FRISCO, Texas – That the Dallas Cowboys seemingly found a franchise quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft, that they actually found said quarterback in the fourth round with a compensatory draft choice, that the rookie quarterback played well enough from the season opener all the way through the playoffs to displace injured 14-year veteran Tony Romo is nothing short of a miracle.
Like winning the Power Ball.
Seriously now. No hyperbole.
Go ahead and title Dak Prescott's highly improbable rise to become the Dallas Cowboys' franchise quarterback Against All Odds.
Two occurrences this week reminded me of how unlikely this story really is and how utterly fortunate the Cowboys were/are to take this serendipitous ride:
First, this from out here at The Star midweek, Dak pointing out that this time last year during the first OTA how he took all of "two snaps."
And then this, NFL.com ranking the past 17 quarterback draft classes, going all the way back to 2000, the very year the Cowboys' quarterback problems emerged, paralyzing the franchise until Romo came to the rescue midway through the 2006 season.
Both will cause you to go, Say what?
Start with the rankings, NFL.com listing every quarterback in each class year, then ranking the 17 classes, going from worst to first. And while compiling the forthcoming stats, I took the liberty to exclude the 2016 draft class, one year of evidence not nearly enough to properly evaluate boom or bust.
So then, from 2000 through the 2015 draft there were 201 legitimate quarterbacks selected, from the first one taken in 2000, Chad Pennington with the 18th pick in the first round by the New York Jets, to the last one taken in 2015, Trevor Siemian in the seventh round with the 250th pick of the draft by the Denver Broncos. By my estimation, at this point in all of their careers, only 23 have become legitimate "franchise" quarterbacks, with question marks hovering over two others.
That's a .114 batting average, while choosing to say the final analysis on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater and Jimmy Garappolo is not in yet.
Now, on top of that, only five franchise-type quarterbacks were found after the second round, including of course Tom Brady in the sixth round, then Marc Bulger in the sixth, Russell Wilson in the third, Kirk Cousins in the fourth and this one might be a stretch but he's still considered a starter I guess, Tyrod Taylor in the sixth. That's it.
The obvious home runs in the top two rounds are the likes of, and in no particular order, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Michael Vick and Carson Palmer.
The colossal first-round busts would include JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young, Joey Harrington, Matt Leinart, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Robert Griffin III and Byron Leftwich, all top-10 picks.
And to think Tony Romo wasn't even drafted, not even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in 2003, a class somehow ranked third best, mostly thanks to Palmer going No. 1 to Cincinnati and Romo being included. The rest, well, cover your eyes, with Kyle Boller and Rex Grossman going in the first, and now all of these quarterbacks drafted instead of Romo from then on: David Ragone, Chris Simms, Seneca Wallace, Brian St. Pierre, Drew Henson, Brooks Bollinger, Kliff Kingsbury, Gibran Hamdan and Ken Dorsey.
See what I mean?
And to think the Cowboys found Prescott with the 135th selection, the fifth to last pick in the fourth round.
Yeah, against all odds.
"Dak Prescott was my 81st ranked player," says Gil Brandt, former Cowboys vice president of player personnel (1960-89) and currently working as an analyst for NFL.com. "Nobody had him higher than 100."
Gil had unearthed this fact about Dak that thoroughly impressed him.
"Dak is the only quarterback in college football history to do this," Gil says. "He won three consecutive games against a top-10 opponent. He beat LSU at LSU, he beat Auburn in Starkville, and Texas A&M in Starkville."
Dak also had Mississippi State, for the first time in school history, ranked No.1 during the 2014 season.
Now that brings us to this week, Dak remembering he had taken only "two snaps" in the first OTA practice a year ago, which is about right when you consider he was fourth on the Cowboys' totem pole at that point, behind Romo, Kellen Moore and Jameill Showers.
"How do you know what a guy's going to do when he takes only two snaps?" Gil asks. "So everything broke right for him."
See, you are reminded of the Cowboys' long odds against finding such a quarterback, period, and even the longer odds of finding one in the fourth round. But how about that guy doing what he did in his rookie year?
Well, first of all, he has to have a chance. Most rookies don't. Dak wasn't supposed to, either, the odds against now stretching longer than taffy.
With minimal exposure during the offseason workouts – remember the "two snaps" – Dak goes into training camp a co-No. 3. Romo is the starter. It's Moore's backup job to lose. Dak and Showers are going to share the No. 3 snaps, which usually are no more than a few crumbs here or there, although Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said after having Dak for a couple of months that he "he was going to get a chance."
Well, here we go. Moore suffers his broken ankle four days into training camp. The Cowboys make an effort to sign recently-released Nick Foles. He chooses Kansas City. Cleveland's asking price in a trade for Josh McNown is ridiculously high. No deal.
And on the first two-minute drill after Moore's injury, what are the chances that practice also coincides with a Romo day off.
The first chapter of Dak Prescott's rise is written. He has a heck of a two-minute drill, forever leaving Showers in his dust. He is now undoubtedly No. 2, working against the free-agent field. Then comes that impressive first preseason game performance against the Rams in the Coliseum.
And the clincher comes thundering down in the third preseason game – come on you guys, can't make this stuff up – when Romo suffers the L-1 compression fracture of the vertebrae on the third play of the game.
Uh, Dak buddy, you da' man. Hustle in there. It's third-and-8 at the Cowboys' 38-yard line against that Seahawks defense in that stadium. Pffft, 12-yarder to Cole Beasley, first down at midfield.
You know the rest of the story, and we must ask ourselves for sure, what's more improbable? Dak then going 13-3 as a rookie starter? Dak not throwing an interception in his first five NFL games – the first QB with no interception over his first 176 NFL pass attempts? Dak becoming the Cowboys' first rookie quarterback Pro Bowl selection? Or … some white-bearded dude in a red suit shimmying down a chimney on Christmas Eve with presents for all the boys and girls?
Close call, right?
But here is the deal, and Gil is right when he says "everything broke right for him."
Most rookie quarterbacks drafted later than the second round rarely, if ever, get enough snaps to impress. But here was Dak, from nearly the outset of training camp, getting second-team reps. And then he gets first-team snaps on days Romo rested. Then he gets to start that first preseason game. Gets 35 snaps in the second one against Miami. Gets 43 in the third one after Romo goes down.
And how 'bout these bananas: Is so impressive that the Cowboys couldn't even afford to play him in the throwaway fourth preseason game. Too valuable at that point to risk injury.
All those snaps are invaluable. Garrett knows it for sure, having lived the life of a second- and third-team QB. Dak thoroughly understands now.
Why, think about this: What if the Cowboys never gave Dak a chance? What if Romo and Moore had remained healthy? What if they then kept only two QBs last year on the 53-man roster? What if he was placed on the practice squad, only getting to run the scout team plays, meaning other teams' plays?
"No way," Dak says of progressing as fast as he did.
Garrett agrees, too, young QBs just don't get better running the scout team. Their time to improve is during the offseason workouts and training camp. That's it.
Come on, this stuff just doesn't happen.
So here we are, the start of Year 2, and salivate over this:
Dak will get all the reps in the OTAs and minicamp that he wants. The offense will be even more tailored to his liking. He will get the majority of training camp snaps. He'll get at least as many snaps this preseason, especially since the Cowboys will be playing five of them. And he goes forward with 17 games of NFL experience, operating basically with the exact same offensive personnel, save Doug Free at right tackle and Ron Leary at left guard, but with the return of La'el Collins somewhere on the O-Line, the addition of Ryan Switzer at receiver and a healthy Dez Bryant to work with during the offseason and training camp.
Adding all that to the league's fifth-ranked offense in 2016, and a team averaging 27.2 points in the 15 games Dak started and basically finished. Geesh, don't anyone pinch the Cowboys.
Yet, there are those fretting a "sophomore slump" for Dak. Seriously? For real?
Shoot, this time around, 'dem *odds, *they're with 'em