Injuries are a funny thing. A lot of times injuries hurt a team and turn them bad or uncompetitive. You should not get better as a team if one of your best players goes down for a significant amount of time. From time to time there are exceptions of course. Take a look at this year’s Minnesota Vikings. They have a starting quarterback, starting running back, and two starting offensive tackles that have been placed on injured reserve. Despite these losses, they find themselves at 5-1.
They aren’t the only team dealing with injuries. Dallas had to start a rookie quarterback due to Tony Romo’s back injury. It may have been the greatest thing to ever happen to the Cowboys franchise. The Dallas Cowboys sit at 6-1 and are in first place in the NFC East without Tony Romo. Dak Prescott has taken the NFL by storm, and it should be no surprise.
Dak has created a quarterback controversy in Dallas not because of what he’s said, but because of how he he’s played. Prescott has been quoted on many occasions saying this is Romo’s team and when Romo is ready to come back he will step aside into his backup role.
There is one problem with that. Dak is not a backup. The rookie quarterback has proven he belongs in the NFL as a starter. It begins to raise the alarming questions: how did he even fall to the fourth round? What did the other teams miss? Should Tony Romo start for the Dallas Cowboys ever again?
Dak Prescott was a flat out baller at Mississippi State and his stats prove it. In 2013 he appeared in 11 games and threw 1,940 yards, 10 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Dak also made an impact on the ground rushing for 829 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also found a way to contribute as a receiver with two receptions for 53 yards and two touchdowns. He quickly displayed great athleticism. That was just the beginning.
In 2014, his junior year, Dak took the Bulldogs to heights never seen in school history. It was his first full season as a starter and he led the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record and an Orange Bowl appearance. He also helped Mississippi State reach their first ever number one ranking in school history. In his first full season as the starter, he broke 10 school records, most notably: passing yards in a season (3,449), passing touchdowns in a season (27), and total touchdowns in a season (41). He also finished eighth in Heisman voting.
His senior season wasn’t as great as his junior season as far as leading the team to wins, but he still did good things for the Bulldogs. He set a personal record for most passing yards in a season with 3,793. Dak also threw 29 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He also added 588 yards on the ground along with 10 touchdowns.
The statistics were always there for Dak Prescott and so was the eye test. He played in the toughest conference in college football. The proof that he was a great football player was there, so where did his evaluation during the draft go wrong? Why wasn’t he a first round pick like Carson Wentz or Jared Goff? It raises the question, what did other teams miss that the Cowboys didn’t?
The Draft Fall
One off-field mistake is the reason Dak Prescott fell in the draft. In March, just a month before the NFL draft, Dak was arrested for a DUI. Teams often take chances on players with off-field issues, but at the quarterback position it has more of an impact. A quarterback is the face of the franchise and no owner, general manager, or coach wants their quarterback involved in anything off the field. It may not be fair, but a quarterback has less room for error.
The one thing Dak did well after he found himself in this situation was own up to his mistakes. He took full responsibility and acknowledged his mistakes while apologizing for his short moment of misjudgment. He then vowed to show improvement of character without asking for forgiveness. This incident caused Dak to fall from the second round to the fourth, but how he handled himself after the mistake showed his poise and maturity. That is what teams should have focused on during the draft process.
Sometimes a young man is going to make mistakes. It is how they approach life after the mistake that shows their character. Dak Prescott has said and done all the right things since the DUI.
Who Should Start for Dallas?
Now that Dak Prescott is thriving in his rookie season, everyone is asking if Tony Romo should start for the Cowboys when he gets healthy. The answer is absolutely, unequivalently no. Here is why.
Tony Romo is injury prone and aging (36). In 2010 Romo injured his shoulder and missed 10 games. Tony Romo herniated a disc in his back in week 16 of the 2013 season that required surgery. He suffered a second back injury the following season that only required him to miss two weeks. Just last season Romo fractured his collarbone. This year in the third preseason game Romo fractured a vertebra in his back. This was his third back injury in just four seasons. History makes it clear that he has back troubles and at age 36 he can not withstand the hits of the NFL without getting hurt.
Along with the injuries, Romo has a playoff history that has been extremely unproductive. Tony Romo has been in the NFL 14 years and has had 11 as a starter. In those 11 years Romo has led the Cowboys to just four playoff appearances and his record is just 2-4. He also has the infamous dropped P.A.T. against the Seahawks that resulted in a one point loss because of the play. To Romo’s credit he has thrown eight touchdowns to just two interceptions, but he is not leading the Cowboys to playoff victories. That is what matters most.
Another reason Romo should not start for the Cowboys is the team chemistry. The Cowboys are winning and having fun while doing so. Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones need to let the youth of this team get experience so that this team can become a constant playoff team and Super Bowl contender for years to come. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and the offensive line have an average age of 25.4 years old. The current success is good, but the long term success can get better This team could become one of the best teams in the NFL for the next 10 to 15 years.
This isn’t just about Tony Romo and his lack of postseason success or injuries. Dak has played lights out this season. Along with the 6-1 record as a starter, he has put up great stats. He is completing 65.2 percent of his passes. Dak has 1,773 yards passing and nine touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 99.6 is good for seventh best in the NFL. Dak has also added four touchdowns on the ground.
The most impressive Dak Prescott stat of the season was also a record he broke. The great Tom Brady went 162 passes to begin a career without an interception. Dak Prescott decided to break that record with 172 passes to begin a career without an interception. He has only thrown two interceptions all year.
It’s Been Done Before
If the Cowboys are worried about giving up on Tony Romo for good, they should look at some of the other teams to make the difficult decision.
Back in 1986 current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski suffered an injury in the second week of the season and the Eagles decided to stick with Randall Cunningham for the remainder of the season. Cunningham continued to play in the NFL until 2001.
Alex Smith was having a great season in 2012 and had a 19-5-1 record under Jim Harbaugh, who was the coach at time. When Alex Smith went down to injury Colin Kaepernick took over and eventually went to the Super Bowl that season because the 49ers decided to stick with Kaepernick.
Drew Brees is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time but even the great Drew Brees lost his job to injury. In the 2005 NFL season, Drew Brees hurt his shoulder in the final game. The Chargers started Philip Rivers and decided to not resign Brees in favor of Rivers.
Hall of Famer Joe Montana eventually lost his job to Steve Young after an elbow injury in the 1990 NFC Championship game. Once Montana got healthy the team still stuck with Young and Montana had won four Super Bowls.
The most similar situation to the Cowboys current dilemma is when Tom Brady came in for the great Drew Bledsoe. In 2001 the Jets knocked Bledsoe out of the game and in came in the scrawny, unknown Tom Brady. The rest was history. Brady went on to win the Super Bowl and Drew Bledsoe was traded to the Buffalo Bills.
There are an abundance of reasons why the Cowboys need to remain with Dak Prescott as the team’s starting quarterback. Dak Prescott is playing great and the team is winning. Tony Romo has a long history of injuries that won’t improve at the age of 36. Romo also has had minimal success in the playoffs with a long body of work. If the Cowboys want to become a great franchise it starts with a great quarterback. It is time to let Dak lead the Cowboys into the future.
In case you have been living under a rock, NFL television ratings are down considerably. All primetime broadcast windows have seen a double-digit percentage decrease from last year. CBS’s Sunday afternoon ratings are down in similar fashion. The numbers at Fox have stayed the same or are only down slightly depending on the data source. Everyone within the NFL and those who cover it seem to be panicking. They should not be and here is why.
Prior to this year, record ratings were the norm- This is just simple logic. Everything peaks at some point. 19 of the 20 most watched television programs in American history are Super Bowls. Also, the top seven are all Super Bowls from this decade. The NFL may never be as popular as it was prior to this year again. That does not mean there is not still a massive market for it. However, whenever something is put up against record highs, the numbers are going to look bad. In a world where my friends and I struggle to agree on where to eat, it is difficult to get millions and millions of people to watch the same product every year.
We are living in a bizarre time- Some of this was already covered by my fellow writer Michael Sullivan in a well done recent article. Right now, we are all witnesses to the most unique (for lack of a better word) election anyone has ever seen. It is no secret that it is stealing viewers from football. The first presidential debate absolutely slaughtered the Monday night football game that was on at the same time.
There is also the Cubs. Those of us younger than 71 have never seen the wildly popular “lovable losers” have a legitimate chance at the World Series. Game one pulled in almost 20,000,000 viewers Tuesday night. Granted no NFL game was on at the same time. Even so, it has been a long time since baseball put up numbers comparable to those of the NFL. It will be interesting to see how the numbers stack up Sunday with both sports on at the same time. The good news for the NFL is that both the election and the Cubs are temporary. If there is not a significant ratings uptick for the NFL by the end of next month, I will be shocked.
The NFL is in a transition period- Like any other television show, the NFL is star driven. The stars are the quarterbacks. It has been a rough year for the established stars at that position. Peyton Manning retired and guys like Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger have missed or are missing extended periods of time for various reasons. Also, the signal callers that most thought would be the next generation of stars like Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are underperforming. Thus, we have had some underwhelming quarterback matchups this year. I love football and will always watch whenever it is on. However, I can certainly see some casual fans not being eager to tune in to a Brock Osweiler vs. Jacoby Brissett duel. The league went through a similar ratings dip when John Elway, Steve Young, Troy Aikman, and Dan Marino all retired in 1999-2000. New stars emerged then, and they will again, but it takes time.
It is not like nobody is watching- So, the Seahawks/Cardinals game last Sunday ended tied at six and was mocked by media and fans the next day. As ugly and “boring” as it was 28.6 million people watched it. The NFL is doing just fine.
Declining ratings are never good, but if any other television show pulled in 28 million people with everything going on, we would be talking about how amazing it is. If the ratings are still sagging when the season ends, this can be revisited. Until then, stop finding solutions to problems that don’t exist and enjoy the football.
In the wee hours of this Saturday morning, the guys on the PGA Tour were finishing their third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.
As it sits right now Hideki Matsuyama is the 54-hole leader at 17-under-par, with a gang of golfers over three strokes back. Matsuyama, a 24-year-old from Japan, has made himself a force to be reckoned with over the last month or so on the PGA tour. He definitely showed it this weekend, recording 23 birdies to just six bogeys.
Over the course of his last 11 par-5’s, Matsuyama has birdied 10 of them. The one hole he didn’t, he saved par.
How Hideki has played the last 11 par 5s …
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 29, 2016
Currently, there are two storylines to keep on the back burner. The first is if Matsuyama wins this weekend, he’ll be the first Japanese player to win a World Golf Championships event. The second is Russel Knox, 14-under-par, doing what he can to reclaim his title at the WGC-HSBC. If he manages to do so, Knox will be the second person to ever defend a title at a WGC event.
The star-studded lineup that many people were talking up heading into this weekend just hasn’t been itself so far. FedEx Cup runner-up Dustin Johnson sits at 2-over, Bubba Watson is at 4-over. Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, and Henrik Stenson all sit eight strokes behind the leader at 9-under, which in comparison to many golfers is incredible, but it’s not what the public expected.
Kuchar did bag a 193-yard hole-in-one on the par-3 17th hole.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 29, 2016
However, it’s still very early in the PGA Tour season and there’s still plenty of time for these guys to break out the big guns and record a couple of wins.
Until then, I’ll leave you on the lighter side.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 29, 2016
Week 8 of the NFL started with a clunker. What an embarrassing effort by Jacksonville Thursday. More importantly, I was on the wrong side of a three and a half point spread. The good news is I was a season best 10-4-1 last week, including calling the Chargers upset of Atlanta. 53-54-5 is my record for the year. With six teams on byes this week, the slate is a bit light. My picks are bolded and outright upsets have an asterisk. Here is to keeping the good roll going.
Redskins at Bengals (-3) (London) – What an odd matchup for the NFL to send to London. These teams almost never play each other. The Redskins suffered a crushing loss in the final seconds to Detroit last week, while the Bengals did exactly what they were supposed to do with Cleveland. You have two teams with similar records that are starting to trend in opposite directions. Additionally, A.J. Green should have a field day against an injury filled and underperforming Redskins secondary. Cin 27 Was 17
Cardinals at Panthers (-3) – After last week’s error filled yet fascinating tie, Arizona is now looking way up at both the Seahawks and Rams in the NFC West and on the wrong end of tiebreakers should they come into play. After outplaying Seattle so thoroughly and having nothing to show for it, I expect a hangover. Conversely, professional pride must kick in for the Panthers following the bye week. Their fall from 15-1 to 1-5 is mind-boggling. Fortunately, they are catching the Cardinals at the right time. Car 28 AZ 17.
*Lions at Texans (-2.5)-This is one of those lines that is almost too good to be true, which means I will end up looking stupid. That being said, has anyone watched these two teams play in the last month? Matthew Stafford is the hottest quarterback in football and Brock Osweiler just plain stinks. With Minnesota and Green Bay suddenly dealing with significant issues, the Lions are primed for a playoff push. It starts by winning this game. Det 34 Hou 24
Chiefs (-2.5) at Colts-This is my favorite pick of the week. The Chiefs are a really good football team. Indianapolis has not beaten one of those this year. On the other hand, the Colts are simply a collection of quarterback Andrew Luck and 52 other guys. Luck is plenty good enough to beat teams like Tennessee all on his own, but this is not Tennessee. KC 30 Ind 20
Patriots (-6) at *Bills-This is not a mistake. As we already saw once of this year, Buffalo’s top-flight running game and physical defense are a bad matchup for New England, with or without Tom Brady. Even with LeSean McCoy banged up, the threat of quarterback Tyrod Taylor taking off should open up lanes for whoever the running back is. No offense is dangerous when they are standing on the sideline, even the Patriots. Also, we really have not seen Brady get hit since he returned. Regardless of the outcome, the Ryan brothers and their blitz heavy scheme will make sure he gets hit on Sunday. No player reacts well to that, especially when it has been a while. Buf 24 NE 20
Jets (-3) at *Browns- Ryan Fitzpatrick is like a bad cold. The Jets organization just cannot get rid of him, no matter how hard it tries. He will start again here out of necessity. Cleveland’s never ending game of musical quarterback chairs rolls on. Both teams are a mess. After this game, every team remaining on Cleveland’s schedule could be a playoff team. If not now for the Browns to win a game in 2016… When? Cle 20 NYJ 17
Raiders at Bucs (PK) – Oakland has feasted on bad teams in order to accumulate its perfect road record. However, Tampa Bay simply is not a bad team. At .500, the playoffs are not a huge stretch. The Raiders may also be looking ahead to next week’s primetime showdown with division rival Denver. The defense is still giving up over six yards a play. We will see a duel between two very promising young quarterbacks in Jameis Winston and Derek Carr. They both could be the faces of this league for years to come. TB 28 Oak 24
Seahawks (-2.5) at Saints- Seattle managing to pull out a tie Sunday night in Arizona was actually quite impressive… Seriously. They were beaten by roughly double in every major statistical category. At times, this offense is hard to watch, but they always seem to do just enough. Going to the Superdome is never an easy task, but Seattle will be able to stop the Saints offense enough to get the job done. There is something about Russell Wilson and this team. They get outplayed fairly often, but somehow manage to hang around long enough for something good to happen. In this matchup, they are simply the better team. Sea 26 NO 20
Chargers at Broncos (-5) – I said it would happen and here it is. I am picking against the Broncos. The upset in Atlanta last week for the Chargers should put the whole league on notice. With Philip Rivers playing like he is, the Chargers are an uncomfortable matchup for anyone. The Broncos finally got back to being themselves Monday night running the ball down Houston’s throat and reminding everyone why they did not pay Brock Osweiler big money. However, the loss of C.J. Anderson for an extended period of time really hurts this offense. Young players who may not be ready now have to shoulder more of the load than they are capable of. It will take a few weeks to adjust. However, the defense is still great. This has the feel of a field goal game one way or the other. Den 24 SD 21.
*Packers at Falcons (-3) – Aaron Rodgers still is not quite himself, but he was better last Thursday with no conventional running game to speak of. After last week, Atlanta looks a lot like last year’s team that went 5-0 and missed the playoffs. With that defense, 30 points is the bare minimum required by the offense (Matt Ryan and Julio Jones) in order to win. That is a tough way to live in the NFL. I will take Aaron Rodgers and points every single time. The Falcons defense is exactly what the Packers offense needs. GB 31 Atl 28
Eagles at Cowboys (-4.5) – Dallas is simply a machine right now. They do have a quarterback decision looming, but right now all Dak Prescott has to do is ride on Ezekiel Elliott and that offensive line to victory while making a few big-time throws in the process. Carson Wentz has yet to lead his Eagles into a road game of this magnitude against a quality opponent. Not to mention Philadelphia is a young team coming off a huge win last week. I see a pretty one-sided game. Dal 34 Phi 20
MNF: Vikings (-4.5) at *Bears– Halloween night will serve as the backdrop for this game. Strange things tend to happen. Why not call for an upset? Sam Bradford is simply not good enough to make up for the lack of talent around him all season long. Another performance like last week from the offensive line, and he will not make it through the game. When you only have one loss and the coach calls the team’s performance “soft” and “embarrassing”, it is time to panic. After reluctantly boarding the Vikings bandwagon, I am backing off. On the other side, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler may be playing for his career. He has too much God-given talent not to rise to the occasion. This one will not be pretty. Chi 14 Min 10