The Dallas Cowboys are on one of the more improbable win streaks in franchise history, winning three-straight games with backup quarterback Cooper Rush. If they’re able to go on the road and beat the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday, should Dallas automatically hand the offense back over to starter Dak Prescott if he’s ready to return in Week 6?
Please know that this is, in no way, an attempt to argue that Rush is a superior or even equal QB to Prescott. This is about whether or not getting Dak back on the field is worth potentially sacrificing the current momentum or rhythm of the team.
The question is especially important given the schedule. After whatever happens in L.A., the Cowboys will be headed to Philadelphia for what could be a season-changing showdown with the Eagles.
Obviously, a loss to the Rams would mostly invalidate this discussion. At that point, many would support the idea that Rush and the Cowboys just took advantage of weak teams these last three games. If Los Angeles does anything that seems to expose Dallas’ offense, most will be happy to see Dak Prescott return for Philly.
But if Cooper Rush goes 4-0 with a win this Sunday over the defending Super Bowl champions, you can’t just flippantly dismiss his continuing to start. Even if you believe wholeheartedly that Prescott is one of the elite passers in football, he’s been out for a month.
Do you really want the Eagles, currently undefeated, to be his welcoming party?
Rush certainly hasn’t been a fantasy juggernaut during this win streak. He’s only averaging 224 passing yards and has just four touchdowns. Even his 61% completion percentage is among the lower numbers for passers this season.
But what Cooper has going for him is a 95.9 passer rating, 11th-best in the NFL right now. He has that thanks to zero interceptions so far this season. Throw in that he also hasn’t fumbled and Rush is showing how avoiding turnovers, even with low statistical output, can still lead to wins.
It’s not like Dak Prescott was lighting up the field the last time we saw him, either. Week 1 was one of the worst games of his career and it wasn’t just because of missing weapons or offensive line issues. Dak had some bad throws and bad decisions, albeit against a stout Tampa Bay defense, which contributed heavily to the offensive meltdown.
All that being said, there’s a sound argument for why what we’ve seen the last three weeks lays a good foundation for Prescott’s return. The formula for these wins has been riding one of the NFL’s best defenses and then keeping things simple on offense. If Cooper Rush is really just a guy, then why couldn’t Dak succeed with the same model?
Not only has offensive coordinator Kellen Moore seen what a conservative approach can accomplish, but the offense around the QB is better now than it was in Week 1. Prescott would have Michael Gallup, arguably his true security blanket since 2018, back out there. The offensive line is playing much better now than they were against the Bucs. And Dak should have better chemistry with TE Dalton Schultz than Rush seemed to a week ago.
One trait of Dak’s that can’t be duplicated by Rush is mobility. The threat of the run creates options and gives defenses more to think about. You can’t ignore the value of that in this decision.
Again, nobody is suggesting that Dak Prescott isn't the most talented quarterback on the Cowboys' roster. Anyone who would doesn’t deserve your time or your clicks.
This is about timing. Dallas is heading into a two-game road trip against two of the toughest opponents on its 2022 schedule. Is the middle of that trip, with the Eagles currently soaring, really the best time to switch quarterbacks?
How Rush plays in Los Angeles will go a long way to clarifying the matter. Even if the Cowboys lose, a competitive showing against the Rams could still leave some questions as to if it’s the right time to bring Prescott back. Upcoming home games against the Lions and Bears should provide easier re-entry points.
The fact that Cooper Rush has created these conversations is a wonderful problem to have. Let’s hope he adds even more fuel to the fire this Sunday.