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Dak Prescott’s on a Tough Road Following Romo’s Difficult Exit

Jess Haynie

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Tony Romo, Dak Prescott

The way that fans react to roster changes is one of the ever-interesting aspects of professional sports. Some are met with glee and others with extreme derision. And then some, like the switch from Tony Romo to Dak Prescott, split fanbases right down the middle.

In 2017 and perhaps for many years to come, a large number of Cowboys fans will resent Prescott and judge him harshly as a result of Tony Romo's problematic exit. Even though all he did last year was go out and play well, Dak will carry the burden of being the guy who "forced Romo out" despite having no say in the matter.

Dak Prescott, Tony Romo

Dak Prescott and Tony Romo

A sample of this was already seen in last year's playoff game. Dak's slow start to the eventual loss against the Packers became a rallying point for bitter Romo fans. They asserted that Romo would not have let the team fall behind 21-3 and created such a deep hole to get out of.

Nevermind that Prescott finished the game with more yards (302) or touchdowns (3) than Romo's ever had in a playoff game. Nevermind that his 63.2% completions or 103.2 passer rating were both higher than Romo's career averages in the postseason.

Nevermind that Tony Romo had a 2-4 record in playoff games.

That is just a glimpse of the rocky terrain that Dak Prescott will have to walk next year, if not longer. His failures will be exacerbated by whatever lingering devotion to Romo, and bitterness over his departure, exists among a segment of Cowboys fans. Sometimes it will be logical, sometimes it won't.

Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott (AP Photo / Mark Tenally)

Prescott is facing a unique situation compared to his predecessors. Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, and Troy Aikman all retired before Craig Morton, Danny White, and Quincy Carter got their turns. The closest comparison is Tony Romo himself, taking the starting job away from Drew Bledsoe midway through the 2006 season.

Bledsoe was not an iconic Cowboys QB, though, having just played one season prior to 2006. Fans were still waiting for a return to the glory days of the 90s and the young, exciting Romo quickly gave them hope of that. He got everyone looking anxiously towards the future.

The irony here is that Dak Prescott was better than 2006 Tony Romo in every conceivable way. He was more accurate, had better judgment, and was more dangerous running with the ball. This was in spite of being a rookie who didn't know he'd be starting until late August. Comparatively, Romo has been getting NFL coaching and practice for three-and-a-half seasons before becoming a starter.

Given that, you'd think the excitement for the Dak Prescott era would be even higher than what we saw with Tony Romo in 2006. But that shows you the power of Romo's legacy and the love fans had for him.

That love, now denied, will create a new challenge for Prescott in 2017 and perhaps years to come. He will be judged more harshly for having been the instrument of Tony Romo's demise, no matter how unfair that is. In the end, he may not win some fans over until he does what Romo never did by getting the Cowboys to NFC Championship Games and Super Bowls.



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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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Matthew Harrell

    April 15, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Dak took the keys to the best bus the Cowboys ever had since Romo took over. He promptly drove it in the ditch as soon as he hit the playoff highway. Those arguing Romo would’ve done better v. Green Bay are right. They know this team was far better than any previous broken down jalopy Romo had to push into the playoffs. Romo even beat Green Bay on the road in the playoffs with a lesser vehicle. Yes I say beat because everyone knows Dez caught it. So there is no comparison to Romo 2006 and Dak 2016. Dak got behind the wheel of a Super Bowl machine and Romo first drove a beat up old Pinto. Citing Daks’s stats in his playoff loss and saying “more than Romo ever did in the playoffs”? Please. 1st, no one cares what the QB on the losing side put up statistically. Passing stats are always inflated and irrelevant in a loss. Plus they just don’t matter, you lost. Just ask anyone about Romo’s 5 TD, 500 yard game against Denver. Lost. Yup, no one cares. I’ll take Tony’s stats in his 2 playoff wins over Dak’s loss at home no less any day. One of those wins was a game winning drive. Dak was an amazing backup and especially for a rookie. But it is what it is. People are crazy for making more out of it. Would’ve been a perfect situation with Romo taking over after the bye week and then having young Dak waiting in the wings this season behind Romo. We could’ve had the perfect succession in place and the best 2 QB combo but it was badly mismanaged. Dak did almost as well as Romo would have. But given Romo’s amazing career with mostly junk to work with, fans know last year would’ve been his best yet. And it was his best and last chance to go all the way. Now we have no choice but to hope Dak is even better than last year. And he’ll have to be because last year he was cruising on a 4-12 schedule beating teams with a combined losing record. This year will be the toughest schedule in the league. Good luck, Dak. You’ll need a lot more.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      April 17, 2017 at 7:47 am

      It was “badly mismanaged” because the guy you liked didn’t get the job back.

      Also, the assumption that Romo would’ve been better is based on old data. He did not have a great start in 2015 before getting hurt. This gets ignored constantly when his potential greatness last year is mentioned.

      Lastly, the strength of schedule stuff isn’t that meaningful when a team went 13-2 (Week 17 doesn’t count, for obvious reasons). The “combined losing record” was inflated by the Browns, Bears, and 49ers, who were all abysmal. That’s just three wins out of 10.

      The 2017 schedule will be tougher, but so will we. I wouldn’t sweat it.

  2. Matthew Harrell

    April 15, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    The real Star and rookie of the year was Zeke. Does no one even realize what Zeke did, running against 8 and 9 man fronts all year? One of the tragedies of the 2016 season was with the 4th overall pick we got possibly a generational RB talent was never paired with our best QB. No one would argue with Romo behind center, defenses wouldn’t have ever dared stack the box against Zeke. The result would’ve been an historic offense. Not just a lucky win streak barley beating teams with losing records. So yes, combine that with the fact that Green Bay had a depleted, pathetic and injury riddled secondary just waiting to be ripped up (like Matt Ryan did the following week) and Romo would’ve won that playoff game that Dak lost.

    • Balkingpoints

      April 15, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Laughable. Romo was on his last pins. Nobody thinks he is the future, or even the answer last year.

      • Matthew Harrell

        April 16, 2017 at 2:07 am

        Not laughable at all. Obviously he is not the future but he would’ve done better last season. What were the results? Dak went one and done in the playoffs. So not even a stretch at all to say he would’ve done better.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      April 17, 2017 at 7:50 am

      Dallas finished the year with a cumulative point margin of 115 (7 per game), which was third-best in the NFL behind the Patriots and Falcons. So that whole “barely beating teams” thing was just silly.

  3. Travis Diggs

    April 16, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Dak will get criticized his whole career because he’s the black quarterback who forced the almighty white quarterback to retire from America’s team. Romo gets the benefit of the doubt always because he’s the all American great white hope. You win two playoff games in 12 years but he’s treated like a freaking king. Dak statistically outplayed romo in his first playoff game but you can’t tell anybody that because Romo lovers can’t get over him getting replaced by the black guy. Dak will do something Romo never could , win big and it won’t take him 12 years but without a defense it will be the same ol story that it has been for 20 some odd years.

    • Michael Moy

      April 16, 2017 at 3:08 pm

      This is not about race. Don’t create an issue when there’s none. Quincy Carter was handed the job, he just didn’t do anything.

    • Gbear

      April 16, 2017 at 5:46 pm

      Black and white huh? Let’s see Dak is mixed and Tony is latino. Smh

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      April 17, 2017 at 7:27 am

      I don’t agree with the racial component for the vast majority of fans, though Stephen A. Smith’s comments last week show it’s not a completely ridiculous concept. I think any irrational feelings about this are tied to devotion to Romo, and the new guy would be facing the same backlash regardless of his skin tone.

      However, I do agree with you that Prescott’s career is going to be very similar to Romo’s if we don’t finally get a championship-quality defense.

  4. Michael Moy

    April 16, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    You’re comparing apples to oranges. The team is 53 players, comparing records with totally different teams make no sense. The two indisputable facts are: The 2016 O supporting cast was better than Romo ever had; and no rookie QB has EVER won deep into the playoffs.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      April 17, 2017 at 7:22 am

      There was very little difference between the 2014 and and 2016 offenses. Zeke may have been a little better than Murray and the offensive line was more seasoned, but I could also argue that Dez and Witten weren’t quite as effective as when they were two years younger. That said, Romo had his best postseason performances that year and was definitely not the reason they fell short.

  5. Gbear

    April 16, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Dak will never be as reckless with the ball as Tony was. Dak is a better fit with the team O concept, Dak is more durable, last season wasn’t an anomaly, he also protected the ball in college. So what if he inherited a good team, he still makes his teammates better and is a fantastic team leader.

    For the dreamers thinking Romo would have won against GB, well maybe, if you could place a protective shield around his body. I saw Dak absorb hits that would’ve crushed Tony.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      April 17, 2017 at 7:24 am

      Plenty of Cowboys fans see these things but just can’t get over Romo’s exit yet. Hopefully that will come with time and success.

  6. deal with it

    April 19, 2017 at 11:36 am

    “Dak’s slow start to the eventual loss against the Packers became a rallying point for bitter Romo fans. They asserted that Romo would not have let the team fall behind 21-3 and created such a deep hole to get out of.”
    I remember the Defense having a lot to do with the loss & the 21-3 hole we were in.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      April 19, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      You are absolutely right, but the offense struggled out of the gates as well.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker

Jess Haynie

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.

Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.

But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.

What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.

It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.

Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.

How Does LB Joe Thomas Fit Into Cowboys' 2019 Plans?

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.

A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.

However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.

They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.

The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.

Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.

Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.

There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.



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Xavier Woods Versatility Key in Dallas Cowboys FA Safety Pursuit

John Williams

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Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Is Getting Better By The Week

There has been a debate going on among Cowboys Nation for more than a year now about the prospects of bringing in Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas. Now with free agency approaching, there are several other names that the Dallas Cowboys could consider when looking to upgrade the safety position. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tre Boston are several of the many quality and really good safeties that are hitting the free agent market in a few weeks. It's a group with varied skill sets and abilities, which makes the debate even more interesting. The Dallas Cowboys, however, will be able to take a look at all of them when free agency opens March 13th because of one player; Xavier Woods.

Xavier Woods, the Cowboys fifth round draft pick from the 2017 NFL Draft just finished his first full season as a starter for the Cowboys and played really well. In two years he's shown the ability to cover from the slot, play deep, play in the box, be a force over the middle, and make plays on the football. He's one of the more versatile players on the defense with his ability to play all over the field. That versatility allows the Dallas Cowboys' front office an advantage when approaching the names mentioned above.

The Dallas Cowboys don't have to be locked in to one particular type of safety. When people talk about Landon Collins, they label him a "box safety." Earl Thomas is a traditional free safety. Tre Boston is a similar player to Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu is like Collins. The Cowboys can go into free agency with the freedom to explore their options and do their due diligence when it comes to these players.

That's a distinct difference from this offseason to last.

Last offseason, the feeling was that the Dallas Cowboys had to go get Earl Thomas. The safety position was so weak that the Cowboys were going to be playing at a disadvantage in the high-flying, pass-heavy NFL. Xavier Woods proved in his first full season that he can be a productive, play making starter in the NFL and should only continue to improve.

According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier Woods was sixth in the NFL in passer rating against among safeties with at least 352 coverage snaps. His 62.8 passer rating allowed in his coverage was tied with Eric Weddle, better than Derwin James, Reshad Jones, Adrian Amos, and Maliek Hooker. Of the safeties drafted in the 2017 draft class, only Eddie Jackson from the Chicago Bears had a better passer rating against than Xavier Woods.

The Dallas Cowboys got a really good player in Xavier Woods and as they get ready to potentially make a run at a big name safety, they can feel confident that whoever they end up signing will be a good fit with Woods. He can play in the box or cover receivers and tight ends. You can run more two deep safety looks, because he has the range to play it.

This year, as opposed to last, they have more certainty at the safety position because of Xavier Woods and the strides he took in 2018. There's no reason to believe that he can't continue to take a step forward for the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to play all over the field allows the Cowboys to be smart and patient in their pursuit of a safety upgrade this offseason.



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Dallas Cowboys

3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

John Williams

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3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

The free agency period in the NFL will be here in a little more than three weeks and the Dallas Cowboys will begin the annual tradition of trying to put together the best 53-man roster that they can come up with. Free agency is just one part of the equation that includes the draft, the signing of undrafted free agents, adding and subtracting from the roster during training camp, and picking up players after the final cut down day.

You can rest assured that Will McClay and the entire pro scouting department is doing their due diligence in anticipation of the March 13th start to the 2019 free agency period. They'll look high and low for players that can come in and be contributors for the Cowboys. Even within their own division.

Between the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, there are some interesting names to consider as the Cowboys peruse the free agent aisles of the NFL superstore. Some of those players like Landon Collins, Ronald Darby, Nick Foles, and Brandon Graham will be new releases that will cost you a pretty penny at the check out stand. Others like Haloti Ngata will be in the used and refurbished section. And then there are those who could be had at a reasonable or discounted rate.

Here are three from within the NFC East that the Cowboys could have their eye on.

Mario Edwards, Defensive Line, New York Giants

The former Oakland Raiders second round pick out of Florida State University has already played for two teams in his young four-year career. That isn't a good sign for Mario Edwards as he approaches free agency for the first time. You don't generally see many top 100 picks get released from the team that originally drafted as they usually wait as long as they can to see if the player is going to hit.

For Mario Edwards, he found himself caught in a numbers game and outplayed by two rookies in Oakland's training camp in 2018, leading to his release. It also sounds like the Raiders couldn't quite figure out where to put him on their defensive line.

We know that the Dallas Cowboys love looking around the league for those reclamation projects. Edwards could be the next David Irving or Antwaun Woods. A player that isn't highly thought of, but in the right situation and with the right coaching could flourish.

Edwards has played 14 or more games in three of his first four seasons, missing his second season with a hip injury. He totaled more than two sacks a season in those three seasons. He isn't by any stretch of the imagination someone who is going to come in and replace DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory, but he could be a nice depth piece with potential to see significant snaps both at defensive end and 3-technique defensive tackle.

Edwards could be the next Rod Marinelli special.

Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys could be in the market for a slot wide receiver this offseason if Cole Beasley is allowed to walk in free agency, which seems like a near certainty. There are several intriguing options on the roster in Allen Hurns and Cedric Wilson that could play in the slot some, or play on the outside allowing Amari Cooper to play in the slot. They could also look to the draft for Beasley's replacement as well. In the free agent pool, there are several interesting names, one of which is Jordan Matthews.

Jordan Matthews just finished his second stint in Philadelphia and while he didn't have huge production in Philly in 2018 -- 20 receptions on 28 targets for 300 yards and two touchdowns, he's a player with a track record in the NFL and could be a "big slot" option.

In Matthews first three seasons in the NFL, he averaged 75 receptions on 115 targets for 891 yards and 6.3 touchdowns in his first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2014, Matthews caught 64 of his 67 receptions from the slot, which was second in the NFL that season. In 2015, he led the NFL in receptions from the slot with 81, while also scoring eight touchdowns. In 2016, his final year with the Eagles, he was ninth in the NFL with 53 receptions. So, in those first three seasons in the league, he averaged 67 receptions, 796.3 yards, and six touchdowns. He caught eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons for the Eagles in the slot.

He's not the same player that Cole Beasley is, but he's a player that knows how to win in the slot and because of the past couple of years could be a cheaper option to try and replace Cole's production.

Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins

If Jordan Matthews is the inexpensive option for the Dallas Cowboys in the slot, Jamison Crowder would require paying a pretty penny. Spotrac.com estimates that Crowder could be worth $8 million per year over four years on the open market.

Interestingly enough, he's never been as productive as Cole Beasley or Jordan Matthews, but because of his age and his work the last couple of seasons, injuries not withstanding, he's seen in a more positive light than Matthews.

Crowder is cut from a similar cloth as Beasley. Smaller in stature and uses quickness and speed to win games. As Cowboys fans, we know all to well the effect that he has in game. Crowder, however, has never had more than 66 receptions in a season and has only scored more than three touchdowns once in his four seasons in the NFL; back in 2016 when he scored seven.

Crowder is coming off of an injury this season that limited him to just nine games, 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. In his three full seasons prior to 2018, Crowder averaged 64 receptions on 93 targets for 746 yards and four touchdowns.

If for some reason, his market comes in less than the $8 million per year that Spotrac.com is projecting, I'd be very interested in bringing Crowder to Dallas.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Each of these guys offers something intriguing that the Dallas Cowboys could use. Whether it's a defensive lineman or a slot wide receiver, they all bring something to the table. The Dallas Cowboys need to approach this offseason with a "go for it" mentality, but if they continue to follow their free agency philosophy, Mario Edwards and Jordan Matthews could be nice pieces to add to the team that offer a lot of upside.



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