Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Rick Cleveland: Dak faces his first pro test

It was going to happen sooner or later. It happened to Dak Prescott in his 12th NFL game. Finally, he did not play well enough to win.

On a frigid night and frozen field in New Jersey, the Dallas Cowboys finally lost a game and their rookie quarterback, the toast of the NFL for the three months running, looked ordinary. The New York Giants, playing superb defense, won 10-7.

What happened during the game was as predictable as a fourth-down-and-20-to-go punt. On TV, NBC cameras began to show Tony Romo, the back-up quarterback, on the sidelines. On Twitter, armchair quarterbacks suggested the Cowboys should change quarterbacks. In post-game interviews, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked about whether or not he thought about changing quarterbacks. (“No,” he answered.)

All this week, Prescott vs. Romo will provide fodder for talk radio, ad nauseum.

It is the one constant in football besides bruises: The most popular player in the sport is the back-up quarterback. The starting quarterback, no matter who he is, always gets too much blame – and, yes – too much credit – for what happens. He is the most important player on the field, but he is still one of 11.

Prescott, the former Mississippi State standout, was off Sunday night. Sometimes, he threw too late. Sometimes, he threw too high. Sometimes, he threw into coverage. Sometimes, he threw when he might have been better served to run. He threw two interceptions, which was as many as he had thrown in 12 previous games. The Giants defense caused a lot of it. And, again, the playing conditions were terrible. Eli Manning, the Giants quarterback who has won two Super Bowls, had similar problems. Several times, it seemed both quarterbacks had trouble gripping the ball.

Prescott was true to his character afterward. He shouldered the blame, said he played poorly. He said that he is own toughest critic. Importantly, his teammates, his coaches and his owner backed him. The big story would have been had they not.

Let's not forget Prescott led the Cowboys to 11 straight victories between two losses to the Giants. Let's not forget he has thrown 20 touchdowns, just four interceptions.

And let's not forget that every quarterback who has ever played in the NFL, including Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, John Elway, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning has had similar games. Tony Romo, himself, has had more than we can count.

It comes with the territory. Quarterbacks have more chances to make mistakes than anyone else in the game and they make them. Occasionally, they burn the toast. Sunday night, for really the first time in his young NFL career, Prescott burned the toast. He had a bad game.

And let's also not forget to credit the New York Giants defense. The G-Men were everywhere. The defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuola, dialed up a perfect gameplan. Sometimes, on a given night in sports, the other guy is just better. This night, the Giants were better.

So now, the 11-2 Cowboys have a two-game division lead with three games to play over the 9-4 Giants. The Cowboys, playing with a rookie, fourth round draft choice at quarterback, still had the best record in pro football heading into Week 14.

And so now we will see how Dak Prescott responds to what really is his first experience at NFL failure. His situation will be magnified because he is the quarterback of the Cowboys, who are paying Romo $18 million this season to stand on the sidelines.

This Sunday night, the Cowboys play in primetime again, at home against Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston, winners of five straight games.

And the first time Prescott misses a pass, the cameras will pan in on Romo on the sidelines. Count on it.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

#dak for mvp

Anonymous said...

Could be worse for the Cowboys. They could be stuck with Brees.

Anonymous said...

Won't be long before Jerry figures out a way to insert his fair haired boy Romo.

Anonymous said...

Cowboys game plan has been unimaginative w/ using Dak's legs for most of season. Understandable to not risk his injury w/ a bell cow like Elliott in backfield but w/ Dak averaging nearly 5 YPC (and we KNOW he can run some) it was stupid to not rush him after Giants had shut down Elliott in second half.

Anonymous said...

Has Cleveland got Cam Akers winning the SuperBowl yet?

Anonymous said...

This is not a new story. There are many cases of young players who light it up their rookie year only to be brought down to earth. Vince Young comes to mind, as does RG3 and Cadillac Williams. Even Aaron Brooks (although not a rookie) in his first year as Saints QB took them to the first playoff victory ever. We all know how he fared after that.

This is not a knock on Prescott. He has played well and behaved even better. What I am saying is that there are very few Cam Newtons out there. Young guys come into the league and light it up for a half a season, but then DCs figure them out and teams adjust and the rookie sensation suddenly doesn't seem so sensational.

Prescott is the beneficiary of some very advantageous circumstances. He was drafted onto a solid team of veterans with a offense that complements his strengths and his starting QB went down early, giving him a golden opportunity of which he fully took advantage. That's not to say that he doesn't deserve full credit for the Cowboys' success this year. He absolutely does, but it's far too early to be tagging him as a first ballot HOFer. Hopefully his career will follow the path of Manning or Ryan, rather than Griffin or Young.

Anonymous said...

#fitz for #heisman2017

Anonymous said...

Does Dak wear boxers or briefs? Who's he going out with? When will the Cowboy cheerleaders change those outfits? Who was that Romo was talking to in the 1st quarter? Will Jerry buy that new Rolls? What happened to the old Rolls? At least 11 other football teams lost on Sunday but the dimple brains want the National Enquirer to get the Cowboys scoop or they'll just die. Die.

Anonymous said...

Mullens = #quarterbackwhisperer

Anonymous said...

Dallas needs to run DAK a little more. It would help Zeke as well as the passing game. Defenses are now keyed on Zeke and blitzing on passing downs. With Romo healthy it makes sense to use Dak's running ability as a tool to stress the opposing defense.

Anonymous said...

2:52 should apply with Jerry Jones. He seems to know more than the coaches. They could save a lot of money on those overpaid dumbasses that spend 7 days a week studying film, watching practice, reviewing tendencies, studying stats. 2:52 can simply send anonymous tips to them via email or text message after watching each game on his couch with a cowbell in one hand and his d__k in the other.

Mullens, no Mullins, no Merlin! said...

Mullens = #quarterbackwhisperer

Yet another MSU fan who can't spell his own coach's name properly.

Anonymous said...

They are coming and are pissed.

Anonymous said...

I'm pissed too! Bring it!

Anonymous said...

Coach Mullens heading to LA. I'm proud.

Anonymous said...

Coach Howlands is about to turn this ship around!

Anonymous said...

Coach Zero too, not long before even the drink vendor is going to get the boot.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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