Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott is going to have to play well if he wants to retain the starting role when veteran Tony Romo returns from a back injury.
Let’s face it. We have differing opinions on Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo. Some say he should come back sooner, when others say he should retire. Many want him to play smarter, while others are okay with him doing his thing. He takes too many risks, agreed, but his idol is Brett Favre. Enough said.
Despite what we think of him, Romo has played himself into a Hall-of-Fame-like career, flaws and all. Because of this, his latest compression fracture injury, manifests itself to be greater than it really is. Our gunslinger is going to be on the shelf for a while, therefore it is now quarterback Dak Prescott’s team.
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But, for how long?
Listening to many in the Dallas organization, it would be difficult to give a estimate on when Romo would be able to return. Head coach Jason Garrett said during a press conference earlier this week that [the Cowboys] were taking things day by day, and he was not ready to rule [Romo] out for opening day. Others in the organization have said to expect Romo to be sidelined anywhere from four to ten weeks. For fans, this is to broad of a prediction, and it speaks like a bad sales pitch.
To get an idea of how productive Dak Prescott needs to be to stay in the starting role, lets take a look at history.
There is an old saying: ‘one cannot lose his role due to injury.’ For many years this held true as a sort of unwritten rule that spans across all sports. So that we are playing on a level field, let’s say that the Eastern Illinois graduate will return midseason; Week Nine to be exact.
Now the question becomes, “How good does Dak need to be to kept in the starting role?” For the answer, we have to look back in NFL history, to the one time the aforementioned unwritten rule was broken. We look to the New England Patriots.
The year is 2001. The Patriots have ninth-year (and future Dallas Cowboys) starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe under center. He took a shot from Jets’ linebacker Mo Lewis in the second game of the year, that made many of us cringe, and some even fear for Bledsoe’s life. He suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest that required months heal. Bledsoe actually played three more plays before the shortness of breath and intense pain was too much. An injury of this magnitude can be fatal, so the Patriots had to exercise extreme caution in this matter.
Tom Brady, then backup quarterback, now all-time great, finished that game. He then started the final 14 games for the squad, leading them to an 11-3 record (11-5 overall) and a Super Bowl XXXVI victory. He threw for 2,843 yards, 18 touchdowns 12 interceptions, a QB rating of 86.5 and a 63.9 completion percentage. The rest, as we know, is NFL history.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not comparing Prescott to Brady. Not yet.
Dak is going to have a great year, as long as he is healthy. I hope that Prescott and our other standout, Ezekiel Elliott, go one, two in the Offensive Rookie of the Year ballots. I do not compare Prescott to Brady, he does have some distinct advantages. The 2001 Patriots did not have a Pro-Bowler on their offensive line. Dallas brought back three from last year; center Travis Frederick, guard Zack Martin and tackle Tyron Smith.
Brady had Pro-Bowl wide out Troy Brown to catch passes for 1,199 yards, but could not truly stretch the field. Dallas has wide receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, both are Pro Bowl caliber if they stay healthy. Lucky Whitehead makes an incredible third option as well as weapon for kick returns.
The other difference is that the 2001 Patriots did not have great talent in the backfield. They ran the ball by-committee, led by the undersized Kevin Faulk. With Elliott, offseason acquisition Alfred Morris and (hopefully) a healthy Darren McFadden, the Cowboys have quite the potent offense, making Dak’s transition to the starting role much easier.
Does Prescott have to play at a Pro-Bowl level to keep his job when Romo is ready to return? Not necessarily. Just know this; Romo will return. One of the things forgotten about the 2001 Pats’ season is that Brady got hurt in the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game. Bledsoe came in and threw a touchdown pass, leading them a 24-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.