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Is Cowboys quarterback coach Jon Kitna the unsung hero for Dak Prescott’s big game?

There’s a lot of credit to go away for Sunday’s win, but don’t forget about their new quarterbacks coach.

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

The Dallas Cowboys treated us to a nice offensive performance, scoring five touchdowns in their 35-17 win over the New York Giants. The Cowboys only had one five-TD game last season, and oddly enough, it also came against the Giants in last year’s season finale. The great thing about this is that quarterback Dak Prescott was on fire, throwing for over 400 yards, four touchdowns, and a perfect passer rating. It was so refreshing to see Prescott in all of his glory sling the ball down the field and lead a high-powered passing attack. The team already has one of the league’s top rushing arsenals behind two-time leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott and his offensive line, so watching the passing game dice up the Giants defense was a thing of beauty.

The initial reaction from such a great offensive showing assigns a lot of credit to the Cowboys brilliant new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He made it look easy.

And clearly, a lot of the credit obviously goes to Prescott for such an amazing performance. The Prescott + Moore combo is going to earn one of them a lot of money soon and allow the other one to climb the coaching ranks in the NFL.

But one guy who isn’t getting much love from this win is Cowboys new quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna. The journeyman quarterback spent 14 seasons in the league, with his last two being with the Cowboys. In 2010, he joined the team when Jason Garrett was still the offensive coordinator. After Wade Phillips was fired that season, Kitna helped interim coach Garrett finish the season with a 5-3 record, solidifying Garrett’s job as the team’s new head coach the following season. Kitna would see the field in again in 2011, filling in for Tony Romo after the 49ers supposedly knocked him out of the game with a rib injury. Romo managed to put on his cape and lead the team to a comeback victory after hitting Jesse Holley for a big 77-yard pass in overtime that cinched it for the Cowboys.

Romo was the hero, but Kitna held down the fort in that game until Romo could find a phone booth to change his clothes.

Kitna was hired back in January to help Prescott improve as a quarterback. With things like pocket awareness and better footwork, Kitna’s experience was bound to help Dak get better in these areas. But one of the most significant changes could be something Prescott already knows how to do.

After five games last season, Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks, and Prescott ended up right in the middle. One of the interesting nuggets in their assessment pertained to when Prescott went deep.


PFF Overall Grade: 76.6

As was the case in each of Prescott’s first two seasons, throwing the ball downfield remains something the Cowboys don’t do enough of. Dak ranks 31st in deep-throw percentage, but he has been very good when cutting it loose downfield, notching the sixth-highest grade on 20-yard-plus throws.

Simple solution, right? If he’s really good at the deep ball, then why not throw it deep more often?

Enter Jon Kitna.

Earlier this year, Bobby Belt shared a series of videos that gave us some insight to some of the things the veteran quarterback learned throughout his career. One thing in particular stood out from those videos that we were all hoping would somehow find it’s way into the mind of Dak Prescott - the inclination to go deep more often.

Kitna shared a story about how Detroit Lions coach Mike Martz got onto him for hitting the tight end for an eight-yard route, when the 20-yard dig route Martz called was available. Kitna played it safe, and Martz would have none of that. His coach flat out said to him, “If we get cover 2 and we call dig, throw the dig.” Martz looked straight at Kitna and said, “I can’t coach caution.” Kitna recalls that moment with his former coach:

”For 10 years I’d been coached to be cautious. You always take a profit. And here was this coach saying, ‘when I call it, and if you get what we’re looking for, you rip it. And if something goes wrong, that’s on me.’”

On Sunday, Prescott ripped it.

Kitna goes on talking about how certain quarterbacks play to their strengths, but Dak being good at throwing the deep ball hasn’t been apparent to everyone because Prescott just doesn’t do it enough. If Kitna is unleashing Prescott’s arm and coaching him to let it rip, and these are the results... well, that’s just super fantastic for this Cowboys offense.

Prescott played great on Sunday, and the masterful playcalling of moore is so invigorating, but let’s not forget the quarterback whisperer that is Jon Kitna.

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