Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott set a football record in the 2022-2023 season. Despite missing five games due to a broken thumb sustained against the Buccaneers in the season opener, the Mississippi State product managed to become the first quarterback to lead (or at least co-lead) the NFL in interceptions despite his prolonged absence in the middle of the season. While the Cowboys had a particularly explosive offense, a bend-but-don’t-break defense and a first-team all-NFL punt returner in former XFL MVP Kavonte Turpin, Dak’s consistently errant passing game proved to be the Achilles heel for America’s team.
While it is true that the Cowboys have several other significant issues that need to be addressed, including a kicker in Brett Maher who cannot make extra points, a coach in Mike McCarthy that frequently underperforms in the playoffs, and an amazing but rapidly- aging offensive line, Dak’s decision-making under pressure is the glaring weakness for an organization with Super Bowl aspirations. Turnovers crippled the Cowboys in their grueling matchup against the 49ers and they consistently haunted America’s team throughout the season. To be blunt: the Dallas Cowboys cannot win a Super Bowl with Dak Prescott as their QB.
Now, before I discuss why the Cowboys need to begin the search for a new offensive leader, I think it is important to note a couple of facts about Dak as a person that someone who is not a Cowboys fan might not know. It gives me no pleasure in asserting that the Cowboys should move on from Dak. In his seven seasons with the ‘Boys, Dak has continually proven himself as a fighter, a strong and charismatic leader and an amazing human being. Undoubtedly, regardless of his success as a football player, Dak has made an instrumental difference in the Dallas community. Through his charity ‘Faith Fight Finish,’ created to honor his mother Peggy Prescott, who passed halfway through Dak’s sophomore season at Mississippi State, he has consistently touched the lives of those who are less fortunate. Unsurprisingly, Prescott has been nominated for the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his contributions to cancer research and empowering underprivileged children.
However, since his return from a gruesome ankle injury sustained against the New York Giants in October of 2020, Dak has struggled to keep the ball away from opposing defenses. This season, in a truly astonishing feat, Prescott’s struggles heightened, resulting in him equaling Houston Texans’ quarterback Davis Mills for most interceptions during the regular season, at a remarkable 15. What is more frightening, however, is that Prescott only played in 12 games this season, while Mills played all 17 games for the second-worst team in the league with one of the worst statistical offenses this season. Furthermore, Dak continued to turn the ball over in the playoffs, costing the Cowboys dearly.
Despite a smooth and impressive Wild Card Round against Tom Brady and the underwhelming Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Prescott’s inaccuracy continued this past weekend in the NFC Divisional Round against the San Francisco 49ers. Tied at 6-6, Dallas had a second and 2 in the red zone. Once again, San Francisco brought pressure, causing Prescott to panic and throw into double coverage, resulting in his second interception of the game. This was the pivotal play of the game, as Dallas went from taking the lead with a field goal or touchdown, to going into halftime down a field goal. The Cowboys would lose the game by seven, but Prescott’s second interception was a 6–10-point swing. Additionally, while San Francisco scored six points off turnovers, Brock Purdy and the 49ers offense were cautious, clean, and won the game. Frankly, Dak was the biggest culprit in the Cowboys’ exit from this postseason, even bigger than kicker Brett Maher or our incompetent coach Mike McCarthy.
Since returning to the field from the dislocated ankle, Dak’s mobility has suffered tremendously. This is most evident in the pocket, as he is either unable to escape from pressure or panics and makes costly decisions. To be fair, far worse quarterbacks than Prescott have won the Super Bowl, like Nick Foles with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017, Jeff Hostetler with the New York in 1990 and Trent Dilfer with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. The major difference, though, is that these quarterbacks were game managers that did not take huge risks and in their Super Bowl winning seasons, did not turn the ball
over frequently. Brock Purdy, albeit with an impressive array of offensive talent, was able to manage the game to allow his team to win, leading to the decisive touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Dak is not a game manager, and while that leads to explosive plays in the regular season, with his level of interceptions, it is unsustainable in the playoffs.
So, what does the situation look like going forward for the Cowboys if Dak is not the franchise savior and Super Bowl-caliber QB? Obviously, the Cowboys need to begin the search for a long-term solution but should not plan on releasing Dak until a better option clearly presents itself. Dallas does not want to end up like numerous other organizations which sign veterans in the twilight stages of their careers hoping to extract the last bit of magic from their impressive careers, only to fire their head coach and finish 4-13 (Colts fans, you know what I mean). Additionally, thanks to the genius of Jerry Jones, Dak signed with Dallas through 2024 and has a no-trade clause, while earning an annual salary of 31 million dollars. As a result, it is likely that Dak will start the 2023 season with the Cowboys.
Furthermore, trading Dak would prove crippling to our salary cap and, even if the Cowboys did desire to trade Dak, given his recent performance, interception tendencies and history of frequent injuries, there probably would not be many takers.
However, the Cowboys may be able to find a short-term solution while they wait out Dak’s enormous contract. While he would remain on the roster, a couple suitable options may present themselves in free agency.
First, the Cowboys have a capable quarterback in Cooper Rush on the bench. While he may not be as good as Dak, he did shine during his five-game stint as the interim QB, going 4-1. Ultimately, although he would serve as more of an insurance policy, the Cowboys could re-sign him, as he knows this system and could provide a spark for the ‘Boys if Dak’s struggles continue.
And of course, there is Tom Brady. Although Brady may not be coming back to the NFL, if he returns for another season, it almost certainly will not be in Tampa Bay. Even though his numbers were slightly down this season, Brady finished third in the league in passing yards, excelled in game management, fourth quarter comebacks and arguably has the highest football IQ of any player in the league. To be honest, getting the washed-up Buccaneers to the playoffs was an accomplishment, and with the weapons he would have in Dallas, could elevate the Cowboys to Super Bowl contender status.