Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has the love of the nation now, but will the nation turn on him like they once turned on Tony Romo?
Once upon a time Tony Romo was the NFL’s best Cinderella story not named Tom Brady. The undrafted free agent out Eastern Illinois went from fourth on the depth chart, and likely training camp casualty, to a Pro Bowl starting quarterback captaining America’s Team.
Tony Romo would go on to provide jaw-dropping highlights on a nearly weekly basis. The small school signal caller, who wasn’t even good enough to be drafted, shattered franchise passing records and ended his career as one of the best statistical QBs in the NFL all-time.
But it wasn’t a long lasting fairy tale story for Romo. Because as quickly as he was built up into a hero, he was torn back down into a chump. It didn’t take long for him to fall out of favor with both the national audience as well as a sizable portion of Cowboys Nation. The guy who was statistically one of the best passers ever, became a hated player virtually overnight.
Similarly, Dak Prescott has made a meteoric rise to fame like Tony Romo once did. Prescott may not be an undrafted player like Romo, but the late fourth round pick broke through in Week 1 of his rookie season making his sudden success equally as impressive – not to mention equally as surprising.
So when can we expect the backlash?
We all know it’s coming, right? I mean, the only thing we as a society like more than a rags to riches story is a fall from grace story. Look around in popular culture right now. We see it everywhere and we unabashedly delight in their pain.
The reality is some of it has already started. In the offseason, fans, pundits, and analysts kept pointing out how talented the Cowboys roster was and that Dak Prescott just fell into an ideal situation. They discredited his accomplishments and predicted a sophomore slump since opponents finally had time to figure him out and expose him.
Clearly the predictions of a slump have been incorrect. Not only has Dak continued his success, but he’s improved on it. The play book is opening wider and his particular share of the offensive burden is growing. Dak Prescott isn’t just playing well, but he’s started his career as one of the best to ever play the game.
This season, Prescott has thrown for 1,818 yards, scored 20 touchdowns, and thrown only four interceptions. 24 games into his career he’s posted a 102.4 quarterback rating. As you can see above, that’s higher than everyone except for Dan Marino. His TD to INT ratio is by far the best ever. In the first 24 games, he’s essentially proven to be one of the best all-time passers in NFL, PLUS he’s a legitimate threat to run the ball.
He’s not just good. He’s all-time amazing. And for a player that wasn’t picked until #135, he’s a true Cinderella story.
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Why tear him down?
Tony Romo was once the darling of the NFL. But in less than two seasons he was torn down and trashed by majority of the NFL. It’s not unrealistic to think the same is in store for Dak Prescott. But why?
Thinking back to that backlash Romo suffered years ago got me thinking: Those fans, the draftniks — the pundits and professional scouts – all lose credibility when someone like Romo and someone like Prescott, succeeds. They ultimately want those Cinderella stories to fall flat on their face because it makes them look foolish for not seeing it.
During the Romo years, there was a show on Showtime called House of Lies. One exchange on it rang true with Romo then, just like it rings true with Prescott now:
"“You know when you know you’re really great at something? It’s when they try to erase you… the moment you’ve accomplished something, that someone like you isn’t supposed to. So they say you never did. Or that you don’t deserve it or something. They erase you. Or at least they try.”"
People tried erasing Tony Romo’s greatness. During his prime he had more fourth quarter comebacks than any other current quarterback. That list included Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers. Yet, all anyone could talk about was how much of a choker Romo was. They tried erasing Tony Romo’s amazing success.
And now they’re trying to erase Dak Prescott’s success as well. Look at all the love Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are getting these days. Those two players were picks one and two in the 2016 draft. Their success makes the experts look like they know what they’re talking about. Dak Prescott’s success makes them look clueless.
The hate is coming. Just wait and see. And anything short of immediate postseason success will usher it in. They wanted to do it to Brady but winning a ton of Super Bowls has a way of shutting that noise down. Romo wasn’t so fortunate, and the nation was more willing to jump on that disparaging narrative.
Dak Prescott’s tests will continue. He has to win without Ezekiel Elliott or else they’ll try to erase him. He has to win in the postseason this year, or else they’ll try to erase him. The margin has never been thinner.
The only thing better than a rags to riches story is a fall from grace story. And you can bet they have their pens out, happy to write that reproachful narrative that erases the historic success we’ve been privileged to witness.