On November 15th, 2016, the Dallas Cowboys All Time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, Tony Romo took to the podium for an abrupt press conference he himself had called for earlier that day. Romo, despite numerous accolades and fourth quarter comeback wins over his decade+ career, will always be remembered, right or wrong, for his lack of postseason success. In spite of this, his numbers should hopefully make an an eventual Hall of Famer. This is important context to remember when evaluating Dak Prescott as a quarterback. Why? Because Romo was a dynamic passer who could not only make all of the throws but whose tremendous down-field accuracy, in particular, allowed him to maximize talents like Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Dak, meanwhile, is a different animal at quarterback, and it’s likely that had he followed any recent Cowboy quarterback other than Romo, his detractors would be far fewer in number. But let’s be clear: Dak is no push-over.

In 2 seasons, Prescott racked up 57 total touchdowns (45 passing, 12 rushing) against just 17 interceptions (1.8 INT %). He’s also completed 65.2% of his passes to the tune of 6,991 yards, good for just over 218 yards per contest. As a rookie, he won 13 games (most All-Time), helped his team earn the 1 seed in the NFC, and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. In his lone playoff game, Prescott threw for 302 yards on 24 of 38 passing with 3 touchdowns and 1 INT. Along he way, he was forced to rally his team from a 21-3 deficit and even managed to tie the game. In the end, it came down to Aaron Rodgers besting the Cowboys defense (a recent trend the past few seasons).

In year 2, Dak started relatively strong overall, though his deep ball accuracy left something to be desired (Rams and Giants games in first few weeks). What ultimately undid the young QB last season was the suspension of his Pro Bowl running back, Ezekiel Elliott, who had led the league in rushing the previous season, as well as groin and back injuries to perennial All Pro, Tyron Smith. Over the final 8 games of the 2017 season, Smith and Elliott shared the field for just 3 snaps, removing not only Prescott’s safety valve, but his blindside protection as well. This was never more evident than Dallas’s crushing 27-7 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons where Prescott was sacked 9 times in total and 6 times by Smith’s fill-ins, Chaz Green and Byron Bell respectively. This was the first time in his short career that Prescott’s stellar offensive line had utterly failed to protect him, and the result moving forward was happy feet within the pocket, rushed throws, and a tendency to rely more on his legs than his arm in the second half of the season. As such, his numbers would drop off sharply.

Dak Prescott’s 2017 Season

First 8 Games227.25 YPG62.9% Completion16 Touchdowns4 Interceptions4 Rushing TDs
Final 8 Games188.25 YPG62.8% Completion6 Touchdowns9 Interceptions2 Rushing TDs

Though Elliott would return with 2 games remaining, Smith would remain absent, save for 3 snaps vs Seattle. This is not to excuse Prescott’s drop off in production. To go from 228 YPG all the way to 188 is staggering, as is 10 fewer touchdowns with 5 more picks. But when comparing Prescott’s body of work, you must look at the entire pick rather than the final 8 games. We have 33 total games of Dak Prescott film to dig through. So let’s compare his production of his first 25 games vs his final 8.

Re-examining Dak Prescott through 2 seasons

First 25 Games231.5 YPG65.8% Completion26 Touchdowns9 Interceptions10 Rushing TDs
Final 8 Games188.25 YPG62.8% Completion6 Touchdowns9 Interceptions2 Rushing TDs

The narrative changes significantly when taking Dak’s 2016 season, plus one playoff game, into consideration. The above table lays out every regular season or post season game Dak Prescott has played, with the conclusion being that just over two-thirds of his career have produced strong numbers. So why do the last 8 games stand out so strongly for his defectors? Well, there’s the whole “what have you done for me lately” perspective, but buying into such a mentality is reactionary rather than analytical. He played poorly during that stretch, this is true, and my laying out his stats through his first 25 games wasn’t to imply he never played a poor game during that stretch but merely to show that his production was strong overall during that time. And let’s not forget he won 18 of those first 25 games. Overall, he’s 22-11 as a starter, playoffs included. It’s not a super-elite number at this point but it’s hardly the win-loss record of a scrub like many unfairly label him to be.

In fact, let’s compare Dak’s numbers through 2 seasons against some other QBs around the league, including one guy who is only on here because Dak haters want to suggest he’s somehow better than Prescott. you’ll know who it is when you see his name…

NOTE: This will be a regular season analysis only as comparing playoff games when one guy has 1 game and another has several makes for an uneven playing field.

 

Through 2 Seasons as a Starter

Dak Prescott

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
3222-106,991218.565.2%4517

 

Blake Bortles

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
308-217,336244.558.7%4635

The Bortles comparison is ridiculous at face value. Sure, wins and losses are more reliant on the team than a single player, although I would argue QBs are asked -neigh, demanded to shoulder the brunt of that responsibility, but looking down the line, few other stats match up. Bortles has 1 more touchdown pass, granted, but he also threw twice as many picks with a completion percentage nearly 7 full points lower to boot. And if you factor in rushing touchdowns, Dak has 57 total touchdowns compared to Bortles’s 2. It’s not even a question. I’ll do you one better though. Let’s look at Bortles the past TWO seasons.

 

Blake Bortles Past 2 Seasons

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
3213-167,592237.559.5%4429

Again, there is no comparison. Dak has 9 more wins, a better completion percentage, and 57 total touchdowns versus 46 for Bortles while tossing 12 fewer picks. There’s a reason Bortles has long been considered the king of garbage-time stat padding.

Let’s take a look at another young QB within the division, one who was playing like the league MVP last season before suffering a torn ACL.

 

Carson Wentz

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
2918-117,078244.161.5%4921

Wentz is a really good comparison through two seasons as both QBs have had one season with a loaded team and one with a weaker team. Wentz went 7-9 as a rookie while Dak went 9-7 as a sophomore. Wentz edges Dak in touchdown passes but also picks. As far as a pure passer is concerned, he’s the better prospect, but through two seasons of total production, this is a tighter comparison than most fans realize.

 

Marcus Mariota

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
2711-166,244231.261.6%4519

 

In his first two seasons, Mariota put up big numbers that are on par with Dak’s production, save for the win-loss record. Were we to expand this chart to feature his third season, Dak would stand out considerably given Mariota had a poor season last year with more INTs than TDs. Still, for their first two seasons, this is close to a push. Mariota wins the yardage battle but Dak holds down the fort in completion percentage and fewer interceptions. Also, 11 more rushing touchdowns. So there’s that.

 

Cam Newton

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
3213-197,920247.558.8%4029

A perfect example of volume stats, Cam had damn near 1,000 more passing yards than Dak had in their first two seasons. The difference, however, is that Dak has a sizable edge in completion percentage and interceptions, with more touchdowns through the air to boot. Where Cam overtakes Prescott is in rushing touchdowns, where he added an incredible 26 TDs on the ground during that span.

 

Aaron Rodgers

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
3217-158,472264.7564.2%5820

Here we have our first blowout against Dak. And you’ll notice he’s being compared with an elite-level quarterback, which no one has ever accused Prescott of being. Rodgers might have seen 7 games of action over three years in the lead up to Bret Favre retiring and him becoming the man, but when he finally was tapped, he hit the ground at a full sprint. Just goes to show the value of letting a guy sit 2-3 years sometimes.

 

Drew Brees

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
2710-175,392199.759.5%2831

We all know how good Drew Brees has been in this league, and for a very long time at that, but few realize he didn’t really break through until he came to New Orleans and joined with Sean Payton in 2006. Dak actually beats Brees in every category on this list. Color me surprised.

 

Tom Brady

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
3020-106,607220.262.8%4626

No one will question Tom Brady’s status as an All Time great. As far as quarterbacks are concerned in NFL history, he’s easily top 3, with many making a solid case for him being number 1 overall. But look at the numbers here. We had a New England Super Bowl title in this two year window and his stats look remarkably similar to Dak’s. Interestingly, it was Brady’s NFL record for most passing before throwing his career interception that Dak broke as a rookie in 2016, and through the first two years of their career, no one has had a better TD-INT ratio that Prescott in NFL history. Just food for thought…

PS. No, I’m not saying Dak is a Tom Brady pure pocket-passing QB. Moving on.

 

Matt Ryan

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
3020-106,356211.959.7%3825

Matty Ice might have missed out on a real chance to cement his legacy when his Atlanta Falcons choked away a historic Super Bowl lead a couple of years ago, but no one questions his status as a top-tier QB. But even for Matt Ryan, the numbers reflect in Prescott’s favor. Save for a better win percentage, Dak beats out Ryan across the board through their first two seasons.

 

Tony Romo

Games StartedW-LYardsYards Per GameCompletion PercentageTouchdownsInterceptions
2619-77,114273.664.8%5532

This is why Dak Prescott is so harshly judged in my opinion. As you’ve seen his stats through two seasons have gone toe to toe with almost every quarterback on this list, save for the ulta-elite Aaron Rodgers and Tony. Cam also outpaced Dak comfortably but he was on bad teams in which he was allowed to pad his stats his first two seasons. As for Romo, he didn’t play in his first game until year 3, and damn near didn’t even make the team his first two seasons. But it was his prolific passing over the course of a decade that set the standard for QB play in Dallas this side of the millennium. A better win percentage than Dak in two seasons with 55 more yards passing per game. Yes, when factoring in rushing touchdowns, Dak actually equals Romo with 57 -and almost half as many picks in the process- but Romo, despite being more of a down-field passer, is still RIGHT THERE with Dak in terms of completion percentage. That, as much as anything, is what the detractors see.

The fact is, if Tony Romo’s body hadn’t been broken down by years of poor offensive line play and no run game, he might have been the right guy to lead Dallas in 2016 and beyond. But that wasn’t the case. Romo suffered major injuries in each of his last four seasons, and that doesn’t even include his back issues throughout the three straight 8-8 seasons from 2011-2013. But even if Romo hadn’t ever suffered those injuries, the thought that a 38 year old quarterback would be your starter today over a guy like Dak Prescott is foolish to think.

The primary purpose of this article is to illustrate that while Dak had a rough -and I mean rough second half of the season in 2017, his overall production is still in keeping with some of the best QBs in the game at that point in their careers. Really, the only guys who blew him out of the water were guys were sat and were groomed for 2-3 seasons in Romo and Rodgers. Does Dak need to improve? Absolutely. The entire team needs to bounce back after a disappointing 2017 season, and Dak is at or near the very top of that list. You know who also needs to be better? The coaching staff. The receiving corps. The running back stable (namely Zeke needs to be healthy and not suspended). The offensive line. The defense. I could go on.

Jan 15, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws as running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) blocks during the game against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

From top to bottom, Dallas needs to improve on a subpar season. Dak, as the quarterback is, unfairly or not, going to be the face of that failure, just as Romo was before him. If the team wins and makes a deep playoff run or wins a title, Dak will be heralded as a star. If not, he’ll be known as a guy who couldn’t win the big one, like Tony. That’s just the way it is for quarterbacks in the NFL. But to look at Dak’s performance through two seasons and label him a failure is ridiculous. The only way one could make such a statement would be if he turned in another largely uneven, statically declining season like this previous one. If that happens, then we’ll have about a 50/50 comparison for his career between good to great play and average to poor play. At that point, it could very well be time to worry. Until then, just let the kid play. Give him time to grow as a man and as a player before you declare him something.