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TACK to the FUTURE: Flacco, Prescott and the Quarterback Conundrums

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TACK to the FUTURE: Flacco, Prescott and the Quarterback Conundrums

Graphic by Ella Wiebusch

Graphic by Ella Wiebusch

Graphic by Ella Wiebusch

Graphic by Ella Wiebusch

Stefan Collins, Contributing Writer

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Present: Joe Flacco traded to the Broncos

A lot of fans seem to think that John Elway has lost it. Even since Peyton Manning retired after Denver brought home their third Lombardi trophy, the Mile High stadium has been lacking energy. The Quarterback carousel since 2016 has brought in lackluster results so far, with Elway desperate to duplicate the formula that restored the Broncos to glory. Will Joe Flacco be the second coming of Peyton Manning in Denver?

Let me begin by looking at the Ravens. I am in no means a fan of Lamar Jackson. I’m a firm believer that a Quarterback in the National Football League will only succeed as an exceptionally good passer. Jackson dominated college football during his time at Louisville and added his name to the Heisman trophy winners list. Why? Because his legs were a huge threat. In college that works.

It’s much different in the NFL, where the athleticism and quality of tackling is the very best in the world. There are exceptions of course; Randle Cunningham and Michael Vick were outstanding scrambling QB’s. But guess what? They could sling the ball as well, and as their careers progressed they realized that they needed to rely on their arm more. I haven’t seen much from Jackson to convince me that he will be a dominant passer, whose running ability is simply a threat to keep the defense on their toes. I believe that against the Chargers in the wild card game, the Ravens would have had a better shot with Flacco under center.

Let’s shift focus back to the Broncos. All of you Bronco fans, especially those pointing the finger at John Elway and blaming him for your lack of success since Peyton Manning retired, I need to remind you that without him you’d have zero Super Bowl rings. He is by far the best Denver Bronco of all time, bringing the franchise to relevance not only as a player, but as a General Manager. They have had a few rough years but there is no need to lose faith in the savior of the franchise.

It comes as no surprise that Elway is taking a gamble at QB. He wants to win, and he wants to win now. Joe Flacco has proven that he has it in him to take control of a game and lead his team to victory, something he witnessed first-hand in January of 2013. The Broncos had the best team around since 2006, and they looked destined to reach the promised land for the first time since John Elway’s last season in 1998. Flacco went 18/34 for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those 18 completions include a 70-yard bomb to speedy receiver and return specialist Jacoby Jones to tie the game at 35-35 with 41 seconds left. The Ravens won in second overtime on a Justin Tucker field goal, and they eventually went on to the Super Bowl where they beat the San Francisco 49ers; Flacco was named the game’s MVP.

After that season, Flacco received a huge contract extension which he did not live up to. Perhaps a change of scenery, a team full of play makers, and an elite defense will make all the difference. If it does, then great. If not, I’ve heard they are very interested in Oregon Senior Justin Herbert. If he decides to enter the 2019 draft as many believe he will, perhaps the Broncos won’t make this trade.

Future: The Looming Contract Negotiations between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys

For those of you that know me personally, you know that I am a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. You will also know that I’m not a huge fan of our current quarterback Dak Prescott. I want to see Prescott succeed and I absolutely want him to be a Super Bowl winning QB—at least while he is wearing a star on his helmet. However, from what I have seen these past two seasons it’s difficult for me to admit that he is anything more than average at the best of times. He is blessed with an outstanding performing cast around him who have proven they can win despite his poor play. So here is why the Cowboys shouldn’t be too keen to pay him like a tier-one quarterback.

Before I begin, we need to establish that QB wins are irrelevant. I grew up being taught that football is the ultimate team game. The best teams win, and the best-coached teams win, not the best quarterback. If that weren’t the case, Dan Marino certainly wouldn’t be without a Lombardi trophy on his fireplace. John Elway would also have won a fist full of rings. Patrick Maholmes and the Chiefs would be the reigning Super Bowl champions and QB’s such as Trent Differ and Brad Johnson certainly wouldn’t have any silverware for their trophy cabinet. When people tell me “Dak Prescott is a winner” because he has a 32-16 record and two NFC East titles in three seasons as a starter, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Never in my life have I seen such an obvious display of the team winning despite the QB than this past season.

I would also like to establish that in today’s “pass happy” NFL, stats such as QBR and completion percentage are deceiving. This is especially true in Prescott’s case, since every third and long he threw a little check down to Elliott or took an unnecessary sack instead of throwing it past the first down marker and taking a chance.

Jimmy Johnson—the man who would have been the greatest coach in NFL history if he and Jerry Jones could’ve set aside their differences—once said, “Do you want to play it safe and be good? Or do you want to take a chance and be great?”

I suggest Jerry Jones puts that quote up on one of the walls in the Star—The Cowboys’ training complex in Frisco, TX—and has the message drilled into the heads of Prescott and the new offensive coordinator and play caller Kellen Moore’s because that was Johnson’s philosophy, and it was the reason why we won three Super Bowls in the 1990’s. The relevance of this quote, for those that it was lost on, is that Prescott needs to throw the ball past the first down marker on third down situations to the open (yes, open) receivers, and risk throwing an incomplete pass instead of worrying about his completion percentage and padded stats, taking a sack or throwing a check down to Ezekiel Elliott. This philosophy will allow the Cowboys offense to improve from the 22nd ranked passing offense in 2019.

Predicting the future can be a lot easier if we first look to the past, and what better time to go to than my childhood years of the mid to late 2000s? When Tony Romo was the sheriff in Big D and my Dad would tape the late-night games for me on a VCR, we’d watch them before I went to school on Monday or Tuesday mornings. Let’s compare those days to the present. So, for those of you telling me “Dak is a winner,” or “He’s said he wants to win Super Bowls,” and “Romo was a choker, Dak is clutch,” I say fine. Let’s analyze team wins to start.

Tony Romo in three and a half seasons as the starter: a 38-17 record, with a .691 winning percentage, and 1-2 in the playoffs. A record that would be higher if it weren’t for Patrick Crayton, but that’s a story for another day.

Dak Prescott after three seasons: a 32-16 record, with a .667 winning percentage, and 1-2 in the playoffs. The Cowboys would have to go 7-1 or better to start the season for Dak to be on par with Romo’s win percentage.

The thing that happened after the 2009 season was that the team started to dissolve due to poor salary cap management. Some fans are so desperate to pay Prescott a year early that you’re willing to give him teams that only went 8-8 because Romo elevated the offense play. If we reverse the roles, Dak goes 5-11 at best and is off the team in three seasons. Romo, paired with Ezekiel Elliott, is leading the Cowboys to the Eastern title and deep in the playoffs every year.

Maybe I am being hard on Dak. Maybe I should be grateful that my team has a Quarterback better than at least sixteen other teams. I don’t think anybody would argue that they’d prefer Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassell from the nightmare of a season in 2015. But I reserve the right to be objective because for the most part this season it’s been what he deserves. He certainly has some nerve asking to be paid like one of the best QB’s in the league and risk dismantling the great team he has around him for a pay check that, to be quite blunt, he hasn’t earned yet.

What do I think will happen? Jerry Jones will pay him way more than he’s worth and in the next two to three years we’ll have to let players walk because paying your QB 120 million dollars is an almost guaranteed ticket to a mediocrity. Just ask the Packers. Arron Rodgers, as much as I dislike him, I have to admit, he’s one of the best in the league and one of the best of all time. Nevertheless, how has that worked out for the Packers? Elliott is considerably more valuable to the Cowboys offense and not retaining him in favor of Prescott would be a disaster. The same can be said for Demarcus Lawrence, who the Cowboys have recently franchise tagged and are negotiating a long-term deal.

If your choice running back or pass rusher is more valuable to the team, they are the players you should be breaking the bank to keep, not your QB; especially not just because “it’s more difficult to replace a Quarterback.”

So, are the Cowboys are destined for a stretch of 8-8 seasons? Not necessarily. It would be the case for most other teams, but the Dallas Cowboys of today are different to the other teams. They have an ace in the hole, which can keep this team competitive for a very long time. Something, or rather somebody, that they didn’t have for most of the Romo era: Will McClay.

If Jerry Jones can keep Will McClay, who is one of the best scouts of college players the NFL has seen in years, the Cowboys can replace key players and stay in the 10-6 range each season. 10-6 is solid, but the Cowboys have the potential to be much better than that if the contract negotiations are team friendly. Some key players that Will McClay is responsible for bringing to Dallas include: Ezekiel Elliott, Demarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, Travis Fredrick, Byron Jones, Leighton Vander Esche, and Jaylon Smith. Almost all of whom have earned Pro Bowl or All Pro nods during their time in the league.

Aside from Elliott, I don’t remember hearing anything positive from the media about any of those players the day they were drafted. McClay is an incredible judge of talent and excels in finding players that other teams and analysts may overlook. For that reason, I wouldn’t worry too much about the future of the Cowboys. The only concern is going back to “Salary cap hell,” and losing key players when it can easily be avoided.

Thank you all for reading this week’s edition of Tack to the Future. I hope you enjoyed week two as much as I did. Next week we will go back to the past—to the 2001 AFC playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders—to discuss what would have happened if the “Tuck Rule” never existed.

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TACK to the FUTURE: Flacco, Prescott and the Quarterback Conundrums