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Mailbag: Spotting The Ball? Does Dak Stack Up?

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This weekend we watched four quarterbacks give performances for the ages, especially Mahomes and Allen. Felt like only a spectacular defender could stop them. It made me think of Dak's performance. Do you think he elevates the team or does the team elevate him? Dak is being paid to produce like the guys we saw this weekend, but I don't think he has it in him if the opposing team is competitive. – VINCENT RICHARDSON / MOBILE, AL

David: I won't argue with you about Mahomes and Allen. That's probably the best display of quarterbacking I've ever seen in one game, and I think you've just got to tip your cap and acknowledge that those two are on a different level from damn near everybody. I think the rest of what you said feels a little skewed, though. As great as he is, Tom Brady turned the ball over twice and averaged 6.1 yards per attempt on Sunday. That's to say nothing of Aaron Rodgers, the likely NFL MVP, who looked just as helpless against San Francisco's pass rush as Dak did. I'm not trying to let Dak off the hook. His play dipped in the second half of 2021, and he needs to regain whatever it is he lost. But I didn't come away from this weekend thinking the Cowboys have a hopeless quarterback situation. Is Dak on Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen's level? No. But as these playoffs have already shown us, you don't necessarily need to be that good to get your team where it wants to go.

Nick: I really feel like Mahomes and Allen are destined to be the next Manning/Brady rivalry. I know it was just one game but it seems like they might do this for years. And right now, Dak is not on the level of those two because they're both better passers and better runners. I just don't think we saw many "special" traits out of Dak this year. At times he throws it very well. At times, he'll make a good run. But he's not really doing either one of those things at an elite level. Think about it, if the Cowboys had beaten the 49ers last weekend and Dak was on the field in the Divisional round, where would he rank among the 8 quarterbacks? Even the "homer" Cowboys fan couldn't put him higher than sixth, which would put him ahead of Tannehill or Stafford or maybe Burrow. My point is, Dak would've probably been 7th or 8th on the list. So I think that means that he needs a really good team around him to take the team to the next level.

In the 49ers game, on Dak's last run we were given the excuse that the ref must spot the football before next play can proceed and time ran out. However, this past weekend Matthew Stafford throws to Cooper Kupp, they all run up to the line and Stafford spikes the ball and they kick the field goal to win. No ref spotted the ball, the center took the ball and hiked it. To me it certainly appears that there is always bias when it comes to the Cowboys. – MICHAEL BAUERS / GREENVILLE, SC

David: A ref did spot the ball in Tampa on Sunday – it was just the back judge, rather than the umpire. If I had to guess, the fact that the last play of the Rams game was such a long gain probably made it easier to determine that the back judge should be the one to spot the ball, because he was so much closer to the action. For Dak and the Cowboys, they were kind of caught in no man's land between the two different refs. Now, is this a smart of efficient way to determine such important moments? That's a question worth asking.

Nick: Let me address the bias thing first. On one hand, you're right when it seems like the Cowboys are always involved in an unusual play and lately, it seems like it goes against the Cowboys. Now, I did see a ref pull out an index card once to measure the ball and it worked for Dallas. But yes, weird stuff happens. However, why would the NFL go out of its way to keep the Cowboys out of the playoffs? They're the most watched team in the league and the most discussed. Honestly, we don't really know if the Cowboys being in the Super Bowl would break the internet, because the internet wasn't around when they were last there. I don't think the NFL is trying to keep them out of anything – at least I hope not. But as for the Rams game, I don't know what to say about that. Yes, maybe the back judge was able to spot the ball this time, but where was he in the Cowboys' game? It sure seemed like the umpire forgot it was his duty, then remembered at the last second (literally) and then bull-rushed into Dak. Not sure why the two crews have different job functions but it's yet another example how the referees are completely inconsistent. No, it probably wouldn't have changed the outcome. But I think we all deserved a chance to see it.

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