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How Jimmy Johnson’s statement about DeShaun Watson pertains to the Cowboys and Dak Prescott

It’s all about the quarterback in the NFL.

NFL: Super Bowl LIV-NFL Honors Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the big storylines in this 2021 NFL offseason is the status of Deshaun Watson in Houston. The Texans star quarterback has been disappointed in some of the decision-making from the organization and has reportedly become so disenchanted that he has asked for a trade. His situation is one among many roiling the QB landscape in the NFL.

Of course, the Cowboys have their own QB situation with Dak Prescott. His storyline is also popular fodder this offseason and he has been declared the top free agent on the market in 2021. This is where the Prescott and Watson stories differ. Prescott and the Cowboys famously couldn’t come to an agreement on a deal and had to resort to a franchise tag for the 2020 season. Watson and the Texans, in contrast, did reach a four-year, $156 million contract extension this past September. Combine that with the franchise tag opportunities after the contract expires and the Texans have Watson locked up for a long time.

Still, no one wants an unhappy franchise quarterback, especially one that is so upset he wants a trade. That is where the Texans are at. But according to Jimmy Johnson, they need to fix that as soon as possible because they shouldn’t trade Watson for any bounty. Including a Herschel Walker-type trade.

Jimmy Johnson said on ESPN that even after his own success trading Walker for a bounty of draft picks in 1989, he doesn’t think the Texans should trade Watson.

“If I was David Culley I’d go knock on his door,” Johnson said of the Texans’ new coach. “I would talk to him and I’d do whatever it takes, I’d put my ego aside, I’d say, ‘The best thing for you is to stay right here.’ Do whatever it takes. Do not lose that player.”

Why the difference between Walker and Watson? It boils down to the relative value of a quarterback and a running back.

“They’re not going to win any games if they don’t have a quarterback,” Johnson said. “Do whatever it takes. Make concessions. Keep that quarterback.”

The tl;dr version of that is that quarterbacks rule in the NFL, and if you don’t have one you are not going to win. And if you do have one you need to do everything you can to keep them.

The Cowboys have one. Or rather did have one. Check that, they still have one with the franchise tag in their pocket, but they are playing on dangerously thin ice in this situation.

Dak Prescott has proven he is a franchise quarterback. When you look at his stats, especially over the last few seasons with Kellen Moore in charge, there is no doubt he is among the group of young franchise quarterbacks in the league.

And the Cowboys are in danger of losing him. Sure, management is saying all the right things. Saying that they are going to get a deal done and that Prescott is their quarterback of the future. But when they had an opportunity to make that happen last offseason, they famously whiffed because they were holding out for a longer contract. Their ego got in the way of doing what was right for the franchise.

Now they have a chance to rectify that, even if it comes at an inflated price because Prescott holds all the leverage. If they fail, and they have Prescott play 2021 under a franchise tag, they likely are going to see Prescott play somewhere else in 2022.

That would be even worse than trading Watson. At least in the scenario Jimmy Johnson is discussing above, the Texans would get a king’s ransom in draft pick capital. The Cowboys would end up with nothing and have to start over at quarterback.

That would be bleak.