Brought to you by: Big Shucks
By Zach Walker
Whether the sky fell on top on your beautiful Saturday and it completely derailed the plans for the DIY trophy case for your replica Lombardi, or you took the news as just a fart in an elevator in which you’ve still got fourteen floors to climb, the news of Tony Romo’s L1 vertebral body compression fracture just shook the sports world. Another serious back injury and a currently unannounced timetable for his return is a massive hammer blow to the collective optimism of Cowboys Nation, both fans and persons working within the organization. The players can give the generic ‘confident, he’ll come back stronger’ stuff to provide the thumbs up campaign, but just look up Romo’s injury history. Third back surgery, in four years. At his vintage and experience, that’s a hell of a medical history that he’s got mounting up. It really does gloom my mood thinking of Earl Campbell, how strong and tough that great player went out on the field with and left himself wheelchair bound for his post career years. Now the writing’s on the wall for Tony. Maybe not to the same existent, because Earl Campbell played in a totally different world, but if that seemingly routine-ish hit by Cliff Avril is what can disrupt the process, what is sixteen, twelve, or even six games of hits going to get him. Getting healthy is number nine’s top priority right now.
The football world’s spotlights all shine on number four, the fourth round draft pick Dak Prescott. Until the news of Romo’s injury Saturday, it was a verbal, printed, and videoed month of praise, hype, and warm feelings for Prescott, now the pupils and iris’ tighten on the rookie, as the starved fan base scurries for reasons to truly believe.
Sure, comparing Dak, a fourth rounder to first round picks is perhaps a bit strong, but either Dak is a gem of the Cowboys draft, or the Cowboys are going to look like some of these teams and be in complete desperation for their next franchise quarterback. I’ll ask a rhetorical question. Had DeMarcus Lawrence not gotten suspended, Brandon Carr not being responsible for the opposition’s best receiver, and Sean Lee wasn’t frustratingly prone to injury, would Dak’s mountain seem less steep a climb?
Going back to the 2010 Draft, I’ve looked at all of the first round quarterbacks, who had ten or more starts in their rookie season. I’ll show how they fared, how the offense around them did, and their defensive ranks. I’m not going to include every one of them, because it’ll really saturate this with a butt-load of stats, and I don’t feel it’s really important to add Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Sam Bradford, or EJ Manuel, for various reasons. The players I’ll spotlight are Cam Newton, Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, Robert Griffin, Brandon Weeden, and Marcus Mariota. I’m not putting Andrew Luck because he threw 627 passes in his rookie year, not close to happening here.
Do you see the correlation in the stats? Is it now a clearer picture of what we can expect out of Dak Prescott? I didn’t think so either. The fact is each case is a unique one. The Buccaneers had 2000 yards rushing from three players last year, a 4000 yard rookie passer who was responsible for more scores than turnovers, a 1200 yard receiver, and a pretty solid defense. And that all meant just six wins and they fired their coach who had improved their team. Success isn’t stats-based, it’s a supremely subjective entity. It’s taking each game as four separate quarters and winning more than you can lose.
I do know this. In 2014, the Cowboys had a possessive offensive game-plan, took their time, ran the ball effectively, and got MVP status quarterback play. They had a defense that averaged out to be an average defense and won twelve games. Last year, they ran the ball well for about three fourths of the season, had a better defense in some aspects than they did the year previously, and won just four games. Why? Because when Romo went down, the fault slid to another guy, then another guy, then another, and they couldn’t do it. Three players last year, who when you really look at it, should never have been in the NFL to begin with. A baseball player, turned quarterback, turned old man. A guy who didn’t play in college football games. And a guy who was a great college quarterback, who was never going to have the tools necessary to lead a team to victory.
Dak has the stuff. The “It”. What we call around these parts “The Juice”. The above the shoulders stuff, the arm, the legs, and if you’d like to question his leadership skills, he’s got a degree in it, and that isn’t hyperbole. Is it the full time Dak show? Who knows? But the Cowboys had enough faith in him to draft him, they had enough faith in him to let him showcase himself this preseason, and they have the faith in him to not pull the rug out from underneath him. I didn’t compare him to Russell Wilson, a third round pick, because people have already tapped that well dry. However, it doesn’t look like the Broncos are going to start their first round pick, neither do the Eagles, and I can’t say that the number one overall pick is a lock to start week one for Los Angeles either. But Dak Prescott is, and he’ll have the entirety of the sports world watching him.