Five thoughts on the Cowboys, who are 6-1 after beating Philadelphia:
Rolling with Dak:
Jerry Jones is not going to pull a Jimmy Johnson and say “put it in 3-inch headlines.” He doesn’t need to do that. But make no mistake, the looming quarterback decision has already been made. Jones acknowledged as much on his radio show on KRLD 105.3 FM “The Fan” Tuesday morning when he talked about being mindful of the hot hand and the chemistry. Rookie Dak Prescott will remain the team’s quarterback even when four-time Pro Bowler Tony Romo is cleared to return from a fractured bone in his back. “So you want to be very mindful of what you’ve got going,” Jones said. “Right now we’ve got a lot of chemistry going and that’s got to be really recognized if you’re making that decision.” Jones, however, admitted that the opportunity exists for the Cowboys to have more success this season than anytime during Romo’s career in Dallas. Jones is already thinking Super Bowl and as much as he is appreciative of what Romo has done for the franchise — in addition to how much he is paying him — the facts are that the Cowboys have only won two playoff games in Romo’s career.
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Prescott took a page from Romo’s playbook with the spin move at the end of the game that set up his winning touchdown pass to Jason Witten in the 29-23 overtime victory against Philadelphia. Prescott rallied the team to victory after a horrid start, conjuring up memories of Romo for coach Jason Garrett. He said when he thinks of Romo’s best game, he thinks of a 25-24 victory against the Buffalo Bills in 2007. Romo was intercepted five times and lost a fumble, but he still led the Cowboys to a game-winning field goal. “The best quarterbacks I’ve been around, sometimes people get caught up in the games where they have all these gaudy statistics,” Garrett said “They throw for 300 or 400 yards and four or five touchdowns. And everyone says, ‘Wow, that was the best game he’s ever played.’ The ones that I remember most are the ones where guys had to fight through things or it wasn’t great early on and they had to somehow, some way, find a way to help their team win the game.”
The runner matters
The more Garrett talks, the more you know it was not his decision to let DeMarco Murray walk in free agency following his record-breaking 2014 season when he rushed for 1,845 yards. When Garrett talks weekly about the play of rookie Ezekiel Elliott, every time people bring up the dominant play of the offensive line, he also points out that ‘the runner matters.’ ” That’s a nod to Elliott. But it’s also a nod to Murray in 2014 and his absence from the team in 2015. The line was the same, but the running game and how the team ran the offense was not. Sure, the Cowboys finished ninth in the league in rushing and Darren McFadden had 1,089 yards and averaged 4.6 yards a carry, but it wasn’t to the level of Murray in 2014. And it’s certainly not close to what Elliott is doing this season with 799 yards in seven games to lead the league in rushing. The runner matters and it has meant all the difference in the world to the offense and Garrett, who can be more aggressive with his play-calling and take more fourth-down gambles.
Witten’s special day
With all the talk of the youth movement in the locker room and how much Elliott and Prescott give the team contagious energy, the leadership and love for 14-year veteran Jason Witten shouldn’t be overlooked. Dez Bryant said last week during a chat at his locker that they Cowboys don’t do anything without Witten’s approval. That is no slight to Romo, but Romo missed 12 games last season and has not been around this season as the team evolved without him. Witten has been here throughout and is the longest-tenured player. He set the team record for most consecutive starts and will soon have the team record for starts overall. He is respected by everyone in the locker room because of what he has done as a 10-time Pro Bowler, and as the team’s all-time leading receiver. Witten doesn’t put up the numbers like he did in the past, but no one works harder and does more for the Cowboys. It was fitting that Witten caught the game-winning touchdown from Prescott to cap the 29-23 victory against the Eagles in his record-breaking start. But he also played arguably his best game of the season against the Eagles because of the little stuff he did in the game, such as blocking defensive end Vinny Curry.
The Cowboys were one of many teams called by the New York Jets in their quest to trade defensive end Sheldon Richardson. One reason the Cowboys had no interest in Richardson is they can’t afford him, a source said. Richardson has a $1.6 million base salary this year. He is in the final year of his contract and is looking for a payday in free agency. The Cowboys aren’t going to give up draft picks or a player for a half-year rental.