Nearly an hour after Dak Prescott added to his budding legend with a touchdown in overtime that ignited a mob scene of a celebration for the Dallas Cowboys, the vibe was still flowing upstairs in the owner’s suite.
Jerry Jones grinned, pretty much ear to ear, as guests showered him with congratulations.
It must have felt like old times – and sure enough, Jones posed for a snapshot with the wives of two players from the Cowboys teams that won three Super Bowls during the 1990s – as the winning streak hit six games.
Of course, there was an elephant in the room, too.
While Tony Romo took another step in his recovery by returning to practice last week, his rookie replacement added more fuel to the notion that he should keep the job as he hung tough and sparked the rally from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit that beat the Philadelphia Eagles.
“How would you like to be in my shoes?” Jones said to USA TODAY Sports. “Give me this decision every day of my life.”
The decision – which Jones maintains will be an organizational one with heavy influence from coach Jason Garrett and coordinator Scott Linehan — is undoubtedly on hold while Prescott continues to dazzle and momentum builds.
Jones has already said Romo, more than two months since suffered a transverse process fracture in his back, won’t be ready for Sunday’s game at the Cleveland Browns.
Beyond that, the Cowboys owner wouldn’t project a timeline. That’s because unlike last year – when the Cowboys were 1-11 without Romo, knocked out by a twice-fractured collarbone – they have a viable alternative in Prescott.
“There’s just no reason for us to walk on eggshells and send Tony out earlier,” Jones said.
Prescott just added another historical distinction to his resume. He’s the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to a 6-1 start. And you’d have to go way back to 1948 to find the first one, Johnny Lujack of the Chicago Bears.
Even so, listen to Jones closely, and it appears that despite mounting sentiment for Prescott to stay in the starting role – and the weekly check of the tea leaves — the plan remains to ultimately reinsert Romo as the starter at some point this season.
“Now he has a great chance, when he does come in, to have a record and have a team that’s got a chance to win a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “I look at it that way. I don’t look at it that he’s not coming in, I look at it that when he does come in, we’re going to have a better team and obviously, a better chance than we had last year.”
It’s easy to contend that the Cowboys would be playing with fire by going back to Romo, given the rhythm generated with Prescott. Flanked by rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who contributed 148 rushing-receiving yards on Sunday night, Prescott brings an additional dimension as an option runner.
Then again, it’s easy to wonder whether Romo would have connected on some of the throws that Prescott misfired on during his most inconsistent game yet.
Never mind the comparisons at this point. Although Prescott completed just 19 of 39 passes for 287 yards, and he had his worst throw of the season late in the first half to squander a prime scoring opportunity – his short pass over the middle was intercepted in the end zone by Jordan Hicks – he still won again. The adversity didn’t doom him.
As Prescott put it, “I don’t care how bad I play early on. I don’t care what I do, I’m not going to give up.”
In crunch time, Prescott directed an 11-play, 90-yard drive and capped it with a game-tying 22-yard TD pass to Dez Bryant, back after missing three games due to a knee injury. The sequence was a microcosm of Prescott’s night. On the play before the TD, Prescott was pressured into a dangerous incompletion by an Eagles defense that consistently harassed him. The ensuing pass was underthrown, but Bryant made a great adjustment and reached over the defender for the catch.
On the game-winning score, Prescott strikingly resembled Romo as he scrambled – first to his right before spinning to his left, setting his feet and finding Jason Witten all alone in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown.
“When Romo seems to do a lot of spinning, Witten seems to be the one who always gets open,” Prescott said. “He did that there.”
Jones dismisses the theory that Prescott’s struggles were linked to any pressure stemming from Romo’s return to practice last week. He said it had more to do with an Eagles defense that entered the game allowing the third-fewest points per game in the league.
“I knew coming in that he could have an ugly game,” Jones said. “But what you’ve got to look at is how he instinctively made plays and was fighting to the end. He did it under as much pressure and uphill adversity that you could draw up.”
No doubt, Prescott passed another big test.
But the tests are far from over for the rookie or for his team, with its looming quarterback quandary.
“One thing I can assure you of, with Dak, with Tony, or coaching, or anybody in this matter,” Jones said, “there’s nothing fragile about anybody’s basic stability or mental toughness here.”
Which is typically better with winning.
source: usatoday.com by Jarrett Bell