You think I’d learn. National sports coverage tends to have a poor perception of what goes on with the Dallas Cowboys. Between the coastal bias among the major “name” broadcasters and writers (“Eli Manning is a lock for the Hall of Fame!”) and doing only the most superficial research about the Cowboys, if not just repeating what other ill-informed personalities are saying, they often are laughably off base.
But I live in the rural reaches of East Texas, and don’t have blue-tooth capability on my vehicle, so if I am driving and want to catch some sports talk, there are limited options. So I found myself listening to Colin Cowherd on Wednesday, and he was talking about Dak Prescott and how he compared to other quarterbacks, particularly regarding who he would take for the next five years over Prescott.
I managed not to rip my radio out of the dash and throw it out of the window. It was hard, but I controlled myself.
It wasn’t the names he said were better or worse than Prescott that really irked me. It was what he claimed to base things on. And it was obvious from those things that he has not done any homework on Prescott, either his two excellent games to start the season, or what he has actually done in his career to date.
One thing he kept saying over and over was that other quarterbacks had better arm strength. It seems like he never saw that 51-yard touchdown to Devin Smith against Washington. It was a perfect rainbow that covered almost the entire distance in the air. That in itself was evidence that Prescott has all the arm strength needed. Of course, one long throw does not prove the case. You need more.
Like, say, this.
Dak Prescott now has 9 passing touchdowns of at least 50 yards in his career.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 15, 2019
Only Tom Brady and Philip Rivers have more (11 each) since 2016 when Prescott entered the league. pic.twitter.com/6hesfwBTNB
Now, Tom Brady is more known as a brilliant decision-maker than a cannon-armed thrower. But many of the other QBs Cowherd was discussing, including Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, obviously didn’t come out ahead of Prescott on this particular list. Opportunities make a difference, and Wentz has this habit of missing games due to injury. Still, if you are showing up on lists like this one, you have to be making some really good deep throws. That would indicate arm strength.
Want a bit more data?
NFL Leaders in Yards Per Attempt:— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) September 16, 2019
1. Dak Prescott ................. 10.9
2. Pat Mahomes ............... 10.7
3. Lamar Jackson ............. 10.5
4. Tom Brady .................... 9.5
5. Russell Wilson .............. 9.0
Hmm. Even with excellent route runners like Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb on the receiving end, there has to be some correlation between yards per attempt and depth of throwing.
It is true that Prescott has made a huge jump in that area this season. But that is just another argument for how having the right offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore is elevating the quarterback’s game. Moore is calling the plays that gain more yards - but Prescott has to make the deep throws. And he is. At a remarkable rate.
Which brings up another invalid conclusion Cowherd was tossing around. He feels several other quarterbacks (and he was talking mostly about the younger ones) are more accurate.
Uh, Prescott completed eighteen consecutive passes to finish the Washington game. Just how more accurate does Cowherd think he has to be?
One quarterback that Cowherd preferred for the next five years is Wentz. The guy who threw two interceptions and had a single-digit passing rating for the first half in the Eagles’ loss to the Falcons. Oh, sure, he had some near perfect throws dropped by his receivers to help thwart the comeback. But the comeback against a team that was also making multiple mistakes was only needed because the team, and Wentz, did so poorly early in the game.
That brings up another factor that didn’t move old Colin’s meter: Consistency. Admittedly, it has just been two games, but Prescott has been working at a very high level so far. And it really extends back to the middle of last season. The arrival of Cooper somewhat masked just how Prescott’s game started to improve at that time, And Cowherd is also blissfully unaware of the obvious improvements in mechanics that people who really dig into the video are pointing out. Jon Kitna has done a superb job in helping him with those, along with Prescott’s own relentless work ethic and drive.
But Cowherd really didn’t even get into the most important facet of Prescott’s improvement, and possibly of quarterback play in general. That is decision making, which also includes vision of the field and a grasp of both his own playbook and the defense he is facing. Prescott has been nearly flawless. And his release speed is by far the best of his career. He is dropping back, seeing where the ball needs to go, and delivering, mostly right on target. and wherever it has to be on the field. A valid criticism of the Cowboys offense in the first three years was not exploiting the middle of the field. But Moore has changed that, and now Prescott is distributing the ball in every aspect. He utilizes every part of the field (although he still favors the left a bit), and gets the ball to multiple targets.
That ability to read the defense and defeat it is what sets the truly great quarterbacks apart. This is not an argument that it is time to put Prescott in the company of the truly elite like Brady, Peyton Manning, or Joe Montana. It is saying that his blazing start to the season makes thinking about that even possible.
Look, this is a Cowboys blog, and we are not entirely objective about Prescott. But some things are blatantly obvious to even the most casual observer - if they are just willing to open their eyes. Some, like Cowherd, have other agendas, like ratings and controversy.
It is not entirely a bad thing. Having people underestimate Prescott and the Cowboys in general just makes success all the sweeter. Now, Dallas has to keep the ball rolling. But if they do, we will see a lot of big names out there eating their words.
Except, they will probably just claim they knew it was going to happen all along.