FRISCO, Texas – In two and a half of years of covering this guy, I feel pretty confident about what Dak Prescott is going to do on Thursday here at The Star.
He's going to walk through the locker room and into a rather large huddle of media members (probably a little more this week than others) and he's going to get asked pretty early on to assess his own play after three games.
From what I know about Dak, he's going to say something to this effect:
"It's on me. I'm the quarterback. I need to play better."
That's what a good leader says. That's what a captain does – he falls on the sword. In this case, it's also the truth.
Since last Sunday's game, it seems like everyone out there has some kind of answer to what's really happening here. Bad coaching? Bad play-calling? Offensive line isn't as good as it used to be? The receivers can't get open? We need better tight ends? Zeke needs to eliminate those mistakes.
Yep, yep, yep … all valid at times.
But let's not sugarcoat the real problem here. The quarterback has to play better. Simple as that.
Before we go any further – and I feel embarrassed to have to point this out – this is certainly not a personal attack on Dak Prescott. I have nothing but respect for him, not only as a player but also as a person. I love the way he plays the game and the spirit and attitude that he brings to the table.
One of my favorite games he's ever played was the Denver game last year. Yeah, that one. The one where the Cowboys were drilled 42-17 and he threw a pick-six late in the game that went like 100 yards.
But he played like an old-school, tough-as-nails, never-going-to-stop football player. That earned my respect and it seemed like he earned more respect from his coaches and teammates that day.
I think it's safe to say, we're all rooting for this guy to succeed. It's already a wonderful story and it'll be even better if he can become a legitimate superstar quarterback.
But he's not there right now. In fact, Prescott isn't even in the top half of the league of elite quarterbacks right now.
In today's NFL that has become a more wide-open passing league, the standard of a pretty good game for a quarterback is 300 yards. It's like a 100-yard game for a running back. It certainly doesn't automatically mean you win the game, but if the quarterback gets to 300 yards, he's had a pretty good afternoon.
Well, Dak Prescott is almost at 500 yards … for the season.
He hasn't even had a 200-yard game this year. And if you take it back to last year, he only had two games over 200 yards in the last half of the season. Since that dreadful Atlanta game on Nov. 11, Prescott has thrown for 176, 145, 179, 102, 332, 212, 181 and 179 to finish last year. This season, he's at 170, 160 and 168.
That's awesome. Kansas City's Pat Mahomes threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday … in the first half!
I know he's a first-round pick and perhaps one of the NFL's next great quarterbacks, but Mahomes is certainly not the only guy putting up those numbers. Ryan Fitzpatrick had 184 yards in the first half Monday night while his counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, was already at 273 yards.
The Cowboys would be ecstatic for a 273-yard game from Dak, much less for a half.
But the difference is simple: Those guys throw the ball down the field.
I really don't know if it's being called and Dak isn't throwing it, or if the plays just aren't being dialed up. Either way, the Cowboys have to change this approach of keeping everything short.
What was the point of going out and trading for Tavon Austin if you're not going to use his speed? Keeping Deonte Thompson on the team was supposed to be because he's got track-star speed. So why aren't they running him deep? Even bringing Brice Butler back was for his ability to stretch the defense like he did at times last year.
So if you're now getting all of this speed at receiver, why not use it?
Didn't we learn anything from the Giants game in Week 2? A long touchdown to Austin on the third play of the game seemed to back the Giants off a little. They even went deep a couple of more times but they were incomplete. Still, those plays are effective because it's letting the defense know you're not afraid to stretch the field.
Against Seattle, I would've made Earl Thomas play back near Tacoma because I planned to throw it deep so many times. Not only are you opening up the middle, but you're keeping that future Hall of Famer from changing the game … as he did.
Plus, they've got to let Dak be the player that he is. He's a big, athletic runner who can pick up first downs on the run/pass option. It worked against the Giants, and they didn't run it at all until the fourth quarter in Seattle.
Why? Because it worked too well against the Giants?
Sometimes it seems like the Cowboys overthink themselves and don't run the plays that have been successful. Then again, it contradicts what Jason Garrett often says, that "we do what we do" and have confidence in the stuff they run.
One way or another, the Cowboys have to get Dak Prescott playing at a much higher level. You get that happening, and watch how better the offensive line, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs start to look.
The overall record will probably get a little better as well.