Sham: The Cowboys Have Some Problems, But It's Not The Quarterback

Some questions are inevitable. One of them, for NFL and college football teams, comes up when their bye week is scheduled. You can set your watch by players and coaches being asked, "Is this a good time for the bye?"

Usually the answer you get is yes, or some variation. It might be "The bye always comes at the right time. We have some banged up players. We can use the rest."

Blah, blah, blah. There are two truths: One is, unless you have the bye the first week they come up (usually Week 5 in the NFL) or the last week, whenever the bye comes is a good time. You almost always need a break. Sometimes it's right in the middle of the schedule, and that's ideal. But whenever it comes, it's probably good.

The other truth is, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks. The bye comes when it comes. Not convenient for you for Christmas to be on a Wednesday? Tough tinsel. It comes when it comes.

That established, this is probably a good time for the Cowboys to have a bye. Sean Lee's hamstring and Tyron Smith's back are two reasons. And Chido Awuzie's hammy. Good gravy, can someone put that thing right?

But the biggest reason this is a good time for the Cowboys' bye is that they need a therapy session and a hug. And the coaches need every available minute to step back, reassess, evaluate scheme versus personnel and figure out what to throw away and what to do differently. As is the case every year, they'll evaluate every play and every player.

And it says here, when they get around to Dak Prescott, they'll identify what can be improved, and they'll quickly move on. To borrow a phrase, the Cowboys have 99 problems, but a Dak ain't one.

When media and management both spend the summer touting a team, building up the customers' hopes, and expectations aren't met, seats grow hot and collars tight. There is considerable tiptoeing through company hallways and grievous gnarling and groaning in social media. You think it's bad here? Check New Jersey, where the Giants were being touted for the Super Bowl in early September.

But that doesn't change the fact that the Cowboys, as old friend and the late Texas Tech coaching great Spike Dykes liked to say, have some doin' to do. The offensive line is leaky. The running game is constipated. The defense is playing like a reclamation project.

Most of that, by the way, is fixable. But if you're broken at the quarterback position, you're just in for a long slog. The Cowboys are not.

Even after coming home from Arizona a couple of weeks ago with a 2-1 record, questions were being asked in the public square about Dak Prescott's accuracy. Clearly there have been some communications problems with receivers on occasion. And the second year quarterback has had his bumpy moments.

But as his head coach likes to say, watch the tape. See what Prescott has been dealing with compared to a year ago. See what he has improvised when the play broke completely down. Except for Denver, when only the kicker, the punter and the long snapper played to potential, Prescott has been good. He is growing as an NFL quarterback, as one would expect. Cowboys' radio network analyst Babe Laufenberg, who knows a little about it, has said since training camp that Prescott could be a better quarterback with worse statistics than in his rookie season. As Babe says, "You don't go 23 touchdowns and four interceptions in this league. You can't expect it." That's what the rookie Prescott did, and mass spoiling of the public ensued.

The biggest reason to assert that Dak Prescott is not the Cowboys' problem, though, comes with the simple acts of conversation and observation. Talk to the young man. Listen to him. Observe him. All the things people noted about him with amazement a year ago are still true, only more so.

What shocked everyone last season was his rise from being a competitor for the third-string job at the beginning of rookie camp to becoming a starter before training camp ended without ever showing a nerve. In the huddle, in the locker room, in the meeting room, at an appearance, out for a night on the town: same guy. Veteran teammates were won over by poise, humility, strength, courage, did we say poise? All from the very start.

To be sure, some things have changed for Prescott. He's a megastar now. The face of the franchise. A prolific endorser. AND he maintains laser focus. He has a new house, and his small group of outside friends with whom he spends most of his time when not with teammates. He's still looking for a good fishing hole, but only after he's watched all the game tape he can devour.

Last year was for the world spinning off its axis because he picked up his trash. ("I still think it's funny that people made a big deal out of me missing the trash can and going back and picking it up," he chuckles. "But if it calls attention to keeping the environment clean and kids cleaning up, that's okay.") This year the challenge is to be the guy everyone thinks he is.

And the reason Dak Prescott is not the Cowboys' problem is that he gets this. He knows all eyes are on him from the jump. He expects it. He welcomes it. The guy is less than two years away from achieving a master's degree in workforce leadership. He's literally trained for this.

Who knows exactly what people, including the Cowboys, missed in scouting Prescott? One thing is for sure: The NFL has learned. Ask Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky if they benefitted from Prescott's early success.

Prescott also knows he's not perfect, as a person or a quarterback. He is smart enough to know how to enjoy life as a wealthy 24-year-old living under a microscope without  forgetting where he is. He knows he has to get better as a player ("I'm always trying to improve my footwork. And I've learned in this league that sometimes you have to throw people open."), and he does the work.

There's never been a perfect player and never will be. But this young man is very good and getting better. And the best part is that he really is exactly who you want him to be. Dak Prescott the problem? The Cowboys should be so lucky.

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