Mike McCarthy joined the Cowboys three years ago. Every offensive decision the head coach has made since then has been designed to make the system as comfortable as possible for Dak Prescott.
Maybe it’s time to make the quarterback a little uncomfortable.
We are not talking about moving forward. This is not justified at this point. Besides, Prescott’s contract structure makes that hugely impractical.
But it’s time to get to know who Prescott is seven seasons into his career. The Cowboys quarterback is better than most, but he’s not sublime. He can win you a big game but also lose you.
Prescott became annoyed earlier this season when asked about his erratic performance, pausing for an unusually long time before finding a polite way to answer. Several days later, after one of his best regular season performances, he addressed the unsolicited question in his post-game press conference.
Prescott’s gameplay against Tampa Bay is good enough to beat any team in this league in a meaningful game. How did he play against San Francisco on Sunday and in the playoffs last year?
There is little doubt that Dallas would have beaten the 49ers if Prescott had come close to his performance against the Pirates. This is the issue. Which quarterback will the Cowboys get?
This turns the conversation into finding the best staff to brief Prescott and how much freedom should be given – or restrictions imposed – within the system.
Is the coaching staff asking too much of him? Does the system itself need to be changed? Will Prescott benefit by listening to different voices?
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has been with him in some capacity from the start. Doug Neusmeyer has been his quarterbacks coach since McCarthy’s arrival. Moore had one year left on his contract. Nusmayer’s contract is set to expire.
Moore and Nosemer are very good at their jobs. But perception can become reality when dealing with a keen interest in a cowboy.
Owner Jerry Jones isn’t going anywhere. Neither McCarthy nor Prescott. This turns into a coordinator or coach level change to the situation to signal to the players and fans that a different outcome is possible.
The outcries on Twitter tended to focus on how Prescott needed help on the field. Most treat Amari Cooper’s trade to Cleveland as a regulation offense and argue that Dallas tied the quarterback’s hands behind his back and made it more difficult for him to win.
Cooper is better than any receiver on the current roster other than his name is CeeDee Lamb. But ask yourself this question: How often did the Cowboys advance past the divisional round when Prescott and Cooper were together?
Prescott must also ask himself some tough questions. He’s clearly a better quarterback now than he was when he entered the NFL in 2016. Why is he less efficient?
Maybe the focus should be on getting Prescott back to the quarterback he was in rather than on why he hasn’t improved. Maybe he needs to adjust his risk/reward compass.
Not perhaps on that last point. Do.
Jones expressed his unconditional support for Prescott—as did McCarthy—at the pop-up press conference held outside the Cowboys locker room immediately after Sunday’s loss. A smaller group of reporters followed Jones out of the stadium on his way to the car, asking several more questions about his thoughts on Prescott’s performance and his belief in fourth place going forward.
“You’re asking me, I guess, how I feel confident out there with Duck,” Jones said. “She’s as strong as ever.
“It’s great to be there.”
A few minutes later, Prescott held his press conference. He was, as always, responsible for his performance. When asked directly what it would take for the Cowboys to get past the divisional round, a hurdle he had been unable to clear in three games, Prescott willingly offered that he should play better.
“That simple,” he said.
This is the simple part. The hard part is knowing what needs to change for that to happen.
These are the complex conversations that will take place at The Star in the coming days and weeks. It’s time for everyone, including Prescott, to feel uncomfortable.
“All I can think about now is this match and how disappointed I am with my game at this point,” he said.
Cleaning day at the Dallas Cowboys viewing room
Catch David Moore and Robert Wilonsky as they co-host Intensive Grounding on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) every Wednesday at 7pm during Cowboys season.
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