FRISCO, Texas — The Dak Prescott story is at a crossroads.
Not a lot due to what he’ll write, however for the way the Dallas Cowboys quarterback might be perceived.
Prescott might be making his fourth playoff look when the Cowboys face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday (8:15 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN+) within the wild-card spherical. He has received one playoff recreation, within the 2018 wild-card spherical in opposition to the Seattle Seahawks.
Pretty or unfairly, Cowboys quarterbacks are judged by what Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman did within the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Nineties, respectively, when the Corridor of Famers mixed for 5 Tremendous Bowl championships. The accomplishments of each Cowboys quarterback since, regardless of statistical success (or in Danny White’s case, making it to 3 straight NFC Championship Video games), have simply not been ok.
Except Prescott pulls off a playoff run over the following month that ends the Cowboys’ 26-year Tremendous Bowl drought, he must struggle by way of the endless query of whether or not he can ever ship.
Prescott isn’t working from the strain to do what Staubach and Aikman did.
“I’ve got to say I want to. I want to win the championships and win the titles and everything that they did, and all the games, put this team in that position,” Prescott stated. “But I can’t say that that’s at the forefront of my mind, as I’m thinking about what those guys have done, what the great quarterbacks here have done before me. I don’t have any tell on what they did then. It’s about focusing on the now and knowing what I can do, what I’m capable of doing and the opportunity this team has in front of them.”
Tony Romo, Prescott’s predecessor, discovered himself in the identical place. He put up gaudy statistics in turning into the franchise’s all-time main passer. However he might by no means get previous the divisional spherical of the playoffs.
He had gone from unknown regular-season savior in 2006 (dropping within the wild-card spherical) to dropping a divisional-round playoff recreation at house because the NFC’s high seed in 2007. Within the 2009 playoffs, he received his first postseason recreation, just for the Cowboys to get worn out within the divisional spherical.
In 2014, his eighth season because the full-time starter, Romo made his fourth playoff look, coming off his finest season. He had the Cowboys in place to beat the Inexperienced Bay Packers within the divisional spherical solely to have it ripped away when Dez Bryant’s catch on the aim line was overturned by replay.
He would begin solely 4 extra video games as his physique saved breaking down. A twice-broken collarbone in 2015 and recurring again points — in addition to Prescott’s Rookie of the 12 months efficiency — ended Romo’s profession after the 2016 season.
Prescott, 29, is youthful than Romo was then (34), however he additionally has bodily scars. He suffered a dislocated and fractured proper ankle in 2020. He missed 5 video games this season due to surgical procedure to restore a fractured proper thumb. He missed a recreation final season due to a calf pressure. He additionally had offseason surgical procedure on his left shoulder.
Staubach was 29, like Prescott now, when he received Tremendous Bowl VI in opposition to the Baltimore Colts. Nevertheless it was simply his third season with the Cowboys after a five-year dedication to the Navy. Aikman was 29 when he received his third championship, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tremendous Bowl XXX. He received his first Tremendous Bowl in his fourth season because the Cowboys’ starter.
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Prescott has began the previous seven seasons.
Since 1980, solely three quarterbacks have made it to their first Tremendous Bowl with their unique crew after an extended run because the every-game starter than Prescott has had because the Cowboys’ starter. Ken Anderson was in his tenth season with Cincinnati Bengals after they made Tremendous Bowl XVI. The Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning (Tremendous Bowl XLI) and Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan (Tremendous Bowl LI) had been of their ninth seasons because the starters for his or her respective groups.
Prescott’s playoff appearances have been combined.
He obtained off to a sluggish begin within the 2016 divisional spherical in opposition to the Packers, solely to complete 24-of-38 for 302 yards and three touchdowns and lead a late comeback to tie the sport earlier than Aaron Rodgers’ end-of-game wizardry ended the Cowboys’ season.
For his lone postseason win, within the 2018 wild-card spherical, his numbers weren’t nice (22-of-33 for 226 yards, one landing, one interception), however he put the sport away with a memorable 16-yard run on third-and-14, flipping close to the aim line. On the following play, he gave the Cowboys a 24-14 lead over the Seahawks on a 1-yard rating with 2:08 to play.
However the subsequent week, the Cowboys had been run over — actually — by the Los Angeles Rams (273 speeding yards) within the divisional spherical.
After which there was final season’s 23-17 loss within the wild-card spherical to the San Francisco 49ers at AT&T Stadium. The lasting picture is Prescott’s quarterback keeper within the closing seconds, after which the Cowboys couldn’t spike the ball in time to attempt one final play.
That loss remains to be motivation.
“Damn right. Damn right,” Prescott stated. “Then, obviously, after a game like last week [26-6 road loss to the Washington Commanders], it helps remind you how precious these moments are. You don’t get these opportunities, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to play this game in general, but to be in the playoffs, have the team that we have and knowing we’ve got to make sure it counts now.”
Prescott enters the 2022 playoffs tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with 15, regardless of beginning solely 12 regular-season video games. He has had not less than one go intercepted in seven straight video games, the longest streak by a Cowboys quarterback since 2004. He has had three interceptions returned for touchdowns previously 4 video games.
But the idea in Prescott throughout the group is as excessive as ever.
“I don’t know if it’s really affected his confidence at all,” working again Ezekiel Elliott stated. “When you put all the work in, when you leave nothing up to doubt, then there is no reason for you to lose confidence. You’ve built that through continuous repetitions, through continuous hard work. So, I mean, he’s put the work in. I know he’s ready.”
Mentioned offensive deal with Tyron Smith: “Expect him to be great like he always is. He does everything he can to prepare himself.”
Mentioned receiver Michael Gallup: “[He’s] literally the same guy every day. First one in the locker room, last one to leave. That’s just what he does. That’s how his brain is wired. … He’s ready to go. It’s just how he is. Never lose faith in [No.] 4.”
Prescott hasn’t misplaced religion, both.
“I’ve just got to go win the game, do everything I can and leave no doubt in my preparation to make sure I’m putting this team in the best chance to do that,” Prescott stated. “And understanding, I’ve said it myself, right, we’re all judged off of wins and wins in the playoffs. These matter. I know that.
“Not that it’s pressure, but you’ve got to love playing in these moments. You’ve got to love being in games like this. If you don’t, this league, this sport, this isn’t the place for you. So for me, it’s about embracing the moment. Staying within myself. It’s not time to do anything new, create anything new. Trust my teammates, trust how I prepared throughout and go out there and stay within the moment.”