Dak Prescott will remain the franchise quarterback in Dallas going forward, and for good reason, but that doesn't mean there isn't much to discuss at the QB position heading into 2023
FRISCO, TX — Recency bias should be labeled a disease by the CDC. It's as rampant as it's ever been in the history of human civilization, and especially as it relates to sports, something the Dallas Cowboys know all too well when listening to how Dak Prescott and the quarterback position in North Texas is viewed outside of the building.
Prescott has work to do to get back to being protective of the ball — true.
Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks the franchise has ever suited up — true.
The two things aren't mutually exclusive, and those pretending they are thrusts my mind back to a time when this team wished it had the luxury of a top-10 quarterback whose biggest problem was not only fixable, but was/is also not his norm.
While the Cowboys get to work on their offseason plans for Prescott (restructure? extension?) and the role of backup for 2023, they do so with full understanding that they're very close to taking the next and final steps as a Super Bowl contender.
And they, additionally, haven't forgotten what it took them to get here at QB.
This is a good time to commemorate the fact you likely forgot Kellen Moore was formerly a backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, before he swiftly ascended the ranks to being the team's offensive coordinator. And as the organization closes the book on that chapter, one that stems back to the coaching era of Jason Garrett, yet another former backup quarterback in Dallas, let's turn our attention to the long QB road traveled by the Cowboys.
Tony Romo. Remember him? Sure you do, and not just because he's one of the most recognizable play-by-play announcers around.
Before that, he was also a backup quarterback in Dallas, providing insurance as an undrafted player out of Eastern Illinois for multiple seasons before taking over for Bill Parcells as starter during the 2006 season. And, with that, the Romo era (which literally coincided with the creation of Twitter and Facebook) made him the first Cowboys quarterback subjected to social media criticism and, as such, many forgot the purgatory he helped the team escape at the position.
To my point, here are some names that have walked through the doors in Dallas at quarterback and helped create/lengthen the Super Bowl drought in North Texas in the post-Troy Aikman, pre-Tony Romo era:
- Quincy Carter
- Anthony Wright
- Clint Stoerner
- Ryan Leaf
- Chad Hutchinson
- Drew Henson
- Drew Bledsoe
- Vinny Testaverde
And how's about those backup QBs that could muster only one win in 12 tries when Romo went down with a fractured clavicle in 2015, namely Moore, Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel?
Ah, good times, amirite? Nope.
It was the worst of times, it was the worster (new word, just go with it) of times, before Romo threw a cape on and made the Cowboys relevant when often they should've been anything but, an undrafted talent picked apart like he was a first-overall selection, or as if he were drafted at all.
So maybe, just maybe, the Cowboys are in some of the best hands they've ever been in with Dak Prescott (a fourth-round compensatory pick, no less) under center, literally and statistically speaking, and that's why they're not looking to move on from him.
*gasps using sarcastic oxygen*
But it's also true that Prescott needs to clean up his recent (and uncharacteristic) run-in with interceptions suffered in 2022, and maybe a change at quarterbacks coach will help (after all, this wasn't an issue under the tutelage of Jon Kitna — who was also once a backup QB in Dallas — or even in the one season with Moore as QBs coach).
The issue could also be related to his recovery from a fractured thumb on his throwing hand, possibly requiring him to recalibrate and he'll now have an entire offseason to do so and to get back to top form inn that area — keeping in mind he was still prolific in helping the Cowboys offense lead the league in points per game once he returned in Week 7.
Prior to Week 7, however, it was Cooper Rush taking the lead role for five games following Prescott's injury that occurred in Week 1. Rush wasn't a world-beater, but that's because he didn't need to be, nor was he asked to become one.
Moore kept things fairly straightforward for Rush and the defense did the rest, in what became a perfect balance of "just enough" to keep the Cowboys season alive when many predicted it would be the equivalent of an infected citizen in "The Last of Us".
In the meantime, Will Grier continued to develop, having once challenged Rush heartily for the role of QB2 in training camp before a groin injury derailed those hopes.
With free agency now arriving, however, will Grier find himself crowned?
Cooper Rush, who went 4-1 in replacing an injured Prescott in 2022, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Rush enters free agency with high value, and that means there's at least a solid chance he leaves for another opportunity that might involve an opportunity to start, at best, and/or a bigger payday, at worst.
The future of Rush in Dallas is truly in the air.
"Well, we'll, we'll see," said owner and general manager Jerry Jones of Rush's status, speaking from the Reese's Senior Bowl. "I don't know. We like Will Grier. Cooper is someone that we should really look to.
"We've seen him do it. I've just seen him do it and like what he did. Grier in camp as you know, we all thought, had a little more spark at the time."
Granted, there's a bit of negotiation hiding in those comments, but the fact is, as stated previously, that Grier had the inside track to push Rush aside prior to a run-in with a groin injury, and his presence will play a sizable role in whatever the Cowboys might offer Rush; if they are to make an offer at all, especially considering what will be a newfound draft tactic in Dallas.
Going forward, they're going to draft a quarterback … every April.
"[McCarthy] likes to do that," said Jones. "He likes to be working with a young quarterback. So yeah, we should keep that. If I look back over my earlier years with the Cowboys, I should have — if I had to do it over again, I'd have a quarterback coming all the time. Just for that purpose, just to have him coming.
"And really that's the understanding that I had with Mike when he got here, and let's keep one coming."
So that's Prescott, Grier, and a draft pick to develop/compete, which isn't exactly an attractive proposition for Rush to take part in when he might realistically not see his stock climb any higher than it is right now, instead risking watching it decline if he sticks around.
All of these variables will be discussed to great degree in Dallas over the next several weeks, and months, along with the possibility that Prescott receives an extension to both lower his coming $49 million cap hit and help the Cowboys stave off another trip to purgatory; seeing as they've also spent time there in the role of QB2 (e.g., the Weeden, Moore, Cassel carousel).
Romo dragged the Cowboys out of it. Prescott has kept them from falling back into it. All Dallas can hope is that whoever takes the mantle down the road can keep that particular streak alive.
As far as the other streak goes (a.k.a. The Drought), that needs to be broken, and pronto.
Prescott is currently working on that one.