When you’re the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, you’re naturally going to be a polarizing figure among football fans. You’re going to be loved, hated, adored, and chastised. That’s all part of the gig.
Prescott entered the 2019 season with some of the same lingering doubts he’s faced throughout his young career. The level of uncertainty was upped because he was doing so on the final year of his contract. Reports of him asking for $40M per season only added fuel to the fire of debate about Dak’s status a franchise quarterback.
Dak has answered those questions after betting on himself.
Dak Prescott is the best quarterback from his draft class
This isn’t said with as much condescension as you might think. Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are both in the middle of sub-par seasons, but they’re both fine quarterbacks and will likely both have legitimate careers.
Dak Prescott is simply better.
Not only is Prescott perhaps the best 2016 quarterback almost four years in, he’s better than most quarterbacks throughout the entire NFL right now. There’s a legitimate case that he is this season’s Most Valuable Player, although you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would vote for him over say Russell Wilson or Lamar Jackson.
Dak is third at best, though, and it’s likely that his spirits are flying high. Good Morning Football’s Kyle Brandt summarized things quite nicely with regards to how Dak must be feeling these days.
GMFB reads BTB, by the way. Shout out to you all!
Brandt raises an interesting point in that Dak balling out in a contract year kind of does have a unique feel to it. There’s definitely concern among Cowboys fans that the better he continues to play the more he’ll cost, but you simply cannot put a price on franchise quarterbacks.
This is a lesson that certain teams learn the hard way. Look at how the division rival Washington Redskins are swirling in quarterback mediocrity. The New York Giants took forever to finally move on from Eli Manning. Manning’s former teammate Shaun O’Hara tried to sell that Manning was in fact better than Dak before this season began, but he’s since owned up to that mistake which is commendable.
The biggest surprise of the 2019 season has been _______. pic.twitter.com/EBV1NeDhXe— GMFB (@gmfb) November 20, 2019
All hail Kellen Moore.
Dak Prescott is doing what he is through his own abilities, not because of anything else
When discussing Prescott’s MVP candidacy you undoubtedly run into a detractor of sorts. These folks tend to have a rolodex as to why the fourth-year quarterback is playing so well this season.
- Defenses are accounting for Zeke
- It’s all Amari Cooper
- The defense is carrying him
When it comes to Cooper, he unfortunately has had points this season where he’s been injured. The Cowboys defense isn’t exactly doing Dak a whole lot of favors these days, and for what it’s worth, there are plenty of people who believe that Jason Garrett is a sub-par NFL head coach. How is Dak Prescott not elite then if he’s succeeding in spite of all that?
The Zeke argument is one that people tend to be the loudest with as there is certainly merit to the idea of a quarterback benefiting from loaded boxes. What does the data say, though?
For now, the major strike against Prescott postseason honors is his team’s win-loss record. How good can he be if his team isn’t dominating? But whatever the reasons for Dallas’s inability to pile up wins, don’t count Prescott among them. The Cowboys’ passing success rate in losses alone would still lead the NFL.
And note that yards per pass attempt dominance is a defining characteristic of winning teams. The 47 quarterback-seasons with over 8.5 yards per attempt since the merger have a combined 444-166-3 record, a .727 win percentage that, for Prescott and the Cowboys, would translate to 11.6 expected wins, not their current pace of 9.6.
What about the executives’ argument that, essentially, Elliott’s running commands the attention of the defense and thus makes it easier for Prescott to pass? One way to check this would be to see how many times teams load the box near the line of scrimmage with eight or more defenders, putting them closer to the action on running plays but making them more susceptible to letting passes soar over their heads.
Of Prescott’s 376 total dropbacks,1 he faced eight or more defenders in the box 20 times, a rate of 5.3 percent. That compares to 689 of 12,114 leaguewide dropbacks, or 5.7 percent. In other words, Prescott has slightly fewer dropbacks than average against the loaded boxes that, theoretically, are easier to throw against.
Think about the last sentence from the first paragraph. It’s amazing, really. Dak Prescott is doing incredible work even when the Cowboys lose games. That means that they’re losing despite his heroic performances.
There is perhaps no better example of this dichotomy than the loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Prescott played out of this world but the defense found the perfect way to break at the most inopportune time. Then the coaches took the ball out of his hands on two crucial play-calls late in the game.
The Cowboys penchant for the run game instead of trusting Dak has been a hindrance all season.
For example, on first-half first downs this season, when the score is less of a factor in play-calling, the Cowboys have dropped back on just 69 out of 158 snaps (43 percent). The NFL average is 51.1 percent. So Dallas has been less aggressive passing on more neutral downs despite Prescott being on pace for one of the most prolific passing seasons in NFL history.
The Cowboys 2016 draft is looking amazing. Dak, Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith all came from a single draft class. Elliott and Smith got paid, Prescott is next.
The price is going to be high. $40M doesn’t seem so ridiculous when Dak is playing the way that he is. And if he does manage to win MVP this season, it won’t seem ridiculous at all.
Ultimately that’ll be a very good thing. Don’t forget that.