Here’s the odd sidelight to Sunday’s seemingly meaningless regular-season finale between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dak Prescott, the best statistical rookie quarterback in NFL history, will at some point in the game give way to Tony Romo, the best statistical quarterback in Cowboys history.
Romo will never be able to achieve the best NFL quarterback title because of his lack of postseason success and Super Bowl hardware.
A case can be made, however, that Prescott has already had the best rookie season of any quarterback in NFL history.
But he could render the argument moot if he does something no other rookie has ever accomplished: Lead his team to a Super Bowl title.
Hall of Famer Dan Marino was the first rookie quarterback to start in the Pro Bowl. Prescott was voted to the Pro Bowl too, but winning the Super Bowl as a rookie is the only feat Prescott cares about and the one he hopes to repeat every year.
“That’s obvious,” Prescott says with a chuckle. “I want to be the first to win a Super Bowl every year of his career. I want to win the most Super Bowls of all.”
Of course, he does.
But first things first. The Cowboys have one more game before starting the playoffs in two weeks after a first-round bye as the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
And right now what Prescott has done through 15 games in leading the Cowboys (13-2) to the best record in the NFL heading into Sunday’s season finale is already unmatched in NFL history.
He is No. 1 all time for a rookie in completion percentage (68.1), passer rating (105.7), touchdown-to-interception ratio (23-4) and interception percentage (0.89).
His 13 wins as a rookie are tied for first with Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. A win Sunday will have him owning that category outright as well.
And this is not even including his other top five rookie rankings: He’s fifth in passing yards, tied for third in touchdown passes (23), third in yards per attempt and fourth in passing yards per game.
He’s also tied for fourth with six rushing touchdowns.
“This is one of the finest seasons you’ve seen as a rookie quarterback probably in the history of the NFL,” Cowboys 10-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten said. “It would be tough to argue that statement and he deserves a lot of credit for that, [with] his ability to come in and understand the situation he had, embrace that challenge and play really good football. He deserves a lot of credit. He’d be quick to point out the other people around him on the offense who’ve helped, but it starts at that position. This is a quarterback driven league and he’s played it at a high, high level.”
Prescott is admittedly humbled by all he has accomplished as a rookie and his whirlwind ride since being taken as a fourth-round project from Mississippi State before being thrust into the starting role and subsequently thriving.
He’s too focused on what is left to accomplish to take it all in.
“It’s something I will look back on later in life and be proud of and be humbled,” Prescott said before pausing to reflect. “It’s humbling now. But my objective in this sport is team. Quarterback records are a reflection of the team. Football is the ultimate team game. It takes 11 people doing their job, especially in my situation … It goes to the system. It goes to the guys around me who are getting open and beating coverage.
“The line is protecting … the run game that is giving up open looks in the passing game. It’s being drafted and put in a good situation, as much as anything.”
Prescott readily acknowledges he is the product of a good situation with three Pro Bowl offensive linemen, the league’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott and a deep receiver corps that includes the game-breaking Dez Bryant and Witten.
But as offensive coordinator Scott Linehan points out, Prescott’s and the Cowboys’ success is also about what he’s done and how he’s performed.
He said Prescott has rare poise, perspective and work ethic that has helped him be successful as a rookie and should sustain his success for years to come.
“First of all, give him credit for that,” Linehan said. “He has come in and performed. That is what the job is. Second of all, he's got some good pieces around him. That's enabled him to have some success. He is the first person to credit everybody but himself. And that is his greatest trait.
“But I tell him to give himself credit once in a while. You have done your part in this too. The pieces around him that we have, from the front guys to the skill guys, defensive support, special teams support, those things all fit in to a quarterback playing at a high level.
“Ultimately at the end of the day, he's got to execute that. He has been able to do that. I give him credit first. He's the first person to credit everybody around him for his early success. I don't see that changing.”
Cowboys at Eagles
Noon Sunday, KDFW/4