MVP? All-Pro? Narratives unfairly marring Prescott’s incredible 2023

Dak Prescott ascended to another level under Mike McCarthy’s direct attention in 2023. The eight-year veteran had an MVP-caliber season for the Dallas Cowboys, and although Lamar Jackson will likely win the award, Prescott deserves votes to acknowledge his high level of play. Jackson had a great season as the most valuable player to the team with the league’s best record, and he ended the year helping blow out the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins.

The case for someone other than Prescott to be MVP is at least fair, but what is inarguable is that Prescott was an All-Pro this season. The case is even better for the Dallas Cowboys QB to be a first-team All-Pro over his MVP case, but what isn’t in doubt is that Prescott was one of the two best quarterbacks in the 2023 season.

This article will break down his case. It will examine how Prescott performed compared to other candidates like Jackson, Brock Purdy, and Josh Allen. It will go over the stats and the analytics and even break down the narratives that typically follow a QB who plays for the most discussed franchise in sports. Prescott will be an All-Pro. Here is the case to be made.

The hard stats

Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This is the easiest case to make for Prescott. He is third in passing yards with 4,516, ahead of Allen, Purdy, and Jackson. He has the most touchdown passes in the league, throwing 36. He led the league in completion percentage at 69.5, becoming the first QB to ever complete at least 80% of his passes in four different games with a minimum of 30 attempts. He was second in the league with a four-to-one touchdown to interception ratio, only behind rookie phenom C.J. Stroud.

Prescott has the clear advantage statistically as a passer over the other contenders, but Jackson also is impactful using his legs, just not quite enough to make up the difference.

In total yards Prescott still leads Jackson 4,758 to 4,499, he has nine more touchdowns even if rushing is included, and two less turnovers. Yes, Jackson is more of a dual threat, but even adding his legs, it wasn’t enough to match what Prescott did for his offense.


A counter argument to Prescott’s volume stats dominance is that Jackson and Purdy both sat out their team’s 17th games. However, in eight contests Prescott left with more than eight minutes remaining. Cooper Rush played 69 snaps in his absence; roughly a quarter less than Baltimore’s backup Tyler Huntley’s 86.

Purdy’s argument is stronger, with 130 snaps played by his backup Sam Darnold. More on that in a second.

The analytics

Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In the analytics category it’s a two-man race between Prescott and Purdy. Prescott and Purdy will battle it out, and those that wish to knock down Prescott to elevate Purdy will try to do it here.

In expected points, Prescott has an EPA per play of 0.245 and Jackson’s is only 0.135. Purdy in first place with 0.34 per play.

Prescott is second to Purdy in QBR, 72.8 to 72.6 and passer rating 113 to 105.9. EPA is compared to 0.25 for Prescott and they are again the top two in EPA plus CPOE (Completion Percentage Above Expected).

Prescott leads a few categories of his own.

He is ahead of Purdy in overall PFF grade 90.8 to 88.4 and in passing grade 89.8 to 83.6.

He led the NFL in big-time throws (a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window) with 38.

He was better in turnover-worthy plays (14 to Purdy’s 18), and he crushed the competition in Points Above Average (PAA), leading the entire NFL.

PAA measures how many points a player adds to his team’s scoring output in comparison to the average player at his position. In other words, it incorporates what the QB has around him, and what plays are being called.

Prescott has a PAA of 57, an astronomical difference above second-place Allen at 41.2. Purdy comes in 20 points behind at 37.2.

The reason this is important is because the analytics are so close that looking at what is surrounding Purdy compared to Prescott, and how much that impacts both performances is essential.

San Francisco has the top offensive player in the league in Christian McCaffrey with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle lay claim to be the best WR/TE combo across the entire NFL, and Kyle Shannahan is probably the best play-caller in the league as well. If Prescott is much better statistically, and razor close analytically, and doing so with much more on his shoulders, wouldn’t that elevate his All-Pro case above Purdy?

The narratives

Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Narratives are the toughest to overcome because many of the voters drive their ratings and engagement based on playing up the Cowboys’ misfortune. If Prescott is an All-Pro, then it’s difficult to maintain these narratives that drive people who hate the franchise from engaging and fans of the club from engaging in outrage.

After the blowout to the 49ers in Week 5, Prescott was written off and when he went on to blowout multiple teams, the media would downplay it by complaining about the competition level. Other top QBs weren’t able to sit through those fourth quarters against the same cupcakes though.

Prescott’s resume became so undeniable at one point he took the betting odds lead for MVP, and then a single poor perfomance in a loss to the Bills eliminated him for good.

At one point Purdy had lost three straight games. One to the Cleveland Browns playing their third-string QB, and two others to non-playoff teams, but he was in the race until they lost to the Ravens in Week 16.

Jackson started the season off 1-3 in games that were decided by six points or fewer, losing to the Indianapolis Colts and Browns in Baltimore, plus the Pittsburgh Steelers with Kenny Pickett. Prescott was considered out of the MVP race before he ever lost two straight games in 2023.

While Prescott had two bad performances on the road against playoff teams, at the 49ers and at the Bills, Purdy was horrible in the 49ers’ three straight losses and when they were blown out by the Ravens. Against the other playoff teams he faced, the Rams, Lions, Eagles twice and the Dolphins, Prescott’s performances were beyond admirable.

Dallas blew out the Los Angeles Rams, beat the Detroit Lions and crushed the Eagles when they had the best record in the NFL. In the loss at Philadelphia, Prescott threw for 374 yards and three scores without a turnover. He was the best player on the field that day. He led Dallas on a go-ahead drive in Miami, to put the Cowboys up 20-19. The drive was 17 plays, for 69 yards and he completed seven passes for 56 yards and a score. If the defense holds, Prescott has a road victory over the team with the second-best record in the AFC at the time and is in the MVP conversation again.

The narratives can’t overtake what Prescott has accomplished this season, being a top two MVP candidate and a deserved All-Pro.

You can find Mike Crum on Twitter @cdpiglet or YouTube on the Across the Cowboys Podcast.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire