This time, last year, the most polarizing topic on every Cowboys’ platform, including this one, was centered around the quarterback position. After all, Tony Romo had just been injured twice in one season, would be 36 when the season started and had missed games in each of the last three seasons. Whether that topic was about finding the heir or finding an adequate backup; quarterback was the hot-button item of discussion.
Just about every one of us was scouring over scouting reports of the various big names that were entering the draft. So many columns were written about finding the “right” quarterback for the Cowboys. There was a definitive line drawn in the sand between the “quarterback truthers” and those that wanted to capitalize around the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback already on the roster.
Every single day of the offseason leading up to the draft was Carson Wentz this or Jared Goff that. There were even discussions about trading back into the first round to take a shot at Paxton Lynch (something the Cowboys actually tried). It's a quarterback league. If you got one, you're looking for your next one. If you don't have one, your job security is about as loose as a pair of sweatpants. It will always be the quarterback and you need no further evidence than looking at what just happened in Super Bowl LVI.
What we all know is the fact that the Dallas Cowboys had Carson Wentz as their number one quarterback. Then they tried to trade up with the Seahawks to take Paxton Lynch, but the Broncos beat them to it. They also tried to secure a trade for Connor Cook but the Raiders beat them to it. That would lead to the selection of Dak Prescott at 135th overall and the notion that Dallas "lucked" into their current situation. The drafting of Prescott was not lucky. The Dallas Cowboys did their homework on Dak and knew perhaps more than any team in the league.
There was no quarterback that the Cowboys met with more than Dak Prescott in last year's draft process. It wasn't that the Cowboys didn't consider first-round talents such as Wentz, Goff or Lynch; it was more about how they felt about Tony Romo. They felt that he was snake bit in 2015 and that these injuries were going to be behind him going forward. So, in essence, they began doing their homework on other guys that they could try and develop for a future role.
Nobody intrigued them more than the Mississippi State kid that beat them in the Senior Bowl and had an incredible air about him. Though they had guys rated higher than him, they met with Prescott at every juncture they could including sending Wade Wilson to him several times. They grilled and drilled Prescott over and over again because they didn't know what they thought about him. They knew that they liked him, they just didn't know why and it was important as ever that they got it right.
Scott Linehan was the biggest fan of Prescott among the coaching staff. He felt after watching the tape that Prescott was much more than just some spread offense quarterback:
According to Jones, Linehan was "on the table" for the Cowboys to draft Prescott. Linehan had him rated with the top quarterbacks in the draft, Wentz and Goff, and he pushed for the team to rate him higher than it did.
Linehan studied the Mississippi State offense as well as the quarterback. His impression was that Prescott was making more whole-field reads than most spread quarterbacks. But he knew three elements would be transitional for him: Playing under center, running a huddle and learning/making more expansive play calls.
There was also the now famous interview session where Jason Garrett drew up plays on the board to test Dak’s memory. After Dak drew the same plays to show Garrett, the coach would act dissatisfied with the young quarterback. He would say to the coaches around him things like ‘that’s not what I drew’, Dak would draw it again (correctly) still to no suffice of Garrett.
Garrett began to frustrate the current record-setting SEC quarterback but that’s exactly his intentions. He then brought up the pre-draft lapse in judgment that resulted in Dak’s arrest for DUI. “You’re the face of the program and you go and make a decision like that?” Dak would apologize but that’s not what Garrett was looking for as he kept persisting and drawing the frustrations out of Prescott.
"I don't know what else you want me to say," he told Garrett. "This is what happened. I'm completely accountable for it. It's not going to happen again."
That spoke volumes to Garrett who has a reputation of being a squeaky-clean type of guy though his team has taken some chances that have and have not worked out. Prescott already had the intangibles that Garrett, Linehan, and company loved. What they wanted to do was see what he was about. He kept his cool, though he was a bit flustered, he kept fighting until he got the result he wanted. That’s what perhaps is the most impressive thing about Dak Prescott.
He’s notoriously not the greatest “practice performer” and has the label of more of a “gamer”. However, as was evidenced by his performance in the Divisional loss to the Packers’, Dak Prescott persists until he finds the result he wants. Sure, that was a loss but think about the near-comeback he led and how he put to rest any conversation that Tony Romo should earn back that job.
Circling back to that day at the old Valley Ranch, the coaches decided to take him out to dinner and that’s where Dak’s star shined even brighter. It was there that he started questioning the entire coaching staff, it was Prescott’s turn to figure out what these coaches were about. It wasn’t disrespectful or unnecessary, the relationship between coaches and players can be like a marriage and Prescott had his right to know who he may be marrying for his NFL career.
"He was asking us things, trying to find out what we were about," Linehan said. "He did it in a very respectful way. It seemed like we were talking to this mature, veteran guy. A friend of mine probably said it right: He's an old soul. But then he's a young, vibrant guy."
"Sometimes it's hard to judge the character, the football IQ, the nervous system," Jones said. "Until you see it firsthand and touch it, it's hard to understand how rare he is in terms of people skills and leadership qualities."
Though Dan Pompeii of Bleacher Report is correct that nobody saw his outstanding rookie season coming. It would be false to say that some people didn’t see the capabilities there.
Quarterbacking in the NFL is certainly about talent but if you don’t have it from the shoulders up to the top of your head; you will not make it in this league. Dak Prescott just ‘get’s it’. It’s hard to put so many words into the type of person we know him to be without even meeting him or speaking to him for a limited time. However, you can see it in every press conference and how he carries himself on the football field.
Having mocked him in 6 of 12 of our BTB mock drafts last offseason, I want you to know that I had no idea of anything. There is no credit for putting a guy to a number in the process that has become the draft. The credit is for Scott Linehan, Wade Wilson, and Jason Garrett. They saw potential much like the Patriots saw in a sixth-round pick from Michigan many years ago.
There is no perfect execution of the process and there is luck in every decision that you can make as a human being. Some things are not a shot in the dark, much like the acquisition of Dak Prescott was not some tossing of the noodle to the wall. The Dallas Cowboys, from top to bottom, did their homework on this kid and he rose to the challenge. At the very least, they had some sort of idea of the guy they wanted and Prescott checked off the boxes for them:
Linehan said to Dak when he was drafted; "Had a feeling this might happen. Hey, sometimes people just belong together, you know what I mean?"