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Dak Doubters Should Judge Dak Prescott By What He’s Already Shown

There is a growing populous of folks calling for Dak to fail, what do the numbers say though?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-OTA Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Though Dak Prescott is in his second offseason program, in reality, it’s his first as the new face of the Dallas Cowboys’ franchise. Prescott is coming off a rookie season that bested every rookie season before it statistically for quarterbacks.

It’s not easy to take over the reins from a four-time Pro Bowler like Tony Romo that was every bit of a champion for the city of Dallas, though he came short of that ultimate goal. Dak Prescott did win Rookie of the Year despite having to compete with his own teammate, Ezekiel Elliott. Also, Prescott did make a Pro Bowl appearance. Some folks will never be satisfied and especially critical when you’re the quarterback of the league’s most valuable and visible team.

When it comes to Dak Prescott, he’s been the subject of criticism for a lot of things that aren’t even in his control. The first thing that always gets pointed out is Dak’s team around him and it’s been used in two different ways. On one hand, Dak has one of, if not, the very best offensive line anchored by three All-Pros, complete with another All-Pro receiver and running back respectively. Naturally, some detractors focus on these facts as the reason for all his success. To that, all you can really say is it’s not Dak’s fault that his team has drafted well (62 Pro Bowlers & 17 First-Team All-Pro Players since 2002). Where that argument loses me though is when you see something like this:

For one, if you’re waiting for something like that, don’t hold your breath when the average age of the projected offense around Dak is barely 26 years old. That time may not come for quite a while as the Cowboys are doing everything they can to keep their offense together. Who’s to say they won’t just keep churning that young roster around him? Spoiler alert: that’s the Cowboys M.O. under this leadership. You can’t convince anyone that having a team with such a young nucleus should just drop anytime soon without outside interference.

Another group of the “Dak Doubters” as we’ll affectionately name them has come in the form of some unfounded conjecture. The “Dak doesn’t have to do much” crowd is growing and that perfectly lines up with the aforementioned notions. Statistically speaking, Dak has done more than most rookie quarterbacks as was noted in the first paragraph. Let’s peruse a quick chart of Dak and Sports Illustrated’s list of Top-10 rookie seasons:

Rookie Season Name Passing Yards Att. Comp. Comp. % Pass TD INTs YPA Passer Rating
1983 Dan Marino 2,210 296 173 58.4 20 6 7.5 96.0
1998 Peyton Manning 3,739 575 326 56.7 26 28 (Led NFL) 6.5 71.2
2004 Ben Roethlisberger 2,621 295 196 66.4 17 11 8.9 98.1
2008 Matt Ryan 3,440 434 265 61.1 16 11 7.9 87.7
2011 Cam Newton 4,051 517 310 60.0 21 17 7.8 84.5
2011 Andy Dalton 3,398 516 300 58.1 20 13 6.6 80.4
2012 Robert Griffin III 3,200 393 258 65.6 20 5 8.1 102.4
2012 Russell Wilson 3,118 393 252 64.1 26 10 7.9 100.0
2012 Andrew Luck 4,374 627 339 54.1 23 18 7.0 76.5
2015 Jameis Winston 4,042 535 312 58.3 22 15 7.4 85.2
2016 Dak Prescott 3,667 459 311 67.8 23 4 8.0 104.9

Prescott is right up there with his contemporaries in just about every category and leading in completion percentage, interceptions thrown, and passer rating. Those doubters say that he did far less but he was fifth in yards, sixth in attempts, and fourth in completions by this chart. There is only one rookie quarterback ahead of Prescott in passing yards and that was Carson Wentz by 115 yards but he threw 148 more passes. Those would be the only two categories Wentz outperformed Dak.

So, the next obvious argument that gets pinned on Dak is that he’s a “dink-and-dunker”. That couldn’t be further from the truth either seeing as the average pass from Dak traveled almost eight yards per throw. That ranked Dak fourth in the league with only Kirk Cousins (8.11), Tom Brady (8.23), and the league MVP Matt Ryan (9.26) ahead of him. This thought that Dak doesn’t go deep is not really accurate or taking into account the whole picture. Plus, when Dak does throw deep, he’s among the best in the league:

Dak Prescott was one of the best deep ball passers in tight windows. A whopping 39.5 percent of Dak Prescott's passes that traveled further than 20 yards in the air went into tight coverage. The rookie's 29.4 percent completion rate was the ninth-best mark on such throws and he never recorded an interception.”

Dak may not go deep as much, but again, he doesn’t have to. Here’s our very own Tom Ryle, who brought forth some great analysis:

“Effectiveness was one aspect of Prescott’s game that cannot be undervalued. One criticism some observers have leveled against him is that he did a lot of “dinking and dunking”, which is proven objectively false by this stat. Yes, he did complete a lot of shorter passes - but they were passes that kept drives alive. Another key stat that FO has developed is called ALEX, or Air Less EXpected on third down, named in “honor” of Alex Smith, who has in the past been notorious for completing passes short of the sticks. Prescott had an ALEX of +1.2 in 2016, which meant he averaged just a bit over a yard more than he needed on third down passes. That is what you need from a quarterback, the ability to put the ball past the mark needed to convert. Remember, this is air yards, and does not count yards after the catch. Unlike some quarterbacks, Prescott did not rely on his receiver to get yards to convert.”

The only true explanation for all the “Dak Doubters” is simply them wanting to see him struggle. But wanting that to happen and having it become fact are two different things. The reasons it won’t happen far outweigh the current reasoning given for why it “shoulda, coulda, woulda”. Take this quote from quarterback’s coach Wade Wilson on the conditioning tests:

“They tested last Monday,” Wilson said Wednesday during the media availability of the first week of OTA practices. “He has improved strength-wise, flexibility-wise, speed-wise, quickness-wise. He is not resting on anything that went on last year.”

That’s precisely why it is pretty hard to just say Dak is going to struggle in year two without any evidence. Asking Dak to struggle is asking him to be out of character. He’s just not an erratic type of player prone to making many mistakes (4 interceptions, 4 fumbles lost). Guys like RGIII or Sam Bradford struggled in their second years because they got hurt and hit more often. The teams around them weren’t nearly as accomplished and their offensive lines struggled mightily. Go ask David Carr how important the offensive line is.

Dak was among one of the least sacked quarterbacks (25 sacks, 23rd in NFL). Prescott gets rid of the ball with precision and accuracy. He does what any good quarterback would do and gets the ball to the playmakers and lets them do their jobs. So, that’s supposed to be a detriment? Dak is only showing signs of improvement both in his measurables, his intangibles, and his leadership qualities. Dak is only showing signs of improvement both in his measurables, his intangibles, and his leadership qualities.

Will Dak Prescott throw more than four interceptions in 2017? Probably so but I would wager that his touchdown passes will go up too. Prescott is solid as a rock in the most important areas a quarterback is judged by. He’s one of the most unflappable quarterbacks in the game and the calmness he shows as the passer for a team like the Cowboys has earned him praise league-wide. From the shoulders up and between the ears, there are not too many guys you would trust more in the huddle than Dak. If you’re going to judge Dak Prescott, you can only do so by what you’ve seen him do and what he’s done has been nothing but exemplary.

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