(Editor's Note: Over the next month, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into 2021. Today, the staff writers debate quarterback Dak Prescott's long-term potential.)
FRISCO, Texas – He's back.
After a devastating ankle injury cost him the final 11 games of the 2020 season – a year in which he was on a record passing pace for a single season – Dak Prescott returned this spring to take part in offseason practices. Now that he's back healthy for the start of training camp, what is Dak's ceiling at the quarterback position moving forward? The staff writers debate.
2) What Is Dak Prescott's Ceiling?
Rob Phillips: Super Bowl champion. Isn't that the pinnacle for every quarterback? It's absolutely possible at some point in his career, and people closest to Dak might even say it's probable based on how committed he is to being great. Look, I don't know how the Cowboys will fare in 2021. 2020 perfectly illustrated how much has to go right – and how much can easily go wrong – over the course of an NFL season. But I believe Prescott will continue to improve and put the Cowboys in position to contend for titles if they can continue to put a competitive roster around him. He's only 27 years old. By the time Tony Romo was 34 or 35, we saw the very best version of No. 9 before injuries took over. As for this particular season, all signs point to Prescott being ready to go for Week 1. I'm sure there will be some routine treatment and maintenance required on his surgically-repaired ankle throughout the season; he's already referenced his plan to do more pre-game stretching each week, etc. But through a lot of diligent work with the athletic training staff, Dak is poised to play at a high level again. It'll be nice just to see that. The rest – his ceiling, his legacy and all that – will sort itself out over time.
David Helman: Let me be clear:Dak Prescott is not one of the three best quarterbacks in the NFL today. That being said, if you were going to draft a quarterback to lead your franchise for the next five years -- weighing talent, durability, leadership and age – I absolutely think Dak would be one of the first three guys taken. Even coming off a major injury, I can't see his arrow going anywhere but up, and I think he'll be widely considered one of the three best quarterbacks in the game within the next few years. When he signed his $160 million contract, Prescott said "pressure is a privilege." That's a fantastic mindset. Because if he's as good as I think he is, he's going to be the reason a flawed Cowboys roster can reach the playoffs over the next few years. That pressure now lies squarely on his shoulders.
Mickey Spagnola: Sky's the limit. That high enough? He will become the first Cowboys quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards, breaking Tony Romo's single-season franchise mark of 4,903, that Dak trailed by just one yard in 2019. First of all, if his offseason work and participation is any indication, he will be thoroughly recovered from the harrowing ankle injury suffered in Game 5 that ended his 2020 season. Next, health willing, this will be only his second full season under offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and only his second offseason, since COVID wiped out the 2020 offseason. Then there is this, if only a small sample from 2020 means anything. In 4¾ games last year, Dak completed 151 if 222 passes (68 percent) for 1,856 yards, 9 TDs, 4 INTs and a QB rating of 99.6. That factors out over 16 games to a 5,900-yard pace. Now factor in a healthy offensive line, the Cowboys hope a much better defense and getting to play more than five games with the trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, this could be Dak's best season. Just think, in his short time with the rookie Lamb last season, they hooked up 27 times for 412 yards and two touchdowns, that without an offseason together or any preseason games. Sure seems as if blue skies ahead.