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Mythbuster: Does Cowboys QB Dak Prescott have an Accuracy Problem?

There’s a belief among NFL observers that Dak Prescott isn’t an accurate quarterback. Perhaps it’s the microscope in which the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys lives or maybe it’s that fans and analysts don’t watch every single quarterback, every single week.

The reality of an NFL quarterback is that sometimes they miss throws. Just like every other position, mistakes happen; however, the statistics are pretty clear that Dak Prescott is one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the NFL.

Over at Pro Football Reference, they’ve done the heavy lifting by charting every quarterback’s throws and determining whether the throw was “on target” or a “bad throw.” For reference, in 2019, Drew Brees led the NFL in both categories. He recorded an on-target percentage of 84.1% and a bad throw percentage of just 10.7%.

Bad throw and on-target percentage don’t include throwaways or spikes.

Coming in last among qualified quarterbacks in on-target percentage was Jameis Winston. Thirty interceptions and poor vision will do that for you. The player with the worst bad throw percentage was Aaron Rodgers at 21.7%. Now, I know what you’re thinking, Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the NFL, and that’s accurate, but there are times where his gunslinging mentality comes back to bite him. He had the third-highest bad throw percentage in 2018 as well.

Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback. We know this. However, it’s important to note that Prescott has been more accurate. Those are the facts.

Dak Prescott was seventh in the NFL in on-target percentage at 77.6% and sixth in the NFL in bad throw percentage, all the while finishing fifth in intended air yards. His 9.3 intended air yards per attempt was behind only Matthew Stafford, Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill, and Russell Wilson. Stafford, Winston, and Wilson were in the bottom ten of bad throw percentage while only Ryan Tannehill had a better bad throw percentage than Prescott.

By on-target percentage, Winston and Stafford were again in the bottom five.

Despite an increase of nearly two intended air yards per attempt, Dak Prescott’s bad throw percentage improved from 17.3% in 2018 to 14.8% in 2019. Pro Football Reference didn’t track on-target throws in 2018, so, unfortunately, that information is unavailable.

No quarterback had more passes dropped in 2019 than Dak Prescott’s 36. He finished second in the NFL in percentage of pass attempts dropped behind Josh Allen. Imagine what happens if even half of those passes are caught. What kind of difference could that make to the outcome of the game?

Dak Prescott has shown improvement each year he’s been in the NFL. Last year, he proved to be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. While there were struggles, and Prescott carries some of the blame for those in 2019, a lot of the issues could be attributed to cognitive dissonance in philosophies between the conservative Jason Garrett and the more aggressive Kellen Moore.

With a more aggressive head coach in Mike McCarthy, who is considered one of the best quarterback coaches in the NFL, leading the way, there will be a more unified approach to the offensive philosophy. Though McCarthy will be involved in the game-planning, it will be Kellen Moore’s offense and vocabulary that will be installed for Dak Prescott. An offense that looked tremendous at times in 2019 and, at other times, struggled.

If you were to go through the NFL and watch 600 pass attempts of even those considered elite at the position, you’ll find that those quarterbacks have throws they wish they could do again. The reality is the quarterback position is arguably the most challenging position to play in all of sports. Quarterbacks have to process a ton of information before the snap and after the snap to get a pass off in under three seconds to avoid getting sacked by one of the 250-300 pound men trying to crush him.

Dak Prescott is one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the NFL and will continue to improve in that area. Entering year five, Prescott is entering the prime of his career, and he and the Dallas Cowboys will be in a position to contend for the NFC East yet again.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. I don’t believe Dak has an accuracy problem in hitting his receivers, but he doesn’t lead his receivers often enough and the offense loses a lot of yards after the catch due to that. Sometimes you can’t lead them as it might put them in harms way or the defensive back is in position to pick the pass, but I can’t count how many times our receivers have had to slow down or contort themselves trying to catch a pass that didn’t lead them into yards after the catch.

    • I appreciate you acknowledging the fact that sometimes by leading the receiver, Dak would put them in a worse position to make the play.

      Sure there are times where he could put it out in front of them a little better, but that’s true for every quarterback.

  2. Kevin. You must have watched the 2016 pro bowl throwing competition. You could have not been more accurate with your assesment.

  3. Agree with this post and in a previous post i talked about what i felt were Dak accuracy problems and yea that’s what they mean by “catchable ball” hit ur receiver in stride for those YAC opportunities. Interesting how many stats illustrate how accurate he is, guess im missing something I’m not saying he’s inaccurate just don’t see him in the upper echelon

  4. I knew this article was coming based on a reply from John last night I saw on another thread … good article. I agree with the concensus here. But I’d also argue his numbers don’t necessarily equate to what my eyes tell me. If Dak were to be in a rythmn offense (ala Aikman), I think his inaccuracy may be more evident. He is not top-tier with his accuracy despite these numbers, but he’s more than passable.

  5. I know what the numbers say but too many times I have seen Dak throw a pass where the receiver is open on a crossing route but had to reach back for a catch. Too many times he doesn’t hit the receiver in stride and doesn’t give him the opportunity to get more YAC. I am a huge Cowboy fan and love Dak and his leadership and toughness. Rooting for him. I feel working on leading the receiver when the opportunity presents itself will take him from good to great. Pay the man, Jerruh.

  6. The problem is that Prescott has accomplished most of his stats against good teams. He does not perform well against good teams. Look at his stats against good teams the last 3 years. If he had made some key throws last year the Cowboys would have been in the playoffs. The talent around him makes him look good but he has not elevated his play to the next level to make the Cowboys a Super Bowl contender.

  7. Totally agree with the comments about our WRs having to contort themselves to make catches, (costing YAC and possible WINS) that helped Prescott’s “accuracy”. Brett said it right, “REAL FANS KNOW THAT.” Also, Garrett is GONE, no need to STILL use him as an excuse for Prescott anymore. John, you were doing pretty well until you felt the need to run him over again.

  8. If Romo had the same offensive line and weapons Prescott has Romo would had done better!! Prescott cant win a game with all the offensive weapons! And he wants big money!!!

  9. Okay so the general census seems to be that Dak is good but not elite (Even though he’s about to be paid like one) I’ll ask again what’s holding Dak back from being an elite QB and joining the top tier of QBs?

  10. Agree that Gallup especially had a lot of drops…. I know Daks completion rate was high but how many of those completions were badly thrown balls? point being Stats can be misleading/skewed and often times don’t tell the real story. I think the real issue isn’t Dak completion rate but how many games he has had where he simply did not get the job done and did not make key throws when we really needed it. If he had we wouldn’t be having a conversation about his accuracy. Again looks like he is following T Romo career trajectory. Throws for a ton of yds during the reg season but can’t elevate his game when the lights are the brightest….but bright side is he is still young and could very well improve god I hope he does..

  11. to be an “elite” quarterback and to get paid like an “elite” quarterback means you have the ability to carry a team on your shoulders..to elevate the players around you and to be able to win games despite the players around you..this is not something i have seen dak able to do..yet. In fact the opposite has been true more times than not.And drops or not- his issue with not throwing receivers open is a real and pressing issue that could be corrected with the proper coaching.Nobody is questioning his ability to be our franchise quarterback…it is a question about his true market value

  12. Yeah because we have never seen Aaron Rodgers march his team down the field in the last 2 minutes of a game to beat us with throws he wasn’t making all game. Not saying Dak can’t do that.. Just saying your asking fans to believe he can do it $35 million plus times a year

    • He has done it.

      Don’t you recall the 2016 game where after several drops and penalties that killed drives in the first half, he brought them back from a 21-3 deficit to tie the game against Green Bay in the playoffs only to have Rodgers make a miraculous throw (on a play when the Offensive lineman should have been called for holding) to Jared Cook who made an excellent sideline catch and then Crosby made a 51 yard field goal to win the game.

      Dak was money from the second quarter on after the team put him in a hole in the first.

  13. A lot of those so-called 4th quarter comebacks happened because of his bone head play in the first half . The teams will is the reason for the comebacks . I

  14. John, I’m not sure what games you’ve been watching. I’ve been a Cowboy fan for over 40 years. Stats don’t always tell the story. The QB has to be the best player on the team if he’s to lead them to a Super Bowi. (I know there’s been a few to make it by pure luck but very few) Tuff games against the best teams require the best play from the QB and Dak just can’t do it. We’ve watched him for 3 years make the same mistakes over and over hes not making progress. He’s reached his ceiling! his biggest and most glaring problem is in ability to read defenses whether its 2 deep zone or one safety high he misses his progresses. He presses and time after time he misses his recievers throwing behind them over thei head. He holds the ball way to long he doesn’t have the interal clock like the all the great QB’s have. If the Cowboys sign him to a huge contract it will JJ biggest mistake every. Were doomed to have 8 – 8 seasons. They actually hit on Romo but not Dak.

  15. Dak is one of the most accurate QB’s??? Bruh… I’ve seen this guy on television and live throw balls behind or too high for the receivers. So this high percentage of dropped passes comes with the terrible passes he threw. While he was inaccurate throwing passes to receivers, the receivers made the badly thrown passes catchable. Those same receivers made the same terrible passes uncatchable because they were terribly thrown. Dak is not as good as everyone makes him out to be.

  16. Good post Tige. L and Jerry M well put, I think when the best player on the field is the QB he’s usually in the super bowl. The argument for needing a great QB to reach the super bowl is pretty strong. Look at the starting QBs in the last 15-20 games they either had elite QBs had one that they was elite in the game or had elite defenses (which the cowboys don’t have). Now no one likes to hear negativity all the time so I’ll say with sincerity I think Dak could “possibly” improve enuf for us to make some real noise. With our talent level and a super bowl winning coach why not us? Also wanna give a shout out to JOHN W./ MAURICIO R./ BRIAN W. and all u other guys who provide these well thought out little blogs to us “diehards” so we can respectfully banter around a little bit on one of our favorite subjects. Life long “boys” fan and was born the same yr they were 1960.

  17. I don’t know Jerry I mean we “hit on Romo” in the sense that we signed an undrafted player who was extremely productive and entertaining for many yrs but with little postseason success to show for it. Isn’t that the current knock on Dak.? I believe Romo was 2-4 in the postseason and was known to melt down at inopportune times much like Dak has shown so far. I liked ur point about Dak not having a good internal clock regarding the pass rush and when to get rid of the ball (have always noticed this) and it often times leads to sacks…. and yes the elite QBs do possess that inate trait. He gets sacked alot for that reason alone. But with that said and I have to inject some optimism Dak is still quite young and QBs tend to peak later. (Many greats took several yrs to reach their peak). We could very well see improvement with Dak especially with the intangibles, though it could be incremental. I just worry if accuracy and pocket presence can be improved with time. We better hope so

    • Dak simply doesn’t make those key plays that wins games. Get him signed and trade him, ASAP,

  18. Dak simply doesn’t make those key plays that wins games. Get him signed and trade him, ASAP,

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