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A big Cowboys “what if” that would have changed everything going on now at quarterback

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Oh how Cowboys history might have played out if one thing had gone differently.

Seattle Seahawks v St Louis Rams Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys view Dak Prescott as their franchise quarterback. They have made that known in these recent contract negotiations and there is no reason to believe that Prescott won’t be QB1 for the Cowboys for a very long time. Yes, the current contract negotiations are not going as smoothly as hoped, but there is belief all around that they will get done.

In the current Cowboys history timeline, Kellen Moore breaks his leg in 2016, then Tony Romo gets hurt in preseason, forcing the Cowboys to turn to a fourth-round draft pick they had just selected that April, a guy named Dak Prescott. Of course, Prescott excelled in preseason, tore up the 2016 season with a 13-3 record, Romo retired and Moore decided to go into coaching.

But all of that could have been different if the Cowboys had made one trade in April or August of 2016. Or even signed a different quarterback at that same time.

Going back in time, we end up just prior to the 2016 draft. The Cowboys are looking for backup help behind Tony Romo, who has suffered injuries the last few seasons that had caused him to miss time, most significantly in 2015. One player on their radar was Nick Foles.

Of course that trade never materialized and the Cowboys ended up getting Prescott in that draft. But that wasn’t before they tried to get Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook. No matter what they tried, it seemed some invisible force was pushing Prescott to the Cowboys, and that would continue as he moved from draft pick to starter.

In this first days of August 2016, the Cowboys depth chart at quarterback was Tony Romo, Kellen Moore, and Jameill Showers/Dak Prescott. Yes, at that time there was even opinion that Prescott may be behind Showers, not necessarily inside the Cowboys organization, but with some media observers. It’s hard to think of that now, but it was true.

Then Moore went down with a broken leg and the Cowboys were now in trouble. Romo was coming off a season were he only started four games and had seen quite a few injuries in the previous seasons. His health was no guarantee. The Cowboys decided they needed to do something.

One thing they tried was to go back to Nick Foles. He had been released by the Rams and was now a free agent.

Foles instead signed with the Kansas City Chiefs to be reunited with Andy Reid who had drafted him in Philadelphia.

“After we got the release done with the Rams … we had some time to think about everything,” Foles said via ESPN. “It was always going to be an opportunity to be around someone I just respect and love. Coach Reid was the guy who drafted me as a rookie. He was a guy I always stayed in touch with, always thought the world of. As I sort of stepped away from the game for those few days, I was able to talk to him about how I felt and we just went through it.”

The Cowboys had to make a different plan. They still were not ready to hand the backup reins over to Prescott. So they made veteran Josh McCown a trade target. The two teams talked, but could never come to an agreement on compensation for McCown.

As everyone knows now, the Cowboys ultimately did not trade for McCown, or get Mike Glennon, or any other veteran backup QB that was around at that time. At the time, Prescott was only going to be the backup to Tony Romo and they had no intentions of playing him past the preseason.

“We drafted him for a reason,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of Prescott at camp before Moore’s injury. “We think he’s going to have a chance to develop into something. But we’re not going to know that unless we put him on the field and play him.”

Of course, they’re hoping that happens only in the preseason.

Prescott did start the first two preseason games as the Cowboys rested Romo. Prescott was on fire in those first two games, absolutely scorching the competition. At that point, the Cowboys started to feel better about Prescott being the backup. Then came the dress rehearsal preseason game featuring Romo back at QB, followed by the back injury in that game that sideline Romo, an occurrence that ushered in of the real start of Prescott’s career.

There are so many what ifs along the way to Prescott being the Cowboys quarterback. What if the Cowboys had succeeded in trading for Nick Foles before the 2016 draft? Would they have even drafted Prescott, or a quarterback in general? If they had gotten Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook they would have never drafted Prescott. What if Kellen Moore had never broken his leg? Would Prescott have been the guy that took over for Romo, or would he had been on the bench as Moore guided the team?

What if the Cowboys had signed Nick Foles in free agency to replace Moore instead of Foles going to the Chiefs? The Cowboys would have turned to Foles as the starter and Prescott’s miraculous 13-3 rookie season would never have happened. The same what if applies to trading for Josh McCown.

Any of those moves could have seen Prescott never take the field in 2016, and who knows what would have happened to his career. It’s possible that instead of Romo making a speech saying Prescott deserved to remain the starter like Romo did once he was healthy again in that season, the Cowboys may have chosen to put him back in. Who knows how long Romo would have continued as the Cowboys starter?

Prescott could have been a footnote in Cowboys history. It’s impossible to know and that’s what makes what ifs so interesting. Whether you like Prescott as the Cowboys quarterback or not, it almost seems as if he was destined to wear the star and be QB1.