summary of what Prescott did on that one play:
1. Read the defense correctly before the snap
2. Got the team into the right play call
3. Recognized the problem player on the defense
4. Manipulated that player with his eyes to open up the passing lane
5. Made an accurate throw downfield for the first down.
Now, none of these steps seem very difficult on their own, but he’s doing all of this in a matter of seconds. There are only a handful of quarterbacks in the league making these kinds of plays consistently. Those are guys are named Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Cam Newton. That Prescott was able to do it in only his second start bodes very well.
On this play, Dak Prescott showed the spatial awareness and the ability to quickly process information that Romo is looking for from top QBs.
In November of 2015, Tony Romo told Jerry Jones that when the time came to find a new quarterback for the I'll find him for you.", "
It's still early days for Dak Prescott, and Tony Romo probably still has a few last hurrahs left in him, but could it really be that the Cowboys found their next star QB at the bottom of the fourth round in the 2016 NFL draft?