John Keen, Staff Writer
When Tony Romo injured his back in a preseason game against Seattle on August 26, the Dallas Cowboys’ season outlook was grim. Their 14-year veteran quarterback was injured and they had no experienced backups on the roster.
Dallas was faced with two options: trade for a more experienced quarterback or start 2016 third-round draft pick out of Mississippi State, Dak Prescott. While Dallas did pick up veteran Mark Sanchez who was cut by Denver just a week before, the Cowboys did the latter and tabbed Prescott to be their starter.
Fast-forward eight weeks into the season and Dallas is 7-1 and sitting atop the NFC East.
While the Cowboys’ strong defense and electric running by fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliot have certainly carried some of the load, Prescott’s play has been far from mediocre.
In Dallas’s Week 6 win over the Green Bay Packers, Prescott broke Tom Brady’s record for most completions without throwing an interception to start a career.
Although Prescott has thrown two interceptions since breaking Brady’s record, his 4.5 touchdown to interception ratio still sits at fifth-best in the NFL. Prescott has also shown good mobility, rushing for over 100 yards and four touchdowns on the rare occasion Dallas’s stout offensive line loses containment.
Dallas is now faced with another dilemma. Romo, the 4-time Pro Bowler, is set to return from his back injury in the coming weeks. Does Dallas ride with their new found gunslinger or turn the reins back over to Romo?
Statistically, although his sample size is much smaller than Romo’s, Prescott is the superior quarterback. Prescott has greater mobility, a higher quarterback rating and more average yards completed per attempt.
Being fair to Romo, Prescott has had the benefit of Dallas’s revamped offensive line in his short career, while Romo has only benefited from its protection for the last few seasons.
Even looking at Romo’s four games played last season, he is still statistically inferior to Prescott’s production.
Furthermore, with Romo being healthy, Scott Linehan, Dallas’s offensive coordinator, can really open up the playbook by installing more Prescott-Elliot read option plays, a set Dallas has avoided this season due to fear of injuring Prescott.
Prescott’s rushing numbers are above average, but they could be better. With Romo providing Pro-Bowl-level insurance in case of an unfortunate Prescott injury, look for Prescott’s rushing numbers to skyrocket.
An improved run-pass option could ascend Dallas’s offense to scary heights and Prescott’s statistical output to MVP levels.
Dallas has won seven straight games under Prescott since dropping the season opener to division rival New York Giants. Changing signal callers now, even for the veteran Romo, could cause unwanted chemistry issues for Dallas’s offense both on and off the field.
Prescott is also very young, just 23 years old, and replacing him with Romo could shatter his confidence going forward. And with Romo’s propensity of getting injured, Prescott’s services may still be required this season even if he is replaced.
Dallas’s decision will not be easy, but the choice is clear: keep playing Dak Prescott.