All of the statistical evidence points in the same direction: Dak Prescott had a breakout season for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s only been in the NFL for four years, but he is one of the best young QBs in the game. The 2019 season was the second time he caught fans and analysts by surprise with his play.
Dak Prescott No. 1 QB material, and the Cowboys have a decision to make about his contract. Could the franchise actually replace Prescott with Tom Brady? Former Dallas receiver Terrell Owens believes so. Here’s why.
The unlikely rise of Dak Prescott
When the Cowboys picked Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft, the plan was for the Mississippi State alum to be a backup and learn from the incumbent Tony Romo with an eye on being his successor. Then Romo suffered a back injury that ended up ending his career, and Prescott was suddenly starting for a team with championship aspirations.
A mid-round rookie being thrown into the deep end should’ve ended the Cowboys season before it even started, but Prescott messed around and became the Rookie of the Year. No first-year quarterback had started for the storied franchise since 2001, but Prescott was far from fazed. He threw 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions, helping Dallas achieve a 13-3 record. They lost to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs, but Prescott’s performance kept fans excited about the future.
But the next two years saw his progress slightly stall out. He threw more interceptions (13 and 8, respectively) and 22 touchdowns in both of those seasons. That made the 2019-20 campaign quite important for Prescott’s future. He would be eligible for his first big contract as a pro, but he needed to show that he could be more than just a “game manager.” Dak Prescott did that, and then some.
Dak Prescott steps up, but Dallas disappoints again
Helped by the addition of Kellen Moore to the coaching staff, Prescott played like an elite quarterback. He threw for 4,902 yards (more than 1,000 above his previous career-high) and 30 touchdowns. He began the year as a contender for the MVP award, but he fell away as the Cowboys slid back into mediocrity. They finished 8-8 despite Prescott’s numbers and a roster that was more talented than the rest of the teams in the NFC East.
Quarterbacks often get too much credit for wins and too much criticism for losses. NFL games are won by teams, not players. The Cowboys were disappointing, and Prescott had some poor games, but he was far from the reason the team didn’t live up to expectations. Most of the criticism should (and eventually did) go toward Jason Garrett, the now-former coach whose offense conservatism ultimately proved to be self-defeating. An injury to star receiver Amari Cooper also hindered the team’s passing attack.
But years of underperformance can lead franchises to make rash decisions in the name of ambition. Prescott still hasn’t been able to find an agreement with the Cowboys for a new long-term deal. Garrett was replaced by former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, another signal-caller with a well-earned reputation for unimaginative offenses and not fulfilling the talents of star QBs. And now a former Cowboys star believes that another big change is in the offing.
Could Tom Brady be the Cowboys’ replacement for Dak?
Former wide receiver Terrell Owens had an event-filled three years with the Cowboys. He might not know Jerry Jones’ thinking as well as someone like former QB Troy Aikman, but he’s been behind the curtain, and he believes that Prescott’s contract limbo says something about what the franchise thinks of him:
“He hasn’t extended Dak’s contract,” Owens said of Jones. “So, that leads me to believe he truly doesn’t believe in Dak. If he had, then I think he would have already got a contract extension. They have a quarterback that’s a free agent in Tom Brady,” Owens said. “That’s the next move.”
Dak Prescott still has room to grow as a player. If he were better in one of the several winnable games that the Cowboys lost last year, then they’re in the playoffs. He also needs to improve on his 1-2 postseason record once he gets there. Prescott got his first playoff win in 2018, but his 226 yards and one passing touchdown were not especially impressive. However, giving up on a 26-year-old so you can sign an over the hill Tom Brady isn’t something a smart front office would do.
Brady is probably the best quarterback of all time, but he wasn’t anything special for the Patriots this season. They didn’t have a lot of offensive talent around him, but the days when he could make average players look better than they are have long since passed. There’s no shame in a 42-year-old being unable to star in the NFL; there’s no precedent for what Brady has been attempting to achieve. But it’s clear that in the battle of Tom vs. Time, time is going to remain undefeated. The Cowboys should stay the course at quarterback and give Dak Prescott the money he deserves.