Dallas Cowboys

Film Room: Dak Prescott’s bad night almost dooms Cowboys

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 30: Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott (4) passes the ball during a NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles on October 30, 2016, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Ray Carlin/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Ray Carlin/Icon Sportswire)

At some point, the Dallas Cowboys will need to decide whether to choose between process or results when it comes to the quarterback position. The results that the team has seen in the past few weeks are very encouraging (they’ve won both of their games), but the process of getting there has been a roller-coaster.

In most cases, employers will look at the process of how someone is doing their work over their short-term results. A teacher will look at how a student preforms over multiple activities instead of a first quarter quiz grade to determine how said student is doing in class.

However, the job of a NFL quarterback is unlike any other profession in America. Anything or anyone that produces positives results will continue to get to play, no matter the process of getting there.

This is a reason why you see a lot of retread quarterbacks in the NFL, such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, etc. Those guys have had small success, whether that be due to skill or luck, and teams are desperate to recreate that success. We watch the film and wonder how a team can justify paying a Brock Osweiler $72 million, but a front office sees his win/loss record and will ignore the process of getting there.

Results over process.

Right now, Dak Prescott is leading the 6-1 Cowboys, despite a performance on Sunday night that should have caused his team to suffer defeat…multiple times.

Today’s film room piece is going to highlight some of those moments, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be replaced either.

Before we begin with the film, let’s look at Dak Prescott’s passing chart, via the NFL’s Next Gen Stats:

Prescott has been pretty consistent all year as to where he chooses to throw the ball. He avoids the intermediate to deep middle of the field (many rookies do as it requires hyper accuracy and anticipation), but his bread and butter are outside of the numbers, near the sideline. That’s what makes Prescott’s night against the Eagles even more strange. These are the throws he missed all night.

Let’s look at a few.

Let’s start with one his first throws of the game. It was on 3rd-and-12 and the Eagles sent the house. Prescott made the right read, but he didn’t step into the throw and actually faded away. The ball bounced to Cole Beasley and the Cowboys punted.

But looking at the All-22, you can see the Cowboys missed a huge play here:

Prescott has made that throw all year, but he was anticipating pressure. If he stepped into the throw, Beasley catches it for a first down and likely a whole lot more if the defender doesn’t make the tackle.

The next throw that Dak missed was the equivalent of missing a wide open lay-up. The Cowboys ran a play designed to get their best red zone receiver open by having him run out of the slot where the outside receiver picked his defender. And it worked perfectly:

The throw doesn’t even need to be all that accurate to have success. If it’s thrown high, Bryant can go get the ball better than any other receiver in the league. If it’s thrown to the back part of the end zone, there’s no chance the defender can get it. But Prescott threw it low and late, assuring the Cowboys they wouldn’t score on the play. The Cowboys were forced to kick a field goal on the next play. A four point miss.

I will mention Prescott’s interception because it’s noteworthy and it changed the game. The Cowboys and Eagles were tied late in the first half with under two minutes to go. With how poorly Prescott had played in the first half, you would’ve thought the Cowboys would’ve played it safe at the end of the half. That didn’t happen:

Prescott’s interception took points off the board and allowed the Eagles time to drive down and get a field goal before half. Prescott never saw the defender come off of Butler and he cut in front of the route. It was a veteran play by a talented linebacker and a rookie mistake for the quarterback. It happens. It was the next few throws that really make you scratch your head, though.

The first two throws that were reviewed were just misses that resulted in incompletions. That happens for every quarterback, every week. But Prescott had a handful of throws on Sunday that should’ve resulted in an interception. These are the throws that lose you games.

Take a look at this one and keep in mind the score. The Cowboys were trailing by 10, but they were in chip-shot range for Dan Bailey. They had the field goal in their back pocket. The last thing Prescott can do is turn the ball over:

It takes an incredible, heads-up play by Terrance Williams to interfere with the receiver, but the defender still almost made the play. An interception would’ve likely sealed the Cowboys’ fate. A terribly thrown ball was dropped and the Cowboys’ kick the field goal. The result turned out okay, but the process of getting there was frightening.

Again, it happened on the game-tying drive. Dallas was near the end zone and Prescott escaped outside and threw right into the arms of an Eagles’ defender:

Luckily for Prescott and the Cowboys, the defender dropped the pass and Prescott hit Bryant for the game-tying score on another under-thrown ball. The Cowboys lived another play and won the game. It was a massive mistake avoided, simply due to luck.

There’s not more that can be said about that.

If the Cowboys do decide to start Prescott over Tony Romo for the remainder of the season, it would be understandable. Their front office and coaching staff keep saying that they want to “keep up the momentum” and will “ride the hot hand”. However,  in the past two weeks, we’ve seen that hot hand cool despite the Cowboys winning both games.

Prescott wasn’t good on Sunday night, but in fairness to him, a lot of quarterbacks struggle with the Eagles’ aggressive defense.

It happens.

But Prescott was fortunate enough that his poor game didn’t cost his team the win. Lefty Gomez was right that it’s often better to be lucky than good. Right now, the Cowboys are hoping that luck believes in momentum and will stay with their rookie quarterback.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Raulz

    November 3, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Dak Prescott is a rookie. A darn good one. He will have his moments but right now he seems to come out in a positive manner. Good for the Cowboys. In the NFL you will win some and lose some. Hopefully Dak helps his team win more than lose. It hasn’t been Dak by himself bringing good fortune to Dallas. Its been teamwork. The defensive Corners so far, outstanding compared to last year. If Dak does falter, Tony is getting ready. Just hope Tony gets all the time he needs to heal properly.

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