Something terrible happened on Sunday, and it may have even been worse than the Los Angeles Lakers winning their 17th NBA title while LeBron James got to be the hero again. Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome compound fracture of his right ankle during the Dallas Cowboys’ dramatic 37-34 win over my New York Football Giants.
Midway through the third quarter with Dallas ahead 24-23, Prescott took the ball on a quarterback draw and was dragged down by Logan Ryan after a nine-yard gain. We knew something was wrong with Prescott right away when he grabbed for his leg, but we didn’t know how wrong it was until the CBS broadcast showed the zoomed-in angle of his foot pointing in the wrong direction.
Tony Romo got roasted on Twitter for his “Gee, Jim, I hope it’s just a cramp” from the broadcast booth, but it really was hard to see how serious the situation was at first glance. Prescott grabbed at his calf like he had just tweaked something. It was until a moment later that everyone realized how badly he was injured.
It took some time for the official diagnosis to be released, but everyone already knew that Prescott’s season was over and that the Cowboys would have to go forward with Andy Dalton under center. Dalton, as experienced as he is, might not be much of an obstacle when it comes to Dallas making the playoffs. For one, he has plenty of experience leading teams to the playoffs (although none actually winning playoff games). More importantly, the NFC East is the worst division in football and Dalton is still good enough to lead the Cowboys to the top of the scrap heap.
The Red Rifle got off to a rough start following his unexpected appearance. His first two full series consisted of a three-and-out and a botched snap, but after the Giants took advantage of the fumble and went ahead 34-31, Dalton led Dallas on consecutive field goal drives to win the game. He was particularly impressive on the final possession, hitting Michael Gallup twice in a row down the field to set up the game-winning kick.
I think most normal fans watched this and thought “You know, Dallas can probably still win this crappy division with Andy Dalton.” Here’s what longtime NFL head coach and Super Bowl champion Tony Dungy thought.
A blessing in disguise? This team’s problem has not been its offense through the first five games. Sure, a strong running game can help maintain possession and limit the time a team’s defense is on the field, but it’s not like Dallas can’t run the ball with Prescott on the field. In fact, by being on the field, Prescott’s playmaking gives Dallas a better chance at converting on third down, which in turn keeps the defense off the field. You have to wonder if Dungy ever rooted for Peyton Manning to go down so that his backup could bless the Colts in disguise. Prescott isn’t Manning, but that kind of thinking would be just as dumb with either quarterback.
Unlike Dungy, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is under the impression that Prescott is a valuable player to have on one’s team.
It’s an awkward spot for Jones, whose contract negotiations with Prescott have been well publicized over the past year. Jones needs Prescott as his quarterback, but doesn’t want to blow up the salary cap in order to compensate him. It’s an issue that any team with a keeper at quarterback deals with, and I don’t think Jones wants to watch Prescott walk away the like Washington did with Kirk Cousins.
As soon as Prescott got hurt, the presumption was that he was not going to get his dream contract, but I wouldn’t be so sure. The Mississippi State product is still one of a very limited number of proven franchise quarterbacks in the NFL and he’s not as reliant on athleticism as guys like Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton. If he makes a smooth recovery, Prescott can be right back on track for megabucks in a year or so. Plus, it could even give him more leverage if the Cowboys struggle under Dalton. Give Jones a little taste of life without Prescott — even if Dallas limps into the playoffs — and he might finally cave in.
Also, while it’s obviously a terrible thing that Prescott got hurt, he’s still making a hearty guaranteed sum under the franchise tag this season, so he’s going to be okay financially. And I’m optimistic that his career will be okay as well.