Dallas Cowboys

Why Cowboys QB coach Jon Kitna is right choice to get the most out of Dak Prescott

The Dallas Cowboys are so committed to Dak Prescott as their franchise quarterback that they are already in talks to sign him to a long-term contract extension worth upwards of $30 million annually.

The Cowboys truly believe in Prescott three years after picking him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and watching him lead them to two division titles and 32 victories.

But they don’t believe for one second that he is a finished product. Owner Jerry Jones said part of their excitement in trying to sign him to a new deal is betting on Prescott’s upside.

Well, the man they have put in charge of maximizing their soon-to-be, multi-million dollar investment is quarterback coach Jon Kitna, a 16-year NFL veteran who had 124 starts with the Seahawks, Bengals, Lions, and Cowboys. He has coached high schools in Washington, Texas, and Arizona since his retirement.

Kitna is a quarterback technician who loves teaching and who learned from the best.

He played for such notable offensive coaches as Dennis Erickson, Mike Holmgren, Mike Sherman, and Mike Martz before finishing his career with the Cowboys under coach Jason Garrett.

“I think he was coached really well during his career,” Garrett said. “He was well trained when he was a player. He was around Mike Martz a lot of his career and a lot of other really good coaches. He really knows the quarterback position well. I think that is why he was able to play as long as he did. And for as well as he did. I think that is an important foundation that he had.

“He loves coaching. He loves teaching. He loves being around people. He is a smart guy. He is smart about quarterbacks. I think he will do a good job relating to not only Dak, but the other quarterbacks and help them grow.”

Kitna started developing a bond with Prescott at the Pro Bowl in January and continued with the start of the off-season program last month. He likes his work ethic and desire to get better and be great.

”He already has an elite mindset,” Kitna said during last weekend’s rookie minicamp. “He doesn’t want to just be good enough or very good or great. He wants to be the best. He wants to eliminate anything that maybe he sees as a weakness.”

Kitna enjoyed coaching high schools. But he couldn’t pass up this opportunity when the Cowboys called. And he is ready to coach in the NFL because of the increased level of understanding and attention to detail.

“Yeah, it’s hard in high school to get those kids to understand that the smallest little details matter,” Kitna said. “At the pro level, they do understand. They understand when you have to take a different hitch and that affects things down the field. I never really coached quarterbacks in high school because I knew I would be too technical for them and they wouldn’t be able to understand it. Here, these guys are really working hard at eliminating false steps.

“My example is always (Cowboys tight end) Jason Witten. He’s going to the Hall of Fame because he eliminated false steps. It’s the same thing we want to do at quarterback.”

And there is no better person to help Prescott get to the next step than Kitna, who finished his NFL career with 29,745 passing yards, 169 touchdowns, 165 interceptions, and a 77.4 passer rating.

He has seen it all and done it all. The good and bad.

“I’m not going to sit back here with a clicker and go ‘Come on, that’s easy,’” Kitna said during minicamp. “There’s nothing easy about playing that position. I can tell them, ‘I’ve already paid that cost for you. You don’t even need to look at that route when we get this coverage. I’ve already done that. I threw that pick. Go somewhere else.’”
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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.