Last Saturday the Cowboys spent a fourth-round pick on quarterback Dak Prescott from Mississippi State. You already knew that it was uncommon for Dallas to invest draft picks in the quarterback position, having only done it once (Stephen McGee, 2009) since Tony Romo became our starter in 2006.
But do you realize just how far back that tradition goes, and just how rare it’s been for Dallas to draft a passer?
In 1989, the Dallas Cowboys made Troy Aikman the first overall pick in the draft. It was the first pick of Jerry Jones’ ownership of the Cowboys. Jimmy Johnson also wasted the following year’s first-rounder in the 1989 Supplement Draft, taking Steve Walsh to presumably challenge Aikman for the starting job.
Is it just me or does nobody mention that bonehead move when worshiping at Jimmy’s altar? Anyways…
Since then, including Prescott last week, the Cowboys have only used draft picks on five other quarterbacks in 17 drafts. Here’s a quick recap:
- 1991 – Bill Musgrave (fourth round)
- 2001 – Quincy Carter (second round)
- 2004 – Drew Henson (traded third-round pick to Houston)
- 2009 – Stephen McGee (fourth round)
- 2016 – Dak Prescott (fourth round)
Now, maybe you’re thinking that this is a natural result of having two long-tenured quarterbacks over the time span. Aikman played from 1989-2000 and Tony has been here and starting since 2006. Did we really need to be spending a bunch of picks on quarterbacks during those years?
Well, let’s look at two other franchises with similar and even superior quarterback stability.
The New England Patriots drafted Drew Bledsoe in 1993 and started right away. As we well know, they transitioned seamlessly to Tom Brady in 2001 when Bledsoe got hurt. That’s 23 uninterrupted seasons with two definitive starters.
Similarly, the Green Bay Packers traded a first-round pick for Brett Favre in 1992. He took over midway through that year and remained their starter through 2008, after which the job went to Aaron Rodgers. That’s 24 years of supreme stability at quarterback.
So how do these three franchises compare? We’re going to throw out the picks used to acquire Aikman (1989), Bledsoe (1993), and Favre (1992) and just count forward. We’ll also forget about the pick that Jimmy blew on Walsh, since it happened the same year that Aikman was drafted. How many picks have these teams spent on quarterbacks since acquiring their big stars of the 90s?
Obviously, there’s a major difference in how the Cowboy have managed the quarterback position these other two teams. Dallas’ lower number of picks is even more astounding when you consider that it’s over a long period of time and without the same level of stability.
The difference is that the Cowboys have opted to pay for proven veteran backups rather than grow them in house. Aikman was backed up by Steve Beuerlein, Rodney Peete, and Randall Cunningham at different times. Romo’s backups went from Brad Johnson to Jon Kitna to Kyle Orton.
You can’t say with any definitive accuracy that one method is better than the other. Personally, I prefer the Patriots/Packers approach of keeping the pipeline loaded with players. You never know when the opportunity to play a young quarterback may come, or when a flash of greatness could be the first step towards a trade.
Will the Prescott pick be the start of a new trend in Dallas or remain a rarity? That’s a question only time can answer.