By Jan Hubbard
DALLAS — Among qualifiers for NFL passing leaders, Dak Prescott ranks 17th in completion percentage, 18th in yards gained and 26th in quarterback rating.
The reaction in Dallas?
“Tony Romo,” a friend of mine said breathlessly, “is history.”
That was not an isolated opinion. Dakmania is percolating not only in Dallas, but even nationally, with wacky analysis and speculation blowing up on the air waves, Internet and social media sites. Since Prescott played well in the Cowboys’ 27-23 victory over the Redskins in Washington, some of the “issues” have been:
- Will Romo regain his starting role when he returns from a back injury, perhaps as early as mid-October?
- If he does start, will Cowboys coach Jason Garrett have a shorter leash,
Overreaction is the nature of sports, so if there is a possibility of creating a controversy that defies logic, why not? It fills radio time, elicits reaction on Twitter and gets a few extra hits for newspapers and sports sites on the Web. It’s good for business.
But it has nothing to do with reality. Prescott, the eighth quarterback taken in the 2016 NFL draft, is 1-1 as a starter. Romo is 78-49 since he took over the starting job with 10 games to go in the 2006 season. When he has not played because of injury, the Cowboys are 7-20.
Romo is also the third highest rated quarterback in NFL history and he is tied with Peyton Manning for fourth in pass completion percentage. He holds all of the Cowboys major passing records, but there is one area where he has never measured up to the great quarterbacks in Dallas history.
Romo has led the Cowboys to the playoffs only four times. They have won two playoff games during his tenure and have never made it to the conference title game.
Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls. Roger Staubach won two. Danny White never got Dallas to a Super Bowl, but he took the Cowboys to three conference finals. He at least got them close.
Romo’s lack of playoff success has been an irritant for some longtime fans, but when he missed 12 games last season, some of the criticism diminished. The Cowboys went 1-11 without him and their 12-4 record from 2014 turned into 4-12. Romo’s value became evident to his harshest detractors.
But there is a second element of Prescott’s instant popularity: He gives the Cowboys hope for the future.
Under Garrett’s watch, which includes nine years as the offensive coordinator or head coach, the Cowboys have not developed a young backup quarterback. They’ve had good backups in Jon Kitna and Kyle Orton, but both were veterans at the end of the careers and had previously started for other teams.
Although it is way too early to judge long term, Prescott is off to a good start. In the preseason, he was 39-of-50 passing (.780) for 454 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for two TDs but, most importantly, he threw no interceptions.
He has continued not making mistakes in the regular season, setting an NFL record in the process. Prescott has thrown 75 passes without an interception and no quarterback has ever done that in his first two games. He has completed 57 passes and has run for one touchdown.
Garrett is properly impressed, saying Prescott “just handles (the game) with poise and composure. It’s infectious throughout our team. Guys respond to that.”
As steady as Prescott has been, however, the NFL is replete with stories of young players excelling early, then withering when defensive coordinators find weaknesses and exploit them. Prescott may give the Cowboys hope, but he has not given them a quarterback controversy as long as Romo is upright, which has been a problem the last two seasons.
“It’s Tony’s team,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on his radio show this week. “Tony has the experience and he has just the ability to make us a better team, so that’s the only way you look at it right now.”
(Jan Hubbard has been one of those great Texas sports writers for more than 40 years. Jan began writing sports for the Fort Worth Press in 1975 and has since worked at newspapers in the Dallas area and New York, including the Dallas Morning News and Newsday. As a beat writer, he spent most of his career covering the NBA but has covered the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and college football. He also spent eight years working for the NBA league office in New York. He has written three books on the NBA and was the editor of the last Official NBA Encyclopedia that was published by the league. He currently is a free lance writer based in Dallas and will contribute regularly on woodypaige.com, writing about the Big 12 Conference, the Dallas Cowboys and any other subject he sees fit to opine about.)