Torch-passing typically only looks seamless in hindsight.
Owner Jerry Jones was absolutely right when he described the imminent dilemma of Dak Prescott's stellar play and Tony Romo's eventual return to health as a pretty good problem to have. It's not entirely different from the situation the Green Bay Packers found themselves in after drafting Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 draft, three years before Brett Favre was ready to relinquish his starting job.
It would be easy, and ultimately correct, to look back and speak toward the Packers' good fortune of being able to transition from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another. But when exactly the former is ready to make room for the latter can be a controversial topic, and even more difficult is deciding if the franchise should force the issue.
The Cowboys have been reluctant to talk about their decision, but there's a strong possibility that Prescott's level of play won't be enough to keep him from landing on the bench when Romo returns. His ability to thrive and play mistake-free football was unforeseen by even his biggest supporters.
"We haven't in any way dialed down the offense because he's playing," head coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday. "He's a really focused guy. He's [been] very professional in his approach from Day One."
Clearly Prescott has proved his professionalism to Garrett with flying colors, but as much poise as he's shown on the field, the ultimate test of that professionalism might be in how he handles sitting on the bench despite nearly flawless play.
Rodgers could certainly empathize with the notion of having to wait your turn. After being drafted he sat behind Favre for three years, which looking back, sounds like an unfathomable amount of time for a quarterback with his abilities.
"It's just that you want to play, and you're ready to play," Rodgers said of the natural frustrations. "Obviously [Prescott] has shown he's ready to play."
Favre was far from perfect during Rodgers' time on the bench. In Rodgers' rookie year the Packers went 4-12 and Favre threw 29 interceptions. The next season they were 8-8 and Favre threw 18 interceptions, leading many fans to clamor for Rodgers to get his shot the next year. But Favre announced that he would be returning the following season and, as the face of the franchise, the Packers held the starting spot for him. He rewarded them with a 13-3 effort. The Cowboys may very well feel they owe the same commitment to Romo.
Rodgers refuses to look back at those three years as anything except the best possible outcome.
[embeddedad0]"It was the most important three years of my career," Rodgers said. "It gave me an opportunity to put myself in a position to have a long career in the league. … It was really beneficial for me."
From Rodgers' viewpoint, at least Prescott was allowed to make his case.
"You have to understand that the team has a lot invested in the guy ahead of you most of the time," Rodgers said. "You're going to get an opportunity. You just have to be patient. He's getting his right now and he's making the most of it, and making that decision probably a little bit harder."
It's fitting that Favre is the NFL legend who Romo has been most compared to over the course of his career. Both can pull plays out of nowhere with their improvisational skills and both aren't afraid to take risks that have come back to bite them. More importantly, both are beloved by their teams' fans, although every interception only whets the appetite of those desperate to see their replacement step in.
Coincidentally, Favre will be honored at halftime when the Cowboys travel to Lambeau Field this Sunday. Strangely enough, Favre recently said that Romo should let Prescott remain the starter until the rookie begins to struggle.
It's an ironic twist that Favre would suggest a veteran step aside while Rodgers stresses patience to Prescott.
"He's got to have the understanding that at some point it's going to be his team," said Rodgers. "Maybe that's soon or maybe that's in a couple of years, but he's doing nothing but helping himself the way he's shown those guys his leadership style, his play and his consistency."