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.
(John Froschauer/AP Photo)
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.