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Dak Prescott Avoids Reputation Damage In Playoff Loss

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Tony Romo

Although his team lost last Sunday and its championship hopes were crushed, Dak Prescott emerged victorious in the court of public opinion.

Dak Prescott, PackersPrescott has not been blamed for the loss. Most have been encouraged by how well Dak performed despite the pressure of the game and the rising legend of Aaron Rodgers that he was competing against. Prescott managed to avoid any detriment to his reputation despite the team's failure.

In so doing, Dak avoided a label that haunted Tony Romo for his entire career.

Romo earned the "choke artist" tag because of his first playoff game. Despite a decade of fourth-quarter statistics that proved otherwise, Tony could never shake off that label with many in the national media and even some Cowboys fans.

Nobody will ever forget how Romo's first season as the Cowboys starter ended. In 2006, the unlikely hero led the Cowboys back to the postseason for only the second time since Troy Aikman retired. From undrafted to Pro Bowler, Tony Romo had become one of the most compelling figures in recent NFL history.

Tony RomoThe lasting image for many, though, was of Romo fumbling the hold for what would've been a lead-changing field goal during the Wild Card round. The Seattle Seahawks moved on in the playoffs while Romo endured a horrible personal defeat. His comments from after the loss are painful even to read:

"I know how hard everyone in that locker room worked to get themselves in position to win that game today and for it to end like that, and for me to be the cause is very tough to swallow right now. I take responsibility for messing up at the end there. That's my fault. I cost the Dallas Cowboys a playoff win, and it's going to sit with me a long time. I don't know if I have ever felt this low."

Despite the ups and downs of his entire career, Romo ultimately emerged as one of the great clutch quarterbacks of all time. He is among the league's best in all-time fourth-quarter passer rating and total number of comeback wins.

Tony Romo

AP Photo / Tim Sharp

As we have witnessed, though, these statistical achievements aren't enough for many fans and even professional analysts. Those lasting images of fumbled snaps or a few late-game interceptions carry a lot of weight. Perhaps only a Super Bowl victory would have finally provided the counterbalance that Tony Romo needed.

With 302 yards and three touchdowns in last week's playoff loss, Dak Prescott hit two marks that Romo never did in the postseason. Romo never threw for 300 yards or scored more than two touchdowns in a single playoff game.

For casual observers, these are milestone marks that they use to define a "great" performance. Romo's personal body of work in the playoffs is very good; 62% completion percentage, eight touchdowns to only two interceptions, and a 93 passer rating. However, never having that single "big game" leaves the door open for his critics.

Dak PrescottWith the bonus of being a rookie and having had a personally great performance, Dak Prescott kept his name out of the mud in the loss. However, he still walks away with an 0-1 record in the playoffs. Dak may not be facing any backlash right now but that can quickly change.

For now, Dak Prescott is the foundation on which Cowboys fans have placed their hope. But with some still bitter about Tony Romo's departure and a level of success already achieved, Dak's grace period is already over. He won't have the rookie label to shield him anymore and has now set the NFC Championship Game as the next step in his personal progress.

Prescott is now simply another starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. It comes with a lot of perks, but as Tony Romo has lived for the last decade, it also comes with incredibly and even unreasonably high expectations.

Dak may have the jury's favor now, but the trial has only just begun.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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6 Comments
  • BeirutWedding

    This is a relatively balanced piece. The reason Romo doesn’t get credit for being “clutch” is because for all his vaunted 4th quarter success, if you don’t tell people how good he’s been, they won’t know. That’s because most of the fourth quarter comebacks he’s had, no one remembers. That fourth quarter comeback he had against a mediocre Minnesota team that the Cowboys shouldn’t have been behind in the first place? Who cares?

    • Jess Haynie

      Very fair point. Legends are made and broken by what happens when the lights are brightest. Unfortunately for Tony, these moments have not been kind to him. Some of that has been his own doing, and some of it due to the players around him.

      • http://Inside%20the%20Star%20-%20voices%20of%20a%20nation Pam Adams

        Romo has been treated extremely badly the whole time he played with the Cowboys! No matter what he has done for this team, he is still dogged because of not winning a SB! Prescott didn’t win a SB either, but is he treated the same way; no of course not! I do not believe he didn’t throw 3 td’s at all. I think that is total BS; now, as far as the 300 yards. He also did not have the caliber of team that Dak has rode on this year. In 2014, when he went to two playoff games, did he not throw 3 td’s or more during that game! One of them should have been a TD’s, but it was negated because of a “Non Catch” call! Murray fumbled, bad calls, receivers dropping balls, etc. are also to be blames for not winning that game. Dak didn’t even win the 1st playoff game, but no one gave him any grief for it, did he? Romo has carried this team on his back, literally and figuratively, but again, no one gives him any credit for that either. No excuses ya can come with excuses the treatment Romo has gotten throughout the years, or how he was treated this year, which horribly! He was thrown to the side, like yesterday trash! Shame on the coaching staff, Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and fans, who are not true fans! I have never been so disgusted with the Cowboys’ fans, staff, Jerry Jones, Steven Jones, etc. for the way he was treated! I have been a fan since 1974, and like I said, I have never been so disgusted of the way Romo has been treated after all he done to keep this team even in the running of winning games!!

  • XaqFields

    Romo had a history of coming up small in the biggest (playoff) games. I mentioned this in another article on another site, but in six appearances, he never threw for 300 yards and he never threw for 3 touchdowns. I’m not trying to belittle all that Romo did, but it is a problem if your QB’s production dips in playoff games. Your team got to the playoffs on a certain caliber of quarterback performance, and they’re not often going to be able to win in the playoffs without similar output from the most important position on the field.

    Dak Prescott, on the other hand, had a playoff performance that was arguably more productive than the majority of his regular season games. I think that bodes well for the future. We should, as Cowboys fans, have aspirations of Prescott being in that “elite” level of quarterbacks because every indication from his first 17 games is that he has that ability.

    • Pam Adams

      I will never get over how Romo has been treated. It makes it extremely hard to continue root for the Cowboys, and I have never felt that way in 40+ yrs. and that is pitiful!

  • dallas1966

    With the Cowboys FO mission to strengthen the defense, Dak will continue to lead the Cowboys, to higher heights, in the neighborhood with Staubach and Aikman. How About Them Cowboys!!

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Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Sean Martin

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Despite Late Push in Year One, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See the Field in 2018? 1
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.

These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.

Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.

Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, DT Maliek Collins (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.

This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.

Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.

The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.

It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.

Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.

As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.

For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain

Jess Haynie

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La'el Collins

When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.

Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.

La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.

For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.

That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.

But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.

La'el Collins' Position Flex Could Come in Handy for Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys OT La'el Collins

If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.

But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.

If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.

Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.

They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.

While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.

Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.

If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.



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Dallas Cowboys

How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Randy Gregory Withdraws Suspension Appeal, Cannot Return Until Week 15

Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.

Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.

Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.

You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.

Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.

Or does it?

Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.

As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.

Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.



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