Spagnola: Winning Is The Name Of The Game


LOS ANGELES – Dak do what Dak do.

He wins.

Please save your breath. Yes, that is grammatically incorrect. Sorry Mrs. Hughes. You taught me better than that in the 5th grade back at Saukview Elementary.

But when it comes to Dakota Prescott, the winningest quarterback for the first three years of an NFL career in the Cowboys' 59-year history, this makes total sense.

He do win, now even Word is trying to correct my grammar.

But he does, right.

For too, too long over the past year, too many want to judge the Cowboys starting quarterback with all these analytical numbers, the ones that might tell Dak can't do this, he can't do that, he's not elite as so-and-so.

Yep, been hearing it since the second half of last season and the majority of this season. Have read it endlessly. Have been challenged, and questioned about it.

Like, he's not an accurate passer, though see where he's completed at least 65 percent of his throws in nine games this season, including that first-round playoff win over Seattle. He's also completed 67.7 percent of his passes this season. And as I'm looking over these 2018 NFL QB stats, that ranks 10th in the NFL, a higher percentage than the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton . . . need I go on.

Then there are the touchdown passes, 22 thrown in an offense with the NFL's leading rusher for the second time in three years. That's more than guys named Manning, Stafford, Carr, Tannehill, and just three less than Rodgers, who threw 71 more passes than Dak, And, when it comes to interceptions, only eight, and guarantee you half of those were either drops by his receivers or off their hands. The eight are less than Brady, Luck, Goff, Rivers, Mahomes, Roethlisberger, Trubisky, Newton, Carr, ranking him T-8th.

Then there is he holds the ball too long in the pocket, the main reason he's been sacked 56 times this season. Funny, but the guy sacked more times than Dak in 2018 was Deshaun Watson (65) and right behind his 56 is Wilson with 52. Hmmm, guys who use their legs to play football, and a reason why he can run 16 yards for a first down on third-and-14 from the 17.

Or he doesn't see the field, all these sort of intangible perceptions that analysts on TV go on and on about, telestrating. But you know what, you can look over any game to find something that telestrates whatever the point you are trying to make. Doesn't mean it's an epidemic

So on and on and on.

But here is what those detractors fail to point out. Or maybe ignore to suit their narrative.

Dak wins.

First, he has started every game since he took over as the starter for the Cowboys the first game his 2016 rookie year. That's 50 games, including two playoffs games heading into Saturday's 7:15 p.m. start against the Los Angeles Rams in one of two NFC divisional-round playoff game this weekend. In those games – oh, and he hasn't missed a start, that's 50 straight – the Cowboys have won 33 games, lost 17. That's a .660 winning percentage.

Small sample, I get it. But his three-year percentage is better than the likes of Brees, Roethlisberger, Manning, Rivers, Rodgers, Flacco, Ryan, Alex Smith . . . and on and on.

Now his 33 wins are in all games, meaning 32 regular season plus the 24-22 playoff victory this past Saturday over Seattle. But in the past three years, only Brady has more wins by an NFL starting quarterback with 36. On top of that, Dak is tied for fifth-most wins by a starting quarterback in the first three years of an NFL career, Wilson leading with 36, but Dak has just one less win than Marino, Luck and Ryan.

Pretty fancy company for a fourth-round draft choice folks continually want to debate his franchise quarterback merits, all outside the walls of The Star for sure.

Said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, he the keeper of the checkbook, after the Cowboys beat Seattle, 24-22, to advance to this game in L.A. on Saturday: "He took it on his shoulders. He made plays that put us in position to come out like we did. That's what you want from your quarterback."

Said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett: "He's just a rare guy. His leadership, his toughness, just his way, his spirit, it's like none other. Somehow, someway he was going to figure this out for us. You said it, in that situation at the end of the ball game, it's third-and-14, you don't really anticipate making that. Somehow, someway he was going to find a way to get it done. I thought he did it throughout the ball game. I thought he was outstanding."

Then there was this from Ezekiel Elliott just the other day when asked when he knew Dak was something special:

"I would say the moment I knew Dak was special was our first play in the NFL (2016 vs. the Giants). It was a protection, I missed my blitz pickup, (but) Dak made me right. He still made the play, made the throw – avoided the guy I was supposed to block, that's when I knew he was a special player."

Guarantee you newcomer Amari Cooper, a man of few words, feels blessed to be playing with Dak here on the Cowboys.

Receiver Cole Beasley has told me countless times how lucky the Cowboys are to have Dak, and that even through that 3-5 start, Beasley claimed it would have been worse if not for Dak.

Just not sure how it happens, when quarterbacks become polarizing figures around here. Happened to Tony Romo. Happened to Troy Aikman at the end of his career. Heck I can remember early in his career, one guy out on the West Coast persistently insisted Aikman couldn't throw a deep ball. Seriously, now. Sure happened to Danny White, too, to the point head coach Tom Landry made a huge mistake in 1984, turning the team over to Gary Hogeboom to start the season, a move he regretted halfway through what turned out to be a 9-7 season, the first non-playoff season for the Cowboys since 1974. Happened to Don Meredith, to the point he basically walked away from the game at an early age. My guess is, Roger Staubach might be the only Cowboys quarterback to escape a disparaging word

Why so much aimed at Dak, not sure.

Now here we go, Saturday, Memorial Coliseum, Dak going up against Jared Goff, the 135th pick in the 2016 draft vs. the No. 1 pick.

And who knows what will happen in this game, the Rams currently favored by seven whole points, the outcome, though, should have no effect on what we already know about Dak.

Yet, once again, Dak's back is up against the wall. Goff is playing at home with a rested team, the Rams 13-3 record earning them a first-round bye. Cowboys fourth receiver, Allen Hurns has been placed on IR. Their third receiver, the one with the most catches of any wide receiver this season, Cole Beasley, could very well miss this game with an ankle sprain. Same for his newfound tight end Blake Jarwin. Both haven't practiced all week, yet listed as questionable so they can take their condition right up to game time.

This won't be easy, not one bit.

But what's new?

L.A.'s newest Showtime passing glitz vs. the Cowboys meat and potatoes football, led by the kid from Haughton, La., who most folks probably figured watching him grow up had no business being where he is.

But he is, and he's been flourishing, leading the Cowboys as a raw rookie to a 13-3 record; putting them on his back the first half of the 2017 season for a 9-7 mark; and having the intestinal fortitude to dramatically turn this 3-5 Cowboys' season around by leading his guys to now eight wins in the last nine games, and one victory away from marching into the franchise's first NFC title game in 23 years.

With his arm, with his legs, with his charisma, with his composure under pressure, leading the NFL the past three seasons with his 14 game-winning drives, that also happen to be the most in a quarterback's first three years in NFL history.

Catch my drift, reminding me of what Jones said the day he was introduced as the newest Cowboys owner in 1989, proclaiming, "We will win. Winning is the name of the game." How prophetic. Little did he know he was including his third franchise quarterback some 30 seasons later.

Because, Dak do win.

Again, my most sincere apologies to Mrs. Hughes. Just couldn't help myself.