The Cowboys’ epic flop in the wild-card round of the playoffs was a total-team meltdown, but when the team’s fans look back on the 16-point home loss to a No. 7-seed, one that prematurely snuffed out a third straight 12-win season, many of them lay the lion’s share of the blame squarely on the $40 million man under center.
Now it seems the Cowboys front office is also looking at quarterback Dak Prescott and expecting more from him moving forward.
Stephen Jones, the team’s executive vice president, said as much Tuesday in speaking with reporters at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. He compared Prescott to two of the winningest passers this generation of football has seen and pointed out all too clearly how Dak has come up short.
When asked about the widespread frustrations following yet another early exit from the postseason, Jones subtly alluded to head coach Mike McCarthy’s call for fans to “buy into us” by admitting that the heavy criticism surrounding the team- which has not advanced past the NFC’s divisional round since the 1995 season- is completely warranted.
“We have had three good years of 12-5 and we have had major disappointments in the postseasons,” Jones said. “So until we do something about it, which is go have another great year and have success in the playoffs, then that’s going to be there. There’s no way they’re going to explicitly trust you until you get it done. Would someone trust Tom Brady and the Patriots that they’re going to get it done? Yeah. Why? Because they did it year in and year out. Does someone trust [Patrick] Mahomes and Kansas City that they’re going to do it? Why? Because they do it six years in a row; they’re in the championship game. Until we compete at that level and we get the job done, then there’s going to be doubt. And rightfully so.”
Jones didn’t talk about defense. He didn’t pin it on coaching. Or the lack of a run game. Or scheme. Or penalties. Or injuries.
He referenced quarterbacks.
Prescott, for all his doubters who can easily point to mostly-poor playoff performances and mistakes made over a 2-5 postseason career, actually had a remarkable regular season, leading the NFL in completions and touchdown throws and finishing in the top three in both completion percentage and passing yards. Those stats have made him a finalist for the league’s MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards.
But with a mind-boggling cap hit of $59 million-plus coming in 2024, many are now openly questioning if the veteran’s price tag is worth it when it’s Super Bowls that matter.
He obviously has fallen well short of Mahomes’s 14-3 playoff record and two Super Bowl rings (so far). And he’ll never come close to Brady’s 35-13 postseason mark and seven Super Bowl titles.
Even within the history of his own franchise, Prescott’s tenure with the Cowboys currently puts him in the same category as Tony Romo and Danny White, not Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. So holding him and this squad to the same standard as Brady’s Patriots or Mahomes’s Chiefs only demonstrates just how far off Prescott and the Cowboys are from that trajectory.
Let’s face it: would beating Green Bay in the wild-card matchup have erased the skepticism that Prescott and the Jones-led Cowboys have engendered?
Prescott played brilliantly in last year’s opening-round win (over Brady and the Buccaneers, no less); that bought him exactly six days’ worth of grace, until he and the ‘Boys laid an egg the next week in San Francisco.
What if Dallas had even made it past the divisional round this year, only to lose to the 49ers in the NFC championship? Wouldn’t we still be having the exact same discussion?
Jones is talking about consistent, repeated success in January, something that will take years to build before it’s considered real.
But it starts with one. And for Prescott and the Cowboys, it can only start with the next one.
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Whether Jones and the Cowboys brain trust have already decided they’ll pursue signing Prescott to an extension, restructure his deal to soften the financial blow, start looking (perhaps in Mobile at the Senior Bowl) for a successor, or even do the unthinkable, the COO gave an unsurprisingly vague answer.
“We love our quarterback,” Jones said with a smile. “It’s well-documented what we think of our quarterback.”
But then Jerry Jones also said, “I think I’ve said that we will go as far as Dak takes us in the playoffs. Remember that. We will go as far as Dak takes us. And that is how far we went.”
Whatever they think of the Joneses, whatever they think of Prescott, Cowboys fans can- and certainly will- read into that whatever they want to hear.