Who to start? It’s a huge question in Dallas. You got the rookie Dak Prescott who just keeps the offense on the field and is winning the time of possession game every week. Right now with Dak at the helm the Cowboys are ranked 2nd in time of possession, 1st in plays per drive, 3rd in yards per drive and 4th in points per drive according to football outsiders. They are on average getting 7.36 plays per drive and the distance from them and 2nd place is the distance of 2nd place to 7th. Averaging over 7 plays per drive shows Dak is doing what he has to for the Cowboys to win games. He’s not turning over the ball, he’s moving the chains, and keeping the putrid defense off the field.
When we look over the Cowboys drive numbers in 2014 (Romo’s last healthy season), the Cowboys ranked 4th in yards per drive, 2nd in points per drive, and 12 in plays per drive. Now it should be noted that the Cowboys have only played 5 games this year and 3 of which they faced defenses that are struggling against everyone. Romo was an MVP candidate this year leading this team to where they ended up and Dak so far has his team doing even better.
Looking over the opponents that Dak has faced so far and it has been impressive the last two weeks. The first three teams the Cowboys faced have been pretty bad on defense and allow a lot of long drawn out drives, but the last two teams especially the Cincinnati victory, have been incredibly impressive. The 49ers were ranked 9th in both yards and plays per drive and the Bengals were 8th and 6th respectively in each stat as well.
Dak has been amazing thus far and with lesser weapons and the offensive line starting off slow the first two weeks the Cowboys are running on all cylinders. All the numbers back the side of Dak being the right choice here along with Romo’s injury history. So why do I still believe Romo should start? Maybe my judgement is being clouded by feeling the need to defend him quite a bit for not being recognized as one of the best QBs of the last decade. Maybe I’m still living off of 2014 Romo and completely ignoring last year when I should not.
The problem here with Dak for me is the fact that he is attempting nothing down the field. Part of that could be due to Dez being out, but even when Dez was playing he was not getting targets from Dak. Against great defenses like Seattle, Minnesota, and Denver the ability to stretch the defense is incredibly important. All the dink and dunk throws I have no issue with, but the threat of throwing it down the field is vital, because without it great defenses do not have to play defense over such a long stretch of the field. They will press the receivers giving them hell trying to get off the line, stack the box suffocating the running lanes, and that just opens up everything for the pass rush.
Tony Romo may give you a greater chance of turning the ball over (even though he has not been a “turnover machine” since 2010), but he does exactly what Dak does not and stretches the defense. Tony Romo is one of the very few guys in the league that can turn a disastrous play into a 20-30 yard gain. The only QBs on Romo’s level in the pocket and getting out of a bad situation is Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. Not bad company to be in. The defense has to respect Romo’s ability and willingness to throw it down the field so stacking the box against him just will not happen unless you want your defense to be picked apart.
Dak has been precise in every move he has made so far and I’m not sure he has thrown a single bad pass yet. He has faced two defenses that have played fairly well so far this year and three defenses that have been atrocious. If he can keep this type of production all the way to when Romo is back it will be hard to take him out, but if the Cowboys have real Super Bowl aspirations they will have to go through either Minnesota or Seattle. Dak is not getting that job done. That is something only the most underrated QB of the last 10 years can do.
Do not forget what Romo has done. Romo has had some of the worst defenses and offensive lines in the league and led teams to an 8-8 record which is damn impressive especially when you look at how much Brees is struggling to lead teams to victory with an atrocious defense. Dak has the poise and ability to lead this team in the future, but without stretching the defense out throw away the small sample size of numbers because Romo is the one that has a chance at beating those teams.