The last time fans at AT&T Stadium saw Dak Prescott in uniform, he was chewing on a towel with tears streaming down his face. (I sat in my living room with my own tears running freely.) We all remember Oct. 11 of last year. In a matchup against the Giants, No. 4 was devastatingly carted off the field after failing to shove his nearly severed foot back in place as it dangled sickeningly from his shin. The compound fracture in his ankle was one of the more gruesome injuries you could ever see. In an instant, the quarterback who was then on pace for an impossible 6,500-yard passing season had played his last down of the year. On Monday, in front of 93,000 of the Cowboys faithful, after a year of rehab, grind, and guts, our hero finally returned home. As he had through the first two games this season, Prescott put on a show, leading his team to a 41-21 stomping of the hated Philadelphia Eagles.
On national television, the Cowboys embarrassed Philly in a lopsided affair that, by my count, really should have been closer to 52-7. That’s if you grant Dak the touchdown he was robbed of and add Greg Zuerlein’s missed PAT and the field goal they could (should) have been able to kick before the half. The offense moved the ball at will and went five of six in red-zone efficiency, a major improvement over previous weeks. The defense stood tall, especially in the absence of several key starters, getting key turnovers and even a defensive touchdown. The play-calling by coordinators on both sides of the ball was even so good it again neutralized the infuriating clock-management of Head Coach Mike McCarthy, an issue that seems to become more glaring by the week. Special teams continues to be a groan-inducing affair, but that’s just a tiny little fly in the Cowboys’ Preparation H.
So get hype! There’s lots to feel good about from Monday’s game. The Cowboys boast a practically laughable wealth of weapons on offense, and on defense, cornerback Trevon Diggs and he-seems-to-already-be-able-to-do-it-all linebacker/defensive end Micah Parsons are emerging as legitimate flat-out playmakers. Couple this with the apparent bottom-dwelling quality of the rest of the NFC East, and Dallas is all but assured the division crown and a playoff appearance. Yet it’s the play of one individual in particular that really gives the Cowboys the upside they appear to have: that same Rayne Dakota Prescott.
Because we live in a bizarro period when time seems to have lost all meaning and we are collectively unsure of what exact month or year it is at any given moment, you might be forgiven if you were under the impression that the last 11 and a half months didn’t happen and that Prescott has just been continuing on that 6,500-yard pace begun a year ago. Make no mistake, Dak is still playing at an extremely high level, but it’s what he’s not doing that really tells the tale of how far he’s seemed to jump. He’s quickly gone from his brief flirtation with being Brett Favre Deux last year into a legitimate elite player at his position.
Through three games, his stats aren’t necessarily crazy (if you ignore the otherworldly 78% completion percentage!). It’s in his absolute control of the game, his calm and presence in the pocket, his decision-making, and his unparalleled leadership that he’s really displaying the stratospheric level of his performance. He’s now managed to match all the intangibles we always knew he possessed with a seemingly unshakable command of the physical skills required of his position as well. His reads, his accuracy, his touch, and, most importantly, his patience have been massively elevated. Instead of forcing Mahomes-ian heroics, Dak is just playing the game the opposing defense is allowing him, and that is almost more difficult. It appears eerily close to the same kind of command of the game that Tom Brady has. (Save it. I’m not saying Dak is Brady and putting his bust next to TB12’s in Canton … yet. I’m simply pointing out the similarity in what is making them successful this year. And those similarities are plentiful.)
The ankle is ancient history. Dak is not just back. He’s progressed into elitehood. I’ve had him as a lock for Comeback Player of the Year since basically Oct. 12 last year. If he keeps up the performance he’s managed through the first three weeks of the season, you can add MVP to the list of hardware he has a chance to accrue. It might also be enough to have him compete for that coveted shiny silver football to go along with the haul.