Dak Prescott is the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys, and the future is unquestionably a bright one. Let’s be honest — the Cowboys’ rookie QB has been nothing short of a revelation in his first year in the NFL.
He’s valiantly led last year’s 4-12 Cowboys to the best record in the NFC, and he’s proven to just about everybody that he has what it takes to succeed at the NFL level both between the lines and between the ears.
He bested the Packers at Lambeau Field; he didn’t blink in an epic Week 10 showdown with two-time Super Bowl winner and future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger in hostile Pittsburgh; and perhaps most impressively, he handled a hands-on owner with a hedonistic hankering for Tony Romo with the class and poise of a seasoned vet.
As a result, he’s earned respect, and he’s earned the Cowboys’ starting job, but there’s one thing he hasn’t earned yet, and that’s the right to play a full 60 minutes on Sunday if the ‘you-know-what’ hits the fan in the early going.
He doesn’t get clemency from a bad first half like Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger, Wilson, Ryan and even Alex Smith will this weekend should they stink it up early. He hasn’t earned that yet.
Especially with an all-time Cowboys great quarterback sitting on the bench — with a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas — waiting anxiously for one last chance at glory in the uniform he’s proudly donned for 13 years.
In fact, it would be flat out reckless for Jason Garrett to not already be pondering the possibility if Prescott struggles in his first NFL playoff game.
The Cowboys haven’t been to an NFC Championship game since 1995, and in that time frame they’ve had some good teams, but none like this.
This is their moment, and while Dak has gotten them this far, it’s win or die at all costs this time of year, not ‘win or die with Dak.’
Based on the body of evidence that Prescott has put together this year, there’s really nothing to suggest that he starts sluggishly and can’t get it together at some point on Sunday.
The last time the Cowboys and the Packers met back in Week 6 Prescott bested Aaron Rodgers and threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s 30-16 win.
Actually, the only time Prescott’s really struggled all year was against the New York Giants. Otherwise, the Cowboys offense has flirted with or surpassed the 30-point plateau in almost every game this year.
Dak sported a 104.9 quarterback rating during the season and his 23 touchdown to four interception ratio was second-best in the league next to Tom Brady.
The guy’s been great, but the NFL playoffs is a beast of a different nature.
Playing against Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs… well, that’s of a completely different nature.
The beauty of Dak Prescott is that he’s not cut from your typical rookie QB cloth either. We already know the kind of young man he is. He’s not the guy who will caterwaul to the media if Romo takes over at halftime. He won’t throw a sideline tantrum. He won’t fold, or shell up like other rookie QBs would after a playoff benching, and he’ll rebound the next time he’s given the chance to do so.
That’s why there’s no reason to hesitate on pulling the trigger if you’re Jason Garrett and Dak throws two awful INTs in the first half and looks rattled. Or if Rodgers tosses three first-half TDs and the Cowboys offense can barely get past the 50-yard line.
Now is not the time to give time, because there is none.
This game can’t be a learning experience. There will be plenty of time for that in years to come once Romo has either hung up his cleats or traded in his silver and blue fatigues for a uniform of a different color.
And as much as Dak Prescott has earned this moment, and deserves the opportunity to sprint out of the tunnel on Sunday as the leader of the Dallas Cowboys as they begin their run at Super Bowl glory, Tony Romo’s earned something too.
He’s earned the right to be looked at as more than a mere backup.
He’s earned the right to be a serious consideration — the 1B to Prescott’s 1A, if you will — should the situation call for it on Sunday afternoon.