Mr. Romo, you are officially on notice. Whenever you come back from two back surgeries, the end of your career could look a lot like the start, on the bench as the No. 2.
Of all the developments thus far in the 2016 NFL season, none has been any more of a godsend or a surprise than Dak Prescott.
Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Charlotte and Jason Garrett should all be ashamed of themselves — they are asking Dak Prescott to be Tony Romo and the man just completed his second NFL game. The amazing part is he did it, and looks like he could do it again and again.
Dak is not Romo, but he is saving the Cowboys in what should already be a lost season. On Sunday in the Cowboys’ 27-23 win over the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys executed the “2014 Game Plan” because the game, somehow, is not too big for Rayne Prescott.
The Cowboys are 1-1 because their rookie quarterback played like a veteran, and was better than the guy on the other side, Kirk Cousins.
“It’s amazing y’all keep asking me the same question about him,” receiver Dez Bryant said. “Dak is an amazing player. I understand to say, ‘He’s a rookie,’ but he’s an amazing guy.”
The Cowboys might have indeed found the NFL version of the Ark of the Covenant, the quality rookie quarterback.
Prescott completed 22 of 30 passes for 292 yards and scored on a touchdown run. He did not throw for a touchdown, but his 9.73 yards per pass attempt demonstrates he was throwing the ball down the field rather than settling for the types of safe throws that are good enough for not much.
“He’s looking to throw and not looking to run,” Jerry said after the game.
Rookie quarterbacks who have the ability to run usually can’t sit still long enough to wait for a pass play to develop. Thus far, and it does help he has a good line in front of him, Dak has not panicked.
Trailing 23-20 with 10:35 remaining in the game, Prescott was handed a perfect chance to panic and lose the game. Rather than throw a typical rookie interception, he moved the Cowboys 80 yards in 11 plays for the game-winning score.
“He gives us a chance to execute on ball plays because the demeanor that he plays with is infectious throughout our team,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “Guys see that and respond.”
Having already fed Bryant seven times for 102 yards, it was Prescott’s pass to Cole Beasley on third-and-11 that was the type of throw rookies don’t normally make.
Prescott hit Beasley with a hard, perfectly thrown ball toward the sidelines that takes guts, heat and accuracy. Running back Alfred Morris scored on a 4-yard touchdown run two plays later for the game-winning score.
Rookie fourth-round draft pick quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be this good. In fact, rookie quarterbacks are not supposed to be good. This is example No. 343,3410,034 why “NFL Draft Boards” are merely a fun waste of time. The only bigger fun waste of time in sports are college recruiting rankings.
The rookie who was supposed to make the Cowboys a playoff contender was running back Zeke Elliott, not the quarterback who entered training camp No. 3 on the depth chart.
“It’s been fun,” Prescott said. “I come in and focus on the moment, focus on the day and just try to live in the moment. I have great people around me to help me do that.”
Start with Dez Bryant, his offensive line and Elliott.
Zeke made a nice second impression on Sunday with 83 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown, but he also had a pair of second-half fumbles.
Of the many amazing and surprising statistics compiled by Prescott in his first two games, none is any more shocking than this: Zero. Prescott has committed zero turnovers in his first two NFL games.
Despite throwing the ball 45 times in the season opener against the New York Giants, and 30 times against the Redskins, none of them have been intercepted. He has had at least three passes that could have been picked, but so far he’s clean with a 62.7 percent completion rate.
Throw in the additional three times he’s run the ball and the fact he is not responsible for a single turnover is astounding. All that ball security does is breed confidence in himself, and in his coaches to call plays normally reserved for veterans.
If there is one thing NFL rookie quarterbacks can be counted on to do is to throw a pick, or fumble the ball. It’s going to happen but Prescott is pristine.
Zeke actually took care of the fumbles — he coughed it up twice in the second half, only because right tackle Doug Free is great at falling did the Cowboys keep one of them.
In all, the Cowboys’ win on Sunday looked similar to so many of their wins in 2014 when they were 12-4: Get the lead, run the ball, throw it to Dez, force the other team to pass, get a pick, win the game.
The one striking difference, of course, is that there was no Romo to orchestrate it all.
It’s a kid from Mississippi State who is currently saving everyone’s hide by playing far above the norm for a rookie quarterback.
“Players have their time,” defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford said. “If they are good, they’re good and he’s not going to be slowed down because of his status as a rookie.”
And as such, provided things do continue to properly evolve for Dak, Tony Romo should be on notice that he might again be the backup.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.