Dallas Cowboys: Protective of Dak Prescott until they aren’t

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

After going back and painfully enduring the All-22 of the Cowboys – Broncos game, I couldn’t help but notice something: the Dallas Cowboys were being uncharacteristically negligent with their starting QB.

In a game that was far worse than the 30-16 score indicates, Dak Prescott was needlessly at risk much of the game. The Dallas Cowboys didn’t have a shot in “H-E-double hockey sticks” at coming back (can you tell I have small children?), yet they kept their most valuable players on the field and in harms.

The Dallas Cowboys needlessly risked Dak Prescott by not pulling him in the fourth quarter

It’s a curious move considering at every point this season the Cowboys have relentlessly erred on the side of caution. They eased Dak Prescott into training camp action with restraint. Then when Dak injured his shoulder they pulled him out of preseason action completely. When he strained his calf before the bye they kept him out an extra week despite being cleared by the medical staff.

None of this I have major issues with.

you don’t put a player at risk if there is no conceivable reward.

Dak Prescott is this team’s most important player. The Dallas Cowboys live and die by their QB1 so protecting him for the playoffs makes perfect sense. Even if it seems a bit overly cautious.

But on Sunday the Dallas Cowboys inexplicably threw caution to the wind and kept their franchise QB in even though all was lost.

Players can get hurt at anytime. We all know this and we can’t hide from this. The only smart way to handle this is to manage the risk and reward of each situation. In other words, you don’t put a player at risk if there is no conceivable reward.

That’s why teams we don’t play key starters in the preseason and that’s why teams pull key starters in blowout situations. Balancing risk and reward is why Dallas didn’t want to play Dak in Minnesota and it’s why they should have pulled him from Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

Some will say, “he didn’t get injured so it’s no big deal.” and they’re right with the result but it’s the behavior of coaches that has me concerned, because it’s counter to what they’ve shown us in the past and could be a problem in the future.

With this high-powered Dallas Cowboys offense, they can put points up in a hurry so no game ever really feels like it’s out of reach. But with over 10 minutes to go in the third quarter the Broncos already had a 95% win probability. Those are tough odds to overcome even with a great offense.

By the start of the 4th quarter those odds rose to 98.8%. Considering Dak Prescott had been off-target all day, I don’t know why anyone thought this was going to suddenly swing back in Dallas’ favor.

To make matters worse, the Dallas Cowboys O-line had been struggling all day. Terence Steele, the fill-in at LT, was particularly ineffective in his pass protection, giving up 11 pressures on the day in a truly abhorrent performance.

Speaking of which: 3 Reasons La’el Collins should be the LT for Dallas

By the fourth quarter Dak Prescott was at considerable risk with only a 1.2% chance of reward. Those odds are ugly, my friends. This doesn’t just pertain to Dak either. Ezekiel Elliott also suffered an injury in the first half of action. After calling his return questionable early, Dallas re-inserted Zeke into the offense. Why?

The Dallas Cowboys are blessed to have two elite runners at the running back position. Why not lean on Tony Pollard and put Zeke on ice? the logic is questionable to say the least.

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It was no big deal this time but it would be interesting to hear why risk was OK last Sunday, but wasn’t OK the week before or in preseason, because they don’t seem to be following the same formula.