FRISCO, Texas - Jason Garrett and the rest of the Cowboys' coaching staff got a nice look at Carson Wentz back in January, and seemed to like what they saw.
Garrett was the head coach of the North Team, which Wentz played for in last January's Senior Bowl, an exhibition game that features college football players from the previous season, including the top prospects for the upcoming draft.
Wentz had already turned enough heads in his college career at North Dakota State to put him in discussion to be one of the top five picks in the draft. After spending a week with Wentz, Garrett talked about the ways the young player carried himself. He talked about his leadership, size, and athleticism. He's been saying a lot of the same thing for almost two months now, about his own rookie quarterback.
There was no doubt that Wentz played well in his one quarter of playing time in the Senior Bowl.
But Dak Prescott, out of Mississippi State, played better. Prescott was named Most Outstanding Player and his South Team defeated the North 27-16.
Garrett maintains that he couldn't get much of an impression of Prescott in that week. Their staff only briefly met with him at the end of the week.
"Carson Wentz was very impressive to us," Garrett recalled. "We spent the whole week with him."
It was Wentz' first taste of NFL coaching and he enjoyed his time around the Cowboys' staff.
"I thought they were just a bunch of great guys who knew football," Wentz said. The mutual attraction was not insignificant at the time. The Cowboys owned the number four pick in the draft and many speculated that it was time to look into selecting Tony Romo's successor. Wentz thought he did what he could to impress the staff. "Personally I thought I went out and kind of showed what I needed to show."
[embeddedad0]The Cowboys were never given the opportunity to make that decision as their NFC East rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, traded up to select Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick. As we all know, the quarterback they ended up selecting in the fourth round was the one that stole the show back in January at the Senior Bowl.
It seemed like a reasonable possibility that Wentz and Prescott would represent one half of the NFC East's starting quarterbacks at some point in the future. That potential future turned into a certain present when Tony Romo suffered a back injury in the preseason and the Eagles traded away Sam Bradford, their starting quarterback at the time.
All of a sudden Prescott and Wentz were day-one starters at arguably the toughest position in sports. Since then they've done much more than survive.
Wentz has led the Eagles to a 4-2 record by throwing 1,324 passing yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. He has played well and by any measure has lived up to the expectations that come with being the number two overall pick. But just like in the Senior Bowl, where Wentz also played well, Prescott has simply played better. The Cowboys are siting at 5-1 with and their rookie quarterback has 1,486 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception.
Wentz feels no level of personal competition between himself and Prescott, who he claims he became friends with over various pre-draft and rookie requirements.
"It's cool to see another young guy who I've come to know and to see the success he's having."
Prescott, whose ability to evade controversy is beyond his years, refused to indulge a storyline centered on he and his fellow rookie quarterback. "I really don't measure myself to anybody," Prescott said. "Not any other rookie, not Peyton Manning, not Tony [Romo], not any of those. It's all about how I can become better each and every day."
These two quarterbacks showed up to the Senior Bowl both just trying to complete the steps towards their NFL dream.
"Now, who knows?" Wentz said on Wednesday. "We might be playing against each other for a long time."