The Cowboys did their best to recover from quarterback Dak Prescott's loss to an ankle injury at their end-of-season home win against the Giants in Week 5. They were alive in the NFC East race until the Giants lost on Sunday in week 17.
But the bottom line was that the Cowboys could neither win the division with 6: 10 nor reach the playoffs for the second time in a row and in their first year under coach MIke McCarthy. Don't be fooled by the fact that her 2019 record was just two games below the 8-8 mark when Prescott was completely healthy. In addition to Andy Dalton, who played as a substitute at times, Dallas & # 39; deficiencies on the offensive without Prescott cost the chance to reach a weak division with low scores.
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The Cowboys went 2-3 with Prescott, 4-5 with Dalton, 0-1 with Ben DiNucci, and 0-1 with Garrett Gilbert. At Prescott's starts they averaged 32.6 points per game. Without him, this total fell to 20.2 points per game.
Dallas defense has been a big issue for most of the season. The Cowboys also sustained injuries on the offensive line and backfield, in addition to Dalton, who missed matches early after landing on the COVID-19 list.
Prescott had started every game after being drafted in the fourth round in 2016, until his unfortunate break just before his franchise season. In his absence, the Cowboys' hearts beat faster for his high level of play in the most important position.
There's no doubt now either that the Cowboys will need to re-sign Prescott for a lucrative long-term renewal. Dalton was one of the better backups in the league, but he didn't make it until late in Kellen Moore's system, which largely wasted Dallas' talent in the position of skill. Dalton couldn't put it all together with the broad recipients Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb often enough.
The Cowboys kept Moore before the season – and placed him under the offensive McCarthy – to tie him to Prescott. That's why they granted their 32-year-old offensive coordinator a multi-year extension this week to keep him from taking the job of head coach at his alma mater, Boise State.
Now that they've been eliminated from the playoffs and avoided their inevitable fate against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers this weekend, the Cowboys can turn their full attention to figuring out the best deal for Prescott that is also the best deal for them.
Forget about trying to replace Prescott with a first-round rookie with a manageable contract or find another later-round gem. After Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields 1-2 off the board, there is the same promise and uncertainty as the rest of the 2021 QB draft class. Forget the thought, too, that there is some viable free agent bridge option , which allows Dallas to include QB in the 2022 draft and use money saved with Prescott to strengthen other positions.
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The cowboys know what they have when Prescott works with Moore – a special leader and passerby, athletic and tough, who is embroiled in a major passing attack. Prescott was better than Draft colleagues Jared Goff and Carson Wentz from the first round in this regard. The Rams and Eagles might regret spending too much on expansions, but that shouldn't make the Cowboys hesitate with Prescott.
Jerry Jones invested heavily in Cooper and let Ezekiel Elliott run back. He enjoys taking care of his superstars and is smart enough to realize that paying them without keeping Prescott means little after seeing how limited these players were without Prescott. First round lamb was a luxury choice; The Cowboys knew he would dominate the slot with Prescott and that was the case immediately.
The Cowboys' defense had a terrible season; Things broke down on every level. Only Prescott could give his team a chance to overcome this, and he did it several times. McCarthy, despite taking a break from the Packers to become a more forward-looking coach, made many of the same situational mistakes that predecessor Jason Garrett made with the Cowboys' nearer losses. Dallas needs to get better in both areas, and it needs to do it independently from Prescott.
The Cowboys weren't sure about 2020, and things quickly got troubled when Prescott didn't hold it all together and masked the club's other troubles. If they need more conclusive evidence of what Prescott means to them before they commit to him on his terms, then they get it. All signs point to Prescott being their only QB plan for the next season – and many more to come.