How a third string rookie from Mississippi made the Cowboys relevant again

As a new crop of NFL prospects get set participate in this year’s annual Senior Bowl, it was around this time last year when Dallas Cowboys quarterback Das Prescott was just trying to impress the scouts watching him take the field during the 2016 Senior Bowl. Fast forward to today and the Cowboys quarterback is a veteran of the 2017 Pro Bowl after just one season as a professional football player.

Prescott played his college ball at Mississippi State where he spent more than two seasons as the school’s starting quarterback and set 38 school records during his time on the field. Despite his success in college, Prescott still was not regarded as a top prospect by many heading into the 2016 NFL Draft.

“The game-manager label might suit Prescott, because he fails to stand out in any area. While he is a solid enough signal-caller, he doesn’t flash outstanding potential.”

Pro Football Focus

As expected, the first day of the draft came and went and Prescott’s name was not called. There was a chance that a team would select him in one of the next two rounds on the following day but that did not happen either.

Finally on the last day of the draft, Dallas selected him with the 135th overall pick in the fourth round. The hope for the Cowboys was to have Prescott sit and learn for a few years behind Dallas starting quarterback Tony Romo before attempting to shift him into his own role as the Cowboys starter under center.

But the NFL is a league filled with unpredictability and Dallas could not have envisioned what happened during their preseason game last August against the Seattle Seahawks.

An MRI later revealed that Romo suffered a broken bone in his back and would not be able to return until the middle of the season at best. Certainly a blow for the Cowboys’ hopes at success for 2016.

Or so they thought.

After also losing backup quarterback Kellen Moore to a season ending ankle injury during the preseason, Dallas’ only option left for a starter was Prescott. It could have been worse for the Cowboys as their rookie quarterback performed at an exceptional level during his time on the field during the preseason.

Despite being thrown into the fire as a rookie, Prescott exceeded beyond everyone's expectations in 2016. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Despite being thrown into the fire as a rookie, Prescott exceeded everyone’s expectations in 2016. (Photo Source: Twitter)

In four preseason games, Prescott completed almost 80 percent of his passes, threw five touchdowns, ran for two more, and threw zero interceptions. So thanks to his performance during the summer, the heartbeat amongst the team’s fans almost settled back down to a normal pace (almost).

During Dallas’ first game of the 2016 regular season, Prescott and the Cowboys fell in a nail-biter to the rival New York Giants. Little did Dallas and their rookie quarterback know, that would be the last loss they would suffer for the next 12 weeks.

Prescott, along with rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, led the Cowboys to one of their best seasons in franchise history. Dallas finished the year with a 13-3 record and home-field advantage heading into the playoffs.

If not for his teammate’s mind-blowing season of his own (Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards), Prescott would likely be the top choice for the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In his very first season in the league, the quarterback finished with 3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes, six rushing touchdowns and only four interceptions.

In 2016, the Cowboys had one of their best seasons in a long time and Prescott had a lot to do with that. (Photo Source: Twitter)
In 2016, the Cowboys had one of their best seasons in a long time and Prescott had a lot to do with that. (Photo Source: Twitter)

The Cowboys eventually fell to the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs but it was to no fault of Prescott’s. Dallas’ rookie quarterback did the best he could against the Packers, throwing for 302 yards, three touchdowns, and just one interception.

Their season might not have ended the way they were hoping heading into the playoffs, but it definitely went much better than most thought it would after Romo went down in August. For that, the Cowboys owe a lot to the performance of their first-year quarterback.

There is no telling what the future holds for Dallas moving forward. But if it continues with Prescott under center, the Cowboys could return to the type of success that once earned them the title of “America’s Team”.