FRISCO, Texas – If there was ever any doubt about this organization's opinion of its franchise quarterback, Jerry Jones did his best to clear it up.
It may have been two years in the making, but Dak Prescott's newly-signed contract extension was not something the Cowboys' owner and general manager was reluctant to offer. In fact, Jones said he was anything but.
"One of the real easy decisions that I've had to make in my time with the Dallas Cowboys was to have Dak Prescott as the future regarding the quarterback position of the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said on Wednesday.
It's very understandable if some think otherwise. After all, this is a franchise that has typically reached blockbuster deals with its players in rapid fashion. That wasn't the case with Prescott, as this four-year, $160 million extension came after 27 months of ongoing discussion, not to mention a $31.4 million franchise tag thrown in for good measure.
With all of that debate and negotiation, it makes sense if some saw it as hesitation. Jones recognizes that, and that's probably why his first words of Wednesday's 80-minute press conference sought to clear that up.
"We are keenly aware that the process that we've done over the last several years has created, if you will, a conversation and maybe even a life of its own," he said. "Don't confuse that. Do not confuse that in the fact that how much I may have, we may have contributed to that, don't confuse that with how right we think this decision is. And how right and how much it's been there from the very beginning."
This is a great point to mention the elephant in the room. Prescott, Jerry Jones and chief operating officer Stephen Jones conducted this press conference from a raised table, with reporters spread out according to social distancing guidelines. It was the first in-press conference held by Cowboys officials in more than a year, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the obvious impact it had on the NFL – not to mention life in general.
"I'm going to blame a little bit of that ambiguity on what happened with the Covid business," Jones said. "On any measure that I might have had on is this, how do we structure and how do we plan on going forward?"
If Jones' words aren't convincing enough, his actions should be. Regardless of how long it took to get there, Prescott is slated to make an average salary of $40 million over the next four years. His signing bonus of $66 million and the $95 million guaranteed to him when he signed the dotted line are the most in league history.
"Today says it all," Jones said. "This says it all right here today."
The whole ordeal may have been helped by the fact that the Cowboys were working with one of the most unflappable quarterbacks in the league today. Throughout the last two years, Prescott never seemed to be fazed by the raging debate about his next contract, and if the delay ever bothered him, he never showed it.
In fact, sitting in front of reporters in his finest suit, he said he never once had doubts that his long-term future lay in Dallas.
"Through it all, throughout the two years, I guess you could say, or more, there was never a slack doubt in my mind that I wouldn't wear the star for the rest of my life," he said.
Prescott's transformation is now complete, from a feel-good story of a fourth-round draft pick to the face of the NFL's biggest franchise – not to mention one of the most well-known names in the game. And for all the debate about whether he's worth it, the conversation will now change to whether he can deliver.
It sounds like a lot of pressure. But, as usual, Prescott wasn't bothered by it.
"I think higher expectations create higher results," he said. "I am all for it. I am excited. It's a privilege to have this pressure. I am just excited to go out there and do what I can."
That's the obvious challenge that awaits when the hugs and handshakes have finished. Prescott steps back into the lineup for a team that finished 6-10, for a franchise that has fallen short of its aspirations for some time now. And he didn't shy away from that, either, making it perfectly clear what his goals are moving forward.
"Obviously, that's my plan, is get a parade in Dallas," he said.
Building a championship team starts with getting the franchise quarterback under contract. Now that that's taken care of, the Cowboys can look toward their future. And despite how many twists the negotiation took, Jerry Jones was once again quite clear: the future looks bright with Dak Prescott under center.
"Let me tell you one thing: The Cowboys won today," he said. "They won today. And I'm excited about this future. And that's what we're all interested in – the future."