The season-ending right ankle injury Dak Prescott suffered Sunday shouldn’t put his long-term status with the Cowboys in doubt. If anything, it should have reaffirmed how important it is for Dallas to lock up its quarterback to a lucrative contract extension.
Prescott does have a long recovery ahead in coming back from what the team announced is a compound fracture and dislocation. But based on severity of that injury and given his unrelenting work ethic, a reasonable expectation is that Prescott should be ready to play again at the start of the 2021 season.
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That’s all the Cowboys need to know to finally figure out, and expedite, the best deal for Prescott going forward. Beyond his stellar, prolific play to start this season before going down, Dallas saw his worth first-hand in witnessing the emotional reaction to his third-quarter misfortune against the Giants.
Prescott was playing at an MVP level with his gaudy passing and rushing numbers, all of which were needed to give the Cowboys (2-3) a chance to win all five of their games, with their terrible defense costing them in their three losses. But it is his intangibles as the face of the franchise — leadership, positive attitude and utmost respect from team officials and teammates alike — that make him invaluable.
It wasn’t a mistake by Prescott to play under the franchise tag for 2020. He will still get $31.4 million guaranteed. Before his ill-fated run against the Giants, Prescott was up there with Russell Wilson as the league’s most durable quarterback, having started all 68 of his NFL games. Because of his status of playing the most important position on America’s Team, Prescott also could have faith going into the season he wasn’t going anywhere.
Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones always reward and keep their core players. See Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Tyron Smith and Zack Martin for the best current examples. That was yet another reason for patience, that in the end the Cowboys would put together the money and years to please Prescott.
The Cowboys were able to regroup and beat the Giants 37-34 with backup Andy Dalton making some clutch throws to Michael Gallup to set up the game-winning field goal. When Dalton, the former Bengals starter, was signed in offseason, it was only about having a stronger contingency plan should Prescott got hurt. That signing might be fortuitous if the Cowboys end up winning the weak NFC East with Dalton filling in for Prescott the rest of the way.
But no matter how Dalton plays the rest of the way with a strong supporting offensive cast, he’s not replacing Prescott. And forget about the talk of the Cowboys, without Prescott, possibly being bad enough to draft a franchise QB in 2021. They can trust Prescott will do whatever it takes to get back to full health and be committed to coming back stronger.
Before his present unavailability, Prescott had built plenty of equity by consistently improving in the past as the successor to Tony Romo. Prescott also did plenty to improve this season, so he could have an even brighter future, one that eventually ties into the Cowboys competing for championships again.
There are a handful of players around the NFL who represent their teams so well to the point of being indispensable because of what they mean on and off the field. See J.J. Watt and the Texans. See Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. See the recently retired Eli Manning and the Giants.
Prescott is a class act all the way and has taken over from Jason Witten as the ultimate man in that capacity for the Cowboys. Like all those other players, Prescott is bound to be one day be the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year. He reached another level of inspiring others with his openness about battling depression in the offseason.
Look no further than Jerry Jones, who summed up well in his postgame statement what Prescott means to the Cowboys:
“I know of no one who is more prepared, from the perspective of mental and emotional toughness and determination, than Dak Prescott to respond and recover from the challenge that has been put in front of him,” Jones said.
“He is an inspiration to everyone he touches. He has all of our love and support. And we have no doubt that he will return to the position of leadership and purpose that he brings to our team.”
The Cowboys were never going to go in a different direction at quarterback and Prescott’s injury doesn’t change that. Their hearts should only grow fonder in his absence. More than ever, as they hope for the best care for him, they should feel this is exactly the best time to take care of him.