Dak Prescott and Tony Romo... these guys are taking over the news cycles lately. I thought about that, but I just don't see anyone saying the things I'm thinking. The so-called quarterback controversy in Dallas; the situation is nowhere near as convoluted as some would have you believe.
Dak Prescott said it best; This is Romo's team.
Like it or not, he's not wrong.
But there is a lot to like about Dak Prescott, and not nearly enough to like about Tony Romo lately. Romo has taken snaps in what, half a dozen games since the 2014 Divisional Round in Green Bay? Give or take a couple of preseason games. And what a heart breaker that was, and continues to be. It only serves to further exacerbate the issues with Romo's health. Tough to get the taste out of our mouths.
Dak Prescott has looked good -- great at times -- since he's been with the Cowboys. And very few deny it.
I'm as hitched to the Dak-mobile as anyone. But I've also been a fan of Tony Romo's since 2005. Yes, since before he took over for Drew Bledsoe. I've cheered and screamed, cursed and bit my nails... he's made some seriously boneheaded plays over the years. Like Joseph Randle extending an unprotected ball over the goal line again boneheaded, or Terrance Williams staying in-bounds and killing any chance to salvage the game boneheaded.
But I've seen what he could be, always. All the trash throws, poor decisions, and heart attacks I've endured at the hands of Tony Romo, and I never lost sight of what he's capable of. I've never lost faith.
Why? Because the man simply does what is needed.
He's become smarter, more accurate, he maybe even added a little to his arm. He is the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. But damn; just a few games and a twice-broken collarbone and broken back. I've shaken my head over this from the playoffs to the signing of Butt-Fumble. It just doesn't make sense for one man, in a sea of other men taking the same risks, to suffer so many injuries, does it?
There's an argument to be had that he's just old, that Tony has aged out of football. You could also say he's taken such a beating over the years, his body is just done. I couldn't tell you which is which, nobody could. His last three injuries were only highlight worthy because it was Tony Romo getting hurt. Nobody saw the hits and expected him to come up lame. But he did.
So now everyone is asking -- and by asking, I mean speculating wildly, of course -- what happens when Tony Romo returns?
Well, what does happen? Does Tony Romo take his job back, or has his absence done enough to warrant losing his job? I know if I don't show up to work more than 5% of the time for over a year, my ass is canned. But I don't work in the brutal environment of the NFL.
So when does Dak Prescott earn the right to boot Tony off the field?
The answer isn't complicated. I can ask the question over and over again, but that's just posturing for the medium here. Ask 100 Romo fans and they'll mostly all say the job is still his. Ask 100 Romo haters and they'll say he lost it when the Cowboys recorded a 4-12 season.
Right now, Tony Romo is the starting, franchise quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. It would take retirement to change that. Or death. Dak Prescott hasn't won anything, he's merely done better than expected for his position, his experience, and in the spotlight of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
I'm excited to see him play each week, and I explode in cheers for things I was just used to Tony Romo doing every week.
And therein lies the problem. Complacency.
We dismiss Romo's accomplishments out of complacency during the team's longest Super Bowl dry-spell. We dismiss his steady hand, and quick thinking for the spectacle of watching a rookie QB not suck.
But when Dak Prescott takes a snap, more than half the excitement we feel is just newness, and novelty. We just haven't seen him do these things before. That's no reason to place the little he has done over the volumes of highlight reels bearing Tony Romo's name.
No reason at all.
The fact of the matter is, Tony Romo was playing the best he's ever played in 2014, and was sidelined due to injury. Did Patriots fans call for Tom Brady to be benched when he busted his knee? No.
Did Pats fans praise Matt Cassel as the new savior of the franchise when he won games while Brady was injured? Nope.
Romo has barely missed more time than Brady that year, so it's a valid comparison. But maybe not. Brady suffered one injury, Romo suffered three. There's certainly something to be said about the sense of fragility inspired by that little nugget.
Tony Romo has been a good player for this team, and he was nearing the top of his career's mountain in 2014. Why else would we -- as a fan base -- take it so hard when he was first injured in 2015? Maybe we judge him a little harshly. Maybe we assign his credit to others too easily. Maybe we get too wrapped up in the excitement this rookie gives us by merely completing a pass.
And maybe Tony Romo's body is done letting him play Superman for four months out of the year. But we don't know that yet.
Dak Prescott has earned the right to be in the conversation, but Tony Romo has earned the right to end it. When he's healed, Tony Romo will take to the field once more and captain this team. He'll be given this shot because he's spilled more blood for this team than most, and is still capable of playing high quality football. Perhaps his body isn't capable of surviving the rigors of play, but he's still got what it takes.
So he'll be back, and we'll all finally be satisfied the team has secured his replacement. We'll be happy, overjoyed even, to see Dak training behind one of the modern era leaders at the quarterback position. For better or worse, Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett make that a virtual certainty.
I accept that. You should too. Dak may have the skills and the poise, but no one can argue he has the experience, and that's where Tony Romo beats him in this fictitious national competition we see each day. There is no competition. Knowing when to put the ball on a target still trumps being able to put it on the target.
But I will say this... If Tony Romo comes back and cannot last the remainder of the season without breaking a bone, his chances take a major blow.
If Tony Romo suffers another injury, misses any more games this season, in 2016, it is unlikely the team will continue to have confidence in his body to carry the weight of their investment. This team rests on his shoulders a little less this year, as long as Dak Prescott performs, but it's still on Romo's shoulders. That won't change as long as he is able to do the job.
And all you must do to understand why, whether you like him or not, is look at what the man has done over the years. Look at him, look at the things he has personally done. From the botched snap against Seattle a lifetime ago, to the pass Dez Bryant failed to secure, and every pass, hand-off, dive, spin, shuck, and jive in between.
Tony Romo is still the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, and I accept that.
Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip
Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.
After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.
DallasCowboys linebacker @VanderEsch38 has been added to the 2019 Pro Bowl Roster. 🐺 Congratulations, rookie! → https://t.co/AYqEUy2tZx
The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.
Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.
Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
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