FRISCO, Texas – I spent most of the this week praying for some inspiration that didn't involve the Cowboys' atrocious defense.
What else is there to say that hasn't been mentioned already? Or, if there is something new to say, who wants to hear it? It's objectively depressing to dwell on.
There are podcasts, TV shows and other stories where we can talk about that. I didn't want to write about it in my column, and I was starting to get nervous that I'd have to.
Thankfully, the news cycle intervened on Wednesday morning. And as I sat down to write this thing, I was relieved I'd be getting to write about the Dallas Cowboys' best player.
- The inspiration was a tweet that chilled me to my very bones.
In light of the news that Dwayne Haskins is being benched in Washington in favor of Kyle Allen, NBC Sports' JP Finlay tweeted out a list of the quarterbacks who have started a game for NFL the franchise in Washington D.C. since 1993.
We all know about Cleveland's long-standing quarterback issues, but I guess I didn't realize Washington's history was just as bleak.
From the time they crushed the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI, the WFT have started 30 different quarterbacks without a whole lot to show for it. They've tried every method imaginable, from first-round draft picks to Cinderella stories to high-profile trade.
Haskins is the fifth quarterback the franchise has spent a first-round pick on in that timeframe, along with Heath Shuler, Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell and Robert Griffin III.
The timelines have all varied, but obviously none of these guys lived up to their draft status.
- Shuler, originally drafted No. 3 overall, started 18 games in two years. He ultimately lost a quarterback competition to Gus Frerotte and was traded to New Orleans. He wound up becoming a Congressman for a while, so that's cool.
- Speaking of New Orleans, a few years later Steve Spurrier drafted Patrick Ramsey out of Tulane with the 32nd overall pick. He started a whopping 24 games, rotating in and out of the lineup and getting absolutely mauled to the tune of 75 sacks. He'd ultimately be traded to the New York Jets.
- While Ramsey was still on the team, Washington made Jason Campbell the 25th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. The results were better, but not by much. Campbell made 52 starts, winning just 20 games. His best statistical season came during a 4-12 nightmare of a year.
- Cowboy fans should remember Griffin well. He was taken No. 2 overall behind Andrew Luck in 2012, and for the briefest of moments he had every NFC East fanbase terrified that Washington had re-discovered its glory days.
In an incredible rookie season, Griffin threw for 3,200 yards and ran for almost 1,000 more, looking an awful lot like what Lamar Jackson would become a decade later. He helped Washington sweep the Cowboys and finish 9-7, winning the division in the process.
Of course, that's as good as the story would get. Griffin tried to play through a murky series of knee problems that wound up ending his season prematurely. Injuries would be a steady theme of the rest of his Washington career, as he only started 20 more games the rest of his time there. He's still playing in the NFL – backing up Jackson, ironically enough – but it's safe to say his career never touched those dizzying highs again.
- That brings us to Haskins, who lasted four games into his sophomore season before being benched in favor of an undrafted free agent who has been in the league just one year longer. It's too soon to call Haskins a bust, or write the obituary of his career. But for a guy who was drafted 15th overall, who contended for a Heisman Trophy, it's hard to feel encouraged about the career trajectory.
- This doesn't even include other teams' first-rounders. Washington has tried to garner production from Rex Grossman, Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith over the years – all with varying degrees of mixed results. There have also been experiments with veterans who were successful elsewhere – Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson, Mark Brunell and Donovan McNabb all come to mind. Those didn't work, either.
- It's pretty ironic, then, that the best quarterback to suit up for the Washington Football Team in the last 30 years is probably a fourth-round draft pick – none other than Kirk Cousins.
That's not to say Cousins was amazing during his Washington tenure, but he was hardly bad – especially considering all of the aforementioned failures. He led the team to winning seasons in two of his three seasons as the starter. He eclipsed 4,000 yards all three times. He threw 99 touchdown passes in 57 career starts. Most importantly, he was responsible for one of five playoff trips the franchise has made during this 27-year timeframe.
Washington let Cousins walk, not because they didn't like him – but they didn't love him. Not enough to make that type of financial commitment. To their credit, maybe they had a point. Cousins is not exactly living up to the enormous contract he signed in Minnesota after finishing his second franchise tag in D.C.
But looking at the two quarterback situations – Minnesota and Washington – I'm not hesitating about who I'd prefer.
- I trust that you see where this is going.
Because of their inability to sign him long-term prior to this season, the Cowboys are getting another look at whether Dak Prescott is worth a long-term deal.
Yes, the Cowboys are currently 1-3, and Prescott has a role in that. But it's hard to quibble with what the guy has done at the quarter pole of the season.
Playing largely from behind, Prescott has bombed away for 1,690 yards – an NFL record for four games. On Sunday, he became the first player in league history to pass for 450-plus yards in three consecutive games. He's tied for eighth in yards per attempt, and he's sixth in passing touchdowns with nine.
Obviously, the Cowboys would prefer a bit more offensive balance, because they'd prefer to be holding a lead in some games. To this point in the season, Prescott has only had the lead for seven snaps – seven! That is quite simply mind blowing in its awfulness.
Regardless of whether he maintains this crazy pace, it's obvious Prescott has elevated his game. He's aware that his value is being debated in every corner of the sports world, and he has responded by playing like a Top 5 NFL quarterback.
- Sometimes fate works in your favor. The Cowboys have been very fortunate to find Dak Prescott just in time for the end of Tony Romo's career. The passing of the torch has been similar to Green Bay's transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers.
But it didn't have to be this way. Ask anyone about the five-year gap between Troy Aikman and Romo, when the Cowboys trotted out 10 different starters and produced 5-11 and 6-10 records on a regular basis. Remind yourself that the year the Cowboys wound up drafting Dak Prescott, they tried very hard to instead draft Paxton Lynch – who is not currently playing in the NFL.
- Hopefully, I have bludgeoned you over the head with the point by now. Finding a bonafide franchise quarterback is difficult – so difficult that some NFL teams spend literal decades looking for them.
The Dallas Cowboys have one in Dak Prescott. Regardless of what their record is in three months, it'd be wise for them to remember that at the end of this season.
The Cowboys are back at AT&T Stadium next Sunday, October 11th to take on their rivals, the New York Giants. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!
Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium this season can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.