The Cowboys have a quarterback problem.
It turns out Dak Prescott, who had a record-setting rookie year, may not be very good.
Prescott set an NFL record for highest passer rating by a rookie at 104.9 just two years ago. He had 23 touchdowns and four interceptions, and it sure looked like the Cowboys had lucked into replacing Tony Romo with a fourth-round pick.
Prescott has come thudding back to Earth.
After going 11-1 in his first 12 NFL starts, Prescott is 14-15 in his last 29.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on a radio show Tuesday morning the Cowboys will give Prescott a contract extension once he’s eligible after this season.
Considering that guys like Blake Bortles, Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum and Tyrod Taylor got deals averaging between $15 and $20 million per year, the deal will essentially lock the Cowboys into Prescott as their quarterback for years to come.
Let’s take a look at Prescott’s career.
After their 28-14 home loss to the Titans Monday night, a game in which Prescott turned the ball over twice, the Cowboys bring a 3-5 record to the Linc for a Sunday night showdown vs. the Eagles.
When the Eagles face Prescott, they’ll face a QB who:
• Has an 87.4 passer rating over the last two years, 18th-highest of the 24 quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 500 passes during that span. Ahead of only Mitch Trubisky, Taylor, Eli Manning, Bortles, Joe Flacco and Marcus Mariota.
• Has averaged 6.9 yards per pass attempt, 21st-highest of those 24 quarterbacks, ahead of only Manning, Taylor and Flacco.
• Ranks 17th in completion percentage, 15th in touchdown passes and 19th in passing yards among that same group.
• Has just three career 300-yard games. The same number as Matt Barkley during the same span.
The Cowboys aren’t the worst team in the league. They’re 12-12 over the last two years and 25-15 all-time under Prescott. Their defense is stocked with young home-grown talent, and the addition of Amari Cooper won’t hurt, although a first-round pick was a steep price.
But this is a franchise that’s won two playoff games in the last 22 years and hasn’t made it out of the conference semifinal round since 1995.
With 14 points on Monday night, the Cowboys have now had games of 8, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 20 points this year. They’ve scored 14 or fewer points in eight of their last 16 games.
They’ve scored five touchdowns in four road games.
Ezekiel Elliott remains an elite back, but just like the Giants, the Cowboys are learning that an elite back without an elite quarterback isn't the best formula for success in the modern NFL.
The argument in defense of Prescott is that when he has weapons, he’s an elite player. During his Pro Bowl rookie year, he still had Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
And maybe Cooper will make a huge difference.
But the league has changed just in the past few years. If you don’t have a super-charged passing game with a high-octane quarterback, it’s impossible to compete.
All seven teams that have won at least six games through Week 9 have a quarterback completing at least 65 percent of his passes with a rating of at least 98.
Those seven quarterbacks have thrown an average of 19 touchdowns. Prescott has 10.
In an era where the average quarterback is completing 65 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 94.0 and throwing for 266 yards per game, Prescott is completing 63 percent with an 88.9 rating and 208 yards per game.
Not terrible but not the type of numbers we’re seeing from the new generation of young hot-shot NFL gun-slingers.
Is the 25-year-old Prescott the right guy to take the Cowboys to the next level in the high-flying pass-happy modern NFL? With each passing week, the questions about Prescott’s long-term potential grow larger.
And in a division with Carson Wentz, that could mean big problems ahead for the Cowboys.
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