Thu, 29 Oct 2020

Writer's Blocks: Seven Big Thoughts About No. 4

Dallas Cowboys
16 Oct 2020, 19:24 GMT+10

David Helman

FRISCO, Texas - Thank God I'm not a superstitious person, because this felt a heck of a lot like a jinx.

Last Thursday, I typed out a ton of words about how much the Dallas Cowboys need to appreciate Dak Prescott, and how foolish it would be to pursue their future quarterback elsewhere. A mere 72 hours later, you already know what happened.

I feel guilty writing about the quarterback again for a second week in a row, but I don't know where else to start right now. The Cowboys are going to have to play their last 11 games without Dak Prescott, so there will be many opportunities for other topics to write about.

For now, I've got a few more thoughts on QB1.

It feels like the power went out 45 minutes into the newest Marvel movie.

You know how it goes. Those wily Marvel people always hide a teaser at the end of the most recent movie. Then, they spend 18 months gassing us up with strategically dropped trailers and sneak peeks. By the time the latest "Avengers" film drops, you're at a fever pitch to see how it's all going to play out.

Then, a freak thunderstorm rolls through and ruins everything. I've actually had this happen to me. Everyone kind of looks at each other in confusion and dismay. There's about 10 minutes of uncertainty, and then some poor theater manager walks in and promises everyone a voucher for a future film. It's well-intentioned, but it doesn't do much to offset the disappointment of having the show ruined. Doesn't that kind of feel like what we've gone through this past week?

In recent memory, has an individual season ever been hyped more than Dak Prescott's 2020 campaign?

It'd have been exciting enough on its own merit. Coming off the best statistical season of his career, Prescott had a new coach and a new star receiver. This star-studded offense was destined to do numbers from the moment Amari Cooper re-signed in March - let alone when CeeDee Lamb joined the mix in April. Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore were going to get them all to work in beautiful harmony.

Then, factor in the contract talk. We've been arguing over what Dak is worth since 2018, and we were going to keep the argument up throughout this season. Every highlight play and every miscue was going to be dissected by both sides of the Great Contract Debate, as we methodically moved toward the chaos of another offseason negotiation.

And then Thanos snapped his fingers and it was all over. A freak injury - not even the kind you typically see on a football field - has robbed us of the second act. We'll never know if Dak Prescott was going to continue on his absurd 6,500-yard pace, or if he would be able to dig the Cowboys out of their early season hole.

It's almost like if "Avengers: End Game" had cut out while Captain America was staring down Thanos and all the bad guys by himself. We'll never know if all of his buddies were going to come crashing through those portals to save the day. And that sucks.

The NFL is going to hand me a voucher, I guess. We'll get to see Dak Prescott play again - probably with the Cowboys. And that'll be fun.

But, unlike comic book movies, NFL seasons play out differently every time. There's no way we'll ever know what this timeline would've brought us.

I'm doing my best to move past it, but it's sad. At the same time, perspective is always key.

Shouts out to Dak Prescott for being an absolute warrior in the face of adversity.

The guy just had his ankle and his season shattered on national TV. You could see his emotions on full display as he was taken off the field. And yet, by Thursday, there he was updating his fans on Instagram about the status of his recovery. Dude was smiling from ear to ear, thanking people for their well wishes and talking about how he was already ready for the comeback.

Don't forget that this is the same guy who lost his brother earlier this year, and who openly talked about struggling with anxiety and depression at times. The same guy who had already lost his mother years prior, when he was only 19 years old. To have such an upbeat response to this latest hardship is beyond impressive.

Now, of course, you can throw perspective into the other side of that equation. Injuring yourself playing football is far from the worst thing that can happen to a person, and Prescott is guaranteed to make all of the $31 million from the franchise tag despite missing the rest of the season. I suppose it can always be worse.

Still, that probably doesn't do much to allay the disappointment he feels - not to mention the helplessness and the possible guilt of not being there to help his team. Prescott has been a centerpiece starter at the major levels of football for almost a decade at this point, and letting go of that for the next three months might be tough on the psyche.

There are greater trials in life than this, but there's no doubt that this will be a challenge for him. One of my greatest fears in life is the fact that I have yet to be confronted with these types of hardships.

I'll turn 32 later this year. Both of my parents are alive and healthy. I don't call my brother as often as I should, but he's fine too. I've never had a remotely serious scare about my own health, and I have a wonderful social circle that helps keep me sane.

The older I get, the more afraid I become that when the other shoe drops, it's going to drop hard. Nobody makes it through life without adversity, and the fact that I have yet to truly be tested sometimes keeps me awake at night.

As I sit here and reflect on the challenges that other people face, not to mention the ones that are sure to present themselves in my own life, I can only hope I face them with the same manner of grace and strength as Dak Prescott. All of that stuff out of the way, I have my doubts this is going to do much to change the long-term future of Dak or the Dallas Cowboys.

We're still very fresh off the ankle surgery, so let's hold our breath and wish for the best. But once the reports started to surface that this is an injury that you can make a full recovery from, I stopped worrying too much about what lay ahead.

The early indication is that Prescott can be on a football field again by May. If that's the case, it really shouldn't do much to harm his overall value. Yes, he would have had greater leverage if he could have played 16 games in this offense, but he still had a month to demonstrate his very obvious value to the organization.

If we can assume the 2021 offseason will function similarly to past offseasons, then the Cowboys will have until sometime in February to place the franchise tag on Prescott. If his recovery is going smoothly, they obviously will - partly to keep him from negotiating with other teams, and partly to buy themselves time to work on the oft-discussed extension.

So it's hard to imagine too much will change. If he is tagged again, then the starting point for Prescott's next salary is $37.7 million. Based on his early-season production and the freak nature of the injury, it stands to reason his asking price on a multi-year deal will be more than that. The Cowboys got a glimpse of what their quarterback was capable of in this offense, but will that be enough to change their minds about whether he's worth that?

Who can say where it goes from there. But it sure sounds like we'll be back in a similar boat. There's also the matter of the length of the contract. After all, everyone knows that was the big sticking point.

If Dak wanted a four-year deal this summer, will he be lowering that number in 2021? In the interesting of hitting the market as soon as possible, could he be seeking a three-year deal?

And would the Cowboys consider that? If they're set to pay Prescott $69 million over two years of franchise tags, would they be interested in ripping the band-aid off and signing him to a deal that paid a larger salary over a shorter period of time?

Naturally, it's hard to say. No one has done a great job of predicting where Prescott's contract negotiation is going - because the vast majority of us thought he'd have a deal right now.

From my vantage point, though, the injury doesn't seem likely to change the nature of the discussion. At the very least, I think that's a pretty big win for Dak. Make no mistake, though: my point from last week still stands.

As good as Andy Dalton might look in the coming weeks, he'll be turning 33 at the end of this month. He might play well on this roster, but the window has likely closed on him becoming one of the best handful of quarterbacks in the NFL.

Prescott was making that jump right before our eyes. He might not yet be on the level of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, but he is undoubtedly making that leap. At the age of 27, it's easy to argue that he's at least one of the 5-6 best quarterbacks in the NFL.

It's a shame he won't be able to state his case again this year, but Prescott is the type of quarterback franchises spend years looking for. It'd be a mistake to overthink that.

----------------------------------------------------------------------- The Cowboys are back at AT&T Stadium next Monday night, October 19th , to take on the Arizona Cardinals. A limited number of tickets starting at $89 are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!

Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium this season can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.

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