We've looked at how to fix what ails the Cowboys in the Front Office and the Coaches Room. But there's still more work to be done on the field of play.
No single room is immune from blame in the Cowboys' postseason woes. We start with the position that, unfairly or not, shoulders most of the blame. With this post we take a look at the quarterback position.
THE MAN UNDER CENTER
The quarterback, usually, gets the biggest paycheck on an NFL team. He's the straw that stirs the drink, as the saying goes. If the quarterback can't get the job done it really doesn't matter what the other 10 offensive players are doing.
With very few exceptions – the 2000 Ravens and the 2002 Buccaneers – a team will not win a championship without a franchise quarterback.
Since the retirement of Troy Aikman, the Cowboys have had two franchise quarterbacks.
Tony Romo was solid for the most part in the regular season. But the man was snakebit in the playoffs.
A football with more Crisco on it than a roadside café uses in a year in Seattle. Patrick Crayton alligator-arming a sure touchdown pass. And yes, Dez caught that ball in Green Bay.
Aside from the disaster in Minneapolis in 2010, Romo did everything he could to get Dallas to an NFC title game but came up short.
The man who replaced Romo, Dak Prescott, has posted very good regular season numbers.
He's led the team to four playoff appearances in his seven seasons. But, like Romo, he hasn't gotten it done when it matters.
Compounding the issue for Prescott, even though they made the playoffs and beat Tampa Bay, he regressed in 2022.
Despite playing three fewer games, he tied Davis Mills in Interceptions (15) and Pick Sixes (3).
Making matters worse, Prescott's turnovers seemed to come at the absolute worst time. Up 28-14 with 40 seconds remaining in the half, Prescott throws a pick to set up a Bears field goal. The Cowboys overcame the error, but the play gave the Bears life.
The very next game against Green Bay, Prescott throws two first-half interceptions. Instead of a 14-0 lead, they go into halftime tied at 14. The Packers go on to win in overtime.
The loss to Jacksonville in overtime a few weeks later? Another Prescott pick sets up a Jags momentum-changing score in the second half. Then came the pick six in overtime to end the game.
Then the season-ending loss to the 49ers. Two picks that took at least three points off the board, set up six points for San Francisco, and gave the 49ers momentum they never gave back.
Yes, in all of these examples, other things happened that impacted the game. But if the quarterback is this off, and it keeps occurring, wins are harder to come by.
THE CLOCK IS TICKING
Prescott enters his eighth season in 2023. This has to be his do-or-die season.
He cannot be careless with the ball anymore. He cannot miss wide-open receivers in crucial moments, as he did in the 49ers loss. He cannot force the ball into areas where no window exists.
In the playoff win over Tampa Bay, he pulled the ball down and ran for positive yards. This needs to be his default mode in 2023. Live to fight another down and stop playing Hero ball.
In a perfect world, without the salary cap, Prescott would be cut or traded. According to Spotrac, Prescott carries a $49 million cap hit into 2023. His cap hit is $39 million in 2024.
So cutting him, or trading him, is off the table. For now.
But Dallas needs to make it clear to him that 2023 is his make-it-or-break-it year. Anything less than an NFC title game appearance is unacceptable.
If he doesn't get the job done? Then the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2024 had better be Dak Prescott's replacement.