Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are ranked 19th of the 32 NFL teams on Dan Graziano’s Quarterback Confidence Index on ESPN.com.
Which leaves Cowboys fans wondering, what the heck are you thinking, ESPN?
Perhaps ESPN has heard a loud collective “what?” from Cowboys Nation. Particularly since the Cowboys were behind No. 17 Minnesota, which has Brittle Sam Bradford at quarterback and (Suit)Case Keenum as a backup, and with Teddy Bridgewater’s injury situation unresolved.
The World Wide Leader seems to have tried to walk it back a bit, having Graziano on air recently to explain his thinking.
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Fans are extremely confident in Prescott, the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year who had one of the finest, or finest, rookie seasons for a quarterback in NFL history.
Lending more credence to Prescott’s credibility as a true NFL franchise quarterback is this from USA Today:
Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders released his 2016 passing plus-minus analysis and surprisingly the top seven passers were all from the NFC. Of particular note to Cowboys fans is that fact that rounding out the top 7 is none other than Dak Prescott.
“There is nothing about Dak Prescott’s first season to discourage confidence, other than the size of the sample,” Graziano writes, and that’s the clue.
Graziano simply believes one season isn’t enough to create big-time confidence, and he cites Robert Griffin III, who was one and done (and has Cleve-landed on the NFL employment fringes) after his promising 2012 rookie season, and Nick Foles.
Indeed, lumped in the “Let’s See More” for Graziano with the Cowboys are other outsize talents and their witness-protection-program backups:
20. Tennessee Titans (20) with Marcus Mariota and Matt Cassel,
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Jameis Winston and two “who?” backups (at the time of the ranking), Sean Renfree or Ryan Griffin (since amended with the signing of Ryan Fitzpatrick);
22. Buffalo Bills, with Tyrod Taylor, Cardale Jones, T.J. Yates and draft pick Nathan Peterman;
23. Philadelphia Eagles, with Carson Wentz, Foles — he’s back!(up) — and Matt McGloin.
Graziano described rankings, which he said is leavened with his own reporting on teams and not just his opinion, thusly: “It assesses each team’s confidence in overall quarterback’s confidence. You have to factor in the backup situation, you have to factor in the health history of the starter, It’s not about optimism or excitement.”
So how could the Vikings be rated ahead of the Cowboys?
Despite the Vikings’ screen door offensive line that lets everything through, Bradford set an NFL single-season record for completion percentage last season, Graziano notes, “so he’s learned how to protect himself.”
And, “I think the Vikings know what they have in Sam Bradford , especially when he’s paired with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.”
But what’s the case against Dak as magnificent?
“When you look at Prescott and say how can he be that low, it’s one season, and it was a brilliant season,” Graziano said. “There’s nothing in that season that makes you think he can’t do it again, I think he can do it again. (But) until he does, you can’t be fully confident that he will.”
The intense rush of precedence rides against Prescott, in other words.
“We have all sorts of history with guys having big first years and then tailing off. Prescott’s QBR number last year was 81.5; Tom Brady’s career QBR is in the 77s,” Graziano said.
“So it’s possible Prescott just had his best year. Let’s see if he can do it again. If he does, then the confidence only grows.”
The comparison to Griffin and Foles — a dynamite first season then a dramatic drop-off — may be suspect, too.
“I don’t think Prescott is like that,” Graziano said, “but we don’t know.”