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Why the Cowboys moving on from Dak Prescott could be a grave mistake

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side when it comes to quarterbacks in the NFL.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott is the most polarizing player on the Dallas Cowboys. Fans either love him or hate him depending on how much of the blame they believe he deserves for the team’s let-down performances. The eight-year veteran quarterback is all over the place in terms of how he’s perceived. In 2022, he led the league in interceptions and had the entire national media up in arms, only to do a 180-degree turnaround and lead the league in touchdown passes this past year. He earned All-Pro honors and was the topic of many conversations about whether he was deserving of winning this year’s Most Valuable Player award. Wow, what a contrast.

As great of a season as he had last year, Prescott struggled in the playoffs. He made poor decisions and looked panicked throughout most of the game. He had two costly picks and didn’t finalize the team’s first scoring drive until the clock had hit double-zeros in the first half. This marks the third consecutive season that the Cowboys have been bounced from the playoffs in a game where Dak has not lived up to expectations. That is not to say that he’s the blame, but he’s certainly not helping.

With another disappointing playoff exit, doubt lurks across the organization. Whether it’s coaches or players, people are questioning some of the team’s most influential contributors, with Dak being one of them. Is he really the guy for this football team? Adding a little fuel to the fire is the notion that the Cowboys traded away a fourth-round draft pick to acquire former third-overall pick Trey Lance right before the start of last season. Granted, this is just a “let’s see what he’s got” sorta move, but they wouldn’t have made such a move if they didn’t believe he had a chance of manifesting into a legit NFL quarterback. In the spirit of looking at all angles, we went over that scenario a couple of weeks ago.

Moving on from Prescott is risky business. If Lance had a good sample size of strong play, it would be a lot easier to do, just as the Cowboys had before they moved on from Tony Romo and gave Dak the keys to the offense. But they don’t. Passing on Prescott means the team is going to take a huge leap of faith that whatever’s behind door number two can successfully operate the team’s most important position on the roster. The last time the Cowboys had to make such a transition without having a good plan already in place, it did not go well.

After Troy Aikman’s retirement, the Cowboys looked to the draft to find his replacement. Sadly, they didn’t even have a first-round draft pick after dealing that away to Seattle for wide receiver Joey Galloway. In a weak quarterback class that offered nothing outside of the first two guys (Michael Vick and Drew Brees), the Cowboys reached for Quincy Carter with the 53rd overall pick. Carter was a guy that Jerry Jones loved and back then, the Jones influence was strong and the former Georgia quarterback became the first ever second-round draft pick to start at QB his rookie season.

The Carter experiment was up and down, with Jerry Jones rolling the dice with other candidates who might be able to surprise people and earn the QB gig. This included signing former number two overall pick Ryan Leaf and throwing darts at two former baseball prospects, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson, the second of which Jones traded away a third-round draft pick to acquire. After each subsequent gamble failed, the team then decided to take the veteran route, first with Vinny Testaverde and then with Drew Bledsoe, both of whom had playoff success with Bill Parcells.

Finally, an unsuspected hero showed up in the form of undrafted free agent Tony Romo, however, that hero was just a mild-manner reserve buried on the Cowboys depth chart. Over his first three years in the league, Romo didn’t throw a single pass in the NFL. Not one. In fact, it’s well documented that Quincy Carter’s release after failing a drug test is what saved Romo’s spot on the roster. That’s how close they were to not having Romo.

The Cowboys were also lucky to land Prescott. Jerry made a strong push to trade up to acquire Paxton Lynch in the 2016 draft. Thankfully, the Denver Broncos offered a better deal, but Jones spent the next 24 hours whining about how he should’ve offered more to bring Lynch to Dallas. Later in the draft, the Cowboys again tried to trade up for another quarterback, Connor Cook, but again lost the bidding war. The team didn’t pull the trigger on Prescott until late in the fourth round with a compensatory pick.

Even with Dak, the Cowboys weren’t content with their QB situation. When Kellen Moore broke his ankle, the Cowboys tried to sign free agent Nick Foles who had just been released by the Rams, but Foles wanted to play for the coach that drafted him so he signed with Andy Reid’s Chiefs. A week later, they tried to work a deal with the Cleveland Browns for Josh McCown, but the Browns wanted a second-round pick for him. And it took both Romo and Moore to go down with injuries before Prescott was given a true chance.

When you run all this back, it’s pretty clear that the Cowboys do not have a sharp eye for acquiring quarterbacks. Sure, Romo and Prescott wore the star and they’ve given the Cowboys relevance for the last 18 seasons, but we know how fortunate the Cowboys were to land those guys. Even Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman fell into Jerry’s lap his first season as the owner thanks to the Cowboys' miserable 1988 season that earned them the top pick in the draft. Thankfully, Aikman was the undisputed top pick in his draft class or who knows what would’ve happened.

It’s one thing to want Prescott to be better in the playoffs. We all want that. But it’s another thing to be so critical of him to where you’re willing to hit the reset button at quarterback and take your chances with what Jones and company can come up with. Frankly, that should scare the bejesus out of Cowboys fans.

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