It has become an annual ritual.
The Dallas Cowboys don’t win the Super Bowl (the only measure of success for many of their fans) and shortly after the high cost of the contract for quarterback Dak Prescott is brought up, including how it is going to soar if the team keeps him past the end of the current deal. Fans start throwing their hands up in disgust and saying it is time for a new QB for the Cowboys.
Before many of you protest, I know this is not all fans. I would hope it is a minority. But here is a sampling of what is being said on social media. (I am not embedding the full tweets to keep the authors from being hassled.) These are just from tweets with the words “replace Dak” in them.
Hes ready to replace dak lol
It’s about time they replace Dak.
Will max duggan replace dak prescott?
Dan Quinn already looking to replace Dak
First round qb to replace dak next year is the right path
We should be looking for a young QB to replace Dak, no disrespect to him, he’s good but expensive
And I will embed this poll:
Would y’all replace Dak with Stroud— nilbogobo (@nilbogobo) March 23, 2023
I get it. A quarterback is absolute trash unless he wins a Super Bowl. The success of a team is only determined by his play. All you have to do is go out and draft the next Patrick Mahomes.
Oh, I’m sorry, did the sarcasm from that last paragraph get all over your screen?
By almost any measurement over the course of his career, Dak Prescott is at least one of the top ten quarterbacks in the league. If you think quarterback wins are a thing, he is tied with Kirk Cousins for the fifth-most in the league since he entered. trailing only Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Mahomes, and Russell Wilson. He has had down years, including last season, but those were influenced by health, both his and the rest of the offense, and a failure in a couple of seasons to give him the receiving targets he needs. Even in those years, he still is in the top half of all quarterbacks.
Many do not buy that, of course. Or they just don’t care. They still long for the Cowboys to give up on Prescott and move on.
There is an underlying assumption to this, that Dallas can just draft a better option. To a certain extent, the history of the Cowboys the past fifteen years has led to this misconception. After several years in quarterback hell following the retirement of Troy Aikman, they escaped by finding Tony Romo as a UDFA. Then just as injuries ended Romo’s career, they stumbled into Prescott in the fourth round of the draft. They obviously know how to find a franchise quarterback whenever they want.
No. They got incredibly lucky, twice. No one in the league had any idea that Romo, coming from a tiny school, was as good as he turned out to be. He was just barely hanging on to a roster spot before he got his shot and claimed the starting job. And they tried to draft not one, but two other QBs in 2016 before they settled on Prescott, primarily to be Romo’s backup. It took not only Romo’s injury during Dak’s rookie year but another to backup Kellen Moore to thrust Prescott into a starting job, and turning his rookie season into the success it became, with Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, was the highlight of Jason Garrett’s coaching career. The two last starters just fell into their laps. The odds against them hitting like that again are astronomically high.
But they were not looking for starters with either of those acquisitions. Most who want to replace Prescott now or very shortly think they need to get their quarterback in the first round, possibly by trading up.
However, before going all in on that idea, it might be useful to look at a bit of history. Here are the first round quarterbacks over the past five years, with the pick used to take them.
2022/20: Kenny Pickett
2021/1: Trevor Lawrence
2021/2: Zach Wilson
2021/3: Trey Lance
2021/11: Justin Fields
2021/15: Mac Jones
2020/1: Joe Burrow
2020/5: Tua Tagovailoa
2020/6: Justin Herbert
2020/26: Justin Love
2019/1: Kyler Murray
2019/6: Daniel Jones
2019/15: Dwayne Haskins
2018/1: Baker Mayfield
2018/3: Sam Darnold
2018/7: Josh Allen
2018/10: Josh Rosen
2018/32: Lamar Jackson
There are obvious hits, some clear misses, and several to be determined here. But show me which of these players makes you immediately think “He would be an upgrade over Dak.” Trevor Lawrence and Josh Allen are the most likely candidates, and their careers are too new to be sure.
There is also the fact that the talent available varies greatly from class to class. Last year was one of the worst ever for quarterbacks. This year is looking much stronger. Still, as a quick look at the list above shows, being taken high is not a strong predictor of success.
The odds do improve the higher you can draft, but that is the conundrum for all teams looking for their next franchise QB in the draft. You either have to really fail the season before, or give up a boatload of draft capital to get your guy. The classic cautionary tale for moving up for a projected franchise QB is from the year Prescott was taken, 2016. The Philadelphia Eagles traded away a bunch of current and future draft capital to get Carson Wentz, who basically gave them one good injury shortened season before being shipped off to continue his remarkable career of being vastly overpaid for his contributions.
The Cowboys hold the 26th overall pick going into this year’s draft. The odds of finding a future replacement for Prescott with that are dismal, and the cost of trading up is prohibitive. To not be in a similar situation next year would mean that this season went very poorly. Their draft capital can be much more wisely invested in improving the roster around the quarterback. They have already taken an important step by trading for Brandin Cooks, who has a good chance of being a major contributor to the receiving corps.
It is just irritating, at least to me, to see people who think the Cowboys can easily upgrade the quarterback position. This is both a severe undervaluing of what Prescott brings to the table and an equally inaccurate overestimation of the likelihood of drafting a viable replacement. While the team should always be looking for a developmental QB late in the draft to maybe catch lightning in a bottle again, and for what it is worth the team has expressed interest in taking a quarterback late this year, they are wedded to Prescott for the foreseeable future. And when they do have to find a replacement, there is a real chance we will soon be longing for the level of play he provides now.