The Dallas Cowboys didn’t achieve their ultimate goal of playing in Super Bowl LI on Sunday.
But their impressive 2016 season — which included a team record-tying 13 victories and an NFC East title despite losing quarterback Tony Romo for the first nine games with a broken bone in his back — was validated during the NFL Honors on Saturday night.
It turned into a night of honors for the Cowboys.
Certainly, owner Jerry Jones being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was the biggest story. But joining him in the festivities were rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, coach Jason Garrett and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Prescott was named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in somewhat upset fashion over Elliott, the NFL’s leading rusher who was named the FedEx Ground Player of the Year.
Garrett earned NFL Coach of the Year honors for leading the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC behind a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back while overcoming the loss of Romo.
“It’s a reflection of our team,” Garrett said. “It’s a team award. I accept it on their behalf. This is a special night.”
It was just the continuation of a special season for Prescott, who joined the Cowboys as a fourth-round project before being thrust into the starting role.
He ended up having one of the best rookie seasons of any quarterback in NFL history.
Prescott started all 16 games and posted 3,667 yards passing with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. His six rushing touchdowns set a single-season franchise record by a Cowboys quarterback.
Prescott had the best completion percentage (67.8), touchdown-to-interception ratio (23-4), and passer rating (104.9) by any rookie quarterback in NFL history.
In leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, he tied Ben Roethlisberger for the most wins by a rookie quarterback.
Prescott always had confidence in himself, but the Louisiana native said the fact that so many teams passed on him after an illustrious career at Mississippi State made him work even harder.
“Thirty-two teams passed on me three times,” Prescott said. “The Cowboys got lucky. It’s hard for me to say 134 people are better than me. It’s hard to say seven quarterbacks are better than me. It allowed that chip on my shoulder to grow.”
Prescott pushed all the right buttons on and off the field during his rookie season with his ability to bring the Cowboys together, young and old.
Prescott continued to set the right tone Saturday night when he won the award in an upset over Elliott, the fourth overall pick who led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards.
Prescott brought Elliott to the stage with him in Houston and asked if could have a knife so he could cut the award in half.
“It’s not a rivalry,” Prescott said. “We feed off each other. We make each other better. It’s more of a friendship and a brotherhood. I admire him so much as a person and a football player. He deserved it just a much as I did. We always handled things together. The defense had to stop the run, which made my job easier.”
Watching Elliott and Prescott on stage together was a snapshot of the type of season the Cowboys had and the type of impact the two rookies had on the team, per Garrett.
“They are special guys,” Garrett said. “They really are. They handled so many things really well with what they brought to the team — the energy, the competitive spirit was so infectious. They made our team better.”