Dallas Cowboys Can’t Afford To Bench Dak Prescott When Tony Romo Returns

Drafted behind fellow college quarterbacks Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, and Jacoby Brissett, Dallas Cowboys‘ rookie Dak Prescott wasn’t expected to see much action beyond his brief, yet relatively successful, stint as the Cowboys’ pre-season starter in his first NFL campaign. A few quarters here and there to ensure that injury-plagued incumbent Tony Romo would be healthy and ready for Week 1, and maybe, he could earn a little more pre-season playing time if he was lucky.

But here we are, entering the sixth week of the regular season, and Prescott is at the center of one of the NFL’s biggest story lines after out-performing all of his quarterback classmates through the first five games while leading the 4-1 Cowboys to the top of the NFC East since taking over for Romo during the third week of the pre-season.

In Week 5, Prescott added another noteworthy performance to his growing gridiron resume in the Cowboys’ 28-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, finishing 18-24 for 227 yards, one touchdown, and adding his third rushing score of the season. In the bigger picture, Prescott is now just eight completed passes shy of breaking Tom Brady’s record for completed passes without an interception to start a career, and that’s just one of the many reasons why some Cowboy fans believe that Romo’s successor has arrived.

Coincidentally, while the quarterback who Prescott is attempting to supplant has been nearing his return, an MRI taken just 24 hours after one of the rookie’s best games has revealed that Romo’s back has healed. And according to team owner and general manager Jerry Jones, the injury-plagued veteran will remain the Cowboys’ starting signal-caller

”Tony is our No.1 quarterback,” said Jones via ESPN following the Cowboys’ latest win.

”We’re going to have the luxury of being able to, I think, see them both,” added Jones. ”Now I don’t want to take anything—presume that Dak is going to be necessarily healthy. I don’t want to presume anything like that, but I welcome the opportunity of having Dak playing at this level and Tony back in excellent health. It’s going to be really special for the Cowboys.”

For Prescott–a rookie with absolutely no shot at the starting gig prior to Romo’s latest injury, guiding Dallas to victories in four of its first five games while working his way towards NFL history is about as good as it gets at this point in his career. Not surprisingly, some residents of Cowboy country aren’t convinced that five games and a promising pre-season is enough to know if the former fourth-rounder is truly all that he’s been thus far. But at the very least, Romo’s recent injury issues combined with Prescott’s unexpected success has forced both the team and its fan-base to acknowledge the 36-year old veteran’s looming decline.

Currently the topic of a popular Sports Illustrated cover story, Prescott’s ability to consistently gain yards on the ground has given Dallas a dual-threat option that it simply doesn’t have in Romo, and while watching him take unnecessary hits at the end of a 10-yard dash down the sidelines reminds some of a guy named Robert Griffin III, winning is still enough to overshadow any of the Cowboys’ concerns.

One of the most impressive things about Prescott’s performance through the first five weeks of the season is the fact that he’s been successful on a team that’s surrounded by distractions of every stripe. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot has been accused of assaulting a former girlfriend, defensive end Randy Gregory, linebacker Rolando McClain, and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence have all received recent suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and lead wideout Dez Bryant recently made headlines for being sued by a United States Senator who claims he trashed his rental house.

But with one of the game’s top offensive lines leading the way and a rookie running back sensation by his side, Prescott has risen above all the off-field drama and distractions, totaling 1,239 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions while completing 69 percent of his passes, registering a quarterback rating of 86.7 and a passer rating of 101.5.

Scheduled to play three of their next four games on the road beginning with Sunday’s contest at the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys must now decide if disrupting the chemistry created by Prescott that’s played such a significant role in their 4-1 start just to give Romo his job back is really worth it–which it doesn’t appear to be. But regardless of the team’s decision, it sounds like Prescott’s performance under fire has left a strong impression on head coach Jason Garrett.

”Dak has done a really good job taking advantage of the opportunity,” said Garrett via USA Today Sports. ”I think our team has embraced Dak. He has come in and done what we’ve asked him to do, executes ball plays.”

Although it’s far too early to tell, some seem to believe that Prescott and Elliot are the second coming of Cowboy greats Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. But before a new generation of Cowboy legends can emerge, it looks like ”America’s Team” has already decided to needlessly roll the dice on one who’s clearly past his prime.