For most teams in the NFL, all hope falls on the arm of their starting quarterback. Sometimes, backups come in and save the day, but those moments are few and far between. For the Dallas Cowboys, the season now is in the hands of veteran quarterback Andy Dalton after Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury on Sunday against the New York Giants.
It’s a sad day for Cowboys fan. Victory Monday feels more like Black Monday as darkness has clouded any hope that this 2020 version of the Cowboys will do any real damage in terms of a deep playoff run. Realistically speaking, things weren’t all that great before Dak’s injury as the defense was so ridiculously bad, that scoring the third most points in the league still yielded them a 1-3 start to the season. The only glimmer of hope was that the offense, led by Prescott, was giving them a chance by running up and down the field. But alas, that is gone now.
Not only is it a depressing day for Cowboys fans as the season brings about far less excitement than it did before Sunday, but there’s another element to this unfortunate injury that doesn’t sit well either - Dak’s contract.
For the past two offseasons, the two sides have tried to get something worked out before the deadlines, but each time it ended in a stalemate. The most recent failure to close the deal meant Prescott played under the franchise tag. It put $31.4 million in his pocket, but offered him no long-term security. Either side could’ve caved and got a deal done, but both felt it was better for them to wait it out. For Prescott, he bet on himself once again. It seemed like a safe bet as long as he didn’t take a step back in performance or suffer a career-impacting injury. For the Cowboys front office, they felt... well, to be honest, it’s hard to say what they felt or how pushing this down the road was going to somehow be more favorable for them financially.
Fast forward to now, and what are we left with? Well, you have Prescott performing at the highest level he’s ever played at. He was going to set records this season. He was airing it out so much that even Tony Romo’s seasonal yardage record was going to be blown out of the water. The team assembled an arsenal of weapons around him, and Dak was exceptional at putting them to use. Even players like Dalton Schultz and Cedrick Wilson were now impact players on this offense because Prescott was spreading the love. This offense was sizzling.
From a talent perspective, Prescott’s price was only going up, but what about the health perspective. It’s too early to offer any type of reliable prognosis, but if his injury is similar to what Allen Hurns suffered in the playoffs of 2018, then Prescott should be just fine. Hurns suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle and broken fibula in January of 2019, yet he was back on the field running routes in training camp by June. Hurns didn’t make the team for salary cap purposes, but he played 14 games with the Miami Dolphins that season.
It’s likely that Prescott will return to full health as well. He’ll actually have a three month head start to recovery than what Hurns had, so there is no reason to believe Dak won’t be ready to go by training camp of next season. Even more fortuitous for Prescott is that this injury did not have anything to do with his shoulder, arm, elbow, or anything that should alter his throwing ability. In short, when it comes to Prescott - what you see is what you get, and this injury does nothing to change that.
What it might actually do though is drive both sides closer to each other in getting a deal done. The Cowboys front office is going to witness first hand their first look at what the team looks like without Prescott. While we don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out, we can say with confidence that this team will not be as good as they were without their young quarterback. Prescott, despite his fallible moments, is simply one of the game’s biggest playmakers, and that is not so easily replaced.
As Jerry and Stephen Jones watch their star quarterback make an incredible recovery because Prescott’s mental toughness and work ethic is off the charts, they are going to further appreciate what they have in him. And the love and admiration they have for Prescott is going to be on full display when they finally break down and make the huge financial commitment to him.
At the same time, this also might put a scare in Team Prescott as it shows how abruptly things can change. Dak should come out of this one okay, but this story would have a much sadder ending if something more career-threatening would’ve happened. Getting a long-term deal is going to be equally as important for him.
A likely outcome is that once again Prescott is tagged much to the proverbial tomato throwing of Cowboys Nation. Only this time, once camp shows there is no lingering physical concerns with Dak, the two sides will finally come to an agreement. For now, it’s okay to be emotional, but emotions can get the better of us. Take comfort that this one is going to end with a press conference where both sides are smiling and hugging it out.
Best wishes to Dak Prescott on his recovery, he has unfinished business to do.