How the Dallas Cowboys end Dak Prescott’s slump

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Yes, I said it. Dak Prescott is in a slump. After saying this I’m sure both sides of Cowboys Nation are on high alert as to how I follow up such a decree. Am I going to blame the Dallas Cowboys recent 2-3 record on Dak or am I going to blame the players around him?

Well, it’s a little bit of both and a dash of neither.

As a avid supporter of Dak Prescott I can confidently say he has not played like his normal brilliant self. He’s not botching plays, mind you, but he’s passing up big plays and as Joseph Randle would say, “leaving a lot of meat on the bone.” Sport DFW Cowboys writer Jack Lindsay talked about it earlier in the week when he said Dak lacked confidence.

Both the numbers and the film show Dak Prescott is in a slump, here’s how the Dallas Cowboys fix it.

Dak Prescott’s decline in confidence (regarding passes downfield) could be directly related to the personnel who have been around Dak. People seem to forget, all three of the Dallas Cowboys receivers missed games last month. That affects the timing as well as execution of the passing game quite a bit (remember all the dropped balls and incorrect routes).

Keep in mind there was major upheaval along the offensive line as well. And a Cowboys running game that has rated at the very bottom of the league wasn’t helping things one bit.

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Some will say, if Dak is the kind of QB who needs everything around him perfect then he’s not the franchise quarterback we’re paying him to be. While that’s a somewhat logical conclusion, it’s a little too simplistic and off the mark here.

Dak’s the kind of passer who wants continuity and consistency with his pass catchers. He needs good pass catchers to succeed, it’s true. Some elite passers seem to thrive with just about anyone, but those guys are few and far between. Most QBs, even franchise QBs, need premium WRs.

See also Tom Brady in 2019 with New England compared to Tom Brady now in Tampa: In NE Tom looked done. His arm was exposed, his big plays (and big play attempts) disappeared, and his age was showing. He was a bottom-15 passer and on a steep decline. Give him pass catchers and abracadabra, he’s an MVP candidate and a Super Bowl Champion again. 

Different elite/franchise QBs have different strengths and weaknesses. Dak’s strength is he can produce in a pocket or outside a pocket. He can deliver under pressure or standing clean. Not all franchise QBs can do that.

So as we can see (and hopefully agree), the blame is both on Dak and on the players around him for the recent offensive slump.

Related Story. The Cowboys issues on 3rd down are easily fixable. light

But there’s more to it than just that. As I discussed in Thursday’s column linked above, there’s also a 3rd-down issue to blame for Dak’s struggles. Over the last three games the Dallas Cowboys have ranked 31st in the NFL in 3rd-down conversion rate. They have inexplicably converted less than a quarter of their attempts. I contend this isn’t because of Dak’s struggles but rather the cause of Dak’s struggles.

The odds are stacked against the offense in most 3rd down situations and typically the only situations that are statistically in the offense’s favor are ones with less than 2-yards to go. That’s why virtually everyone who understands the numbers says early downs are passing downs.

The Cowboys situation on third down isn’t because of Dak’s struggles – but rather the cause of Dak’s struggles.

Better play-calling on 1st and 2nd down will lead to less third down situations. The NFL’s best offenses consistently have the most success on early downs and the fewer third downs faced, the more likely they are score on their drives.

The Dallas Cowboys are putting Dak Prescott in too many situations where the odds are against him. Worse yet, some have the audacity to blame him for simply following the laws of probabilities. It’s like flipping coin 10 times and getting mad it landed “heads” half the time.

If we don’t like the odds then the solution is to change the odds. That means avoiding 3rd down situations as much as possible and stop striving for that “manageable” 3rd down situation that rarely exists.

And as we discussed earlier, his slump and the playmakers around him aren’t doing those odds any favors.

The best thing the Dallas Cowboys can do is to change the odds.

If the Dallas Cowboys want to fix third downs and get Dak back to his MVP ways, they need to fix early down aggressiveness. That means throwing the ball downfield on 1st and 2nd down.

With the full stable of WRs back and healthy, the personnel issues should be corrected and Dak’s confidence should quickly follow.

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The only thing left is to fix the early down play-calling.

  • Published on 12/12/2021 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 12/10/2021 at 16:57 PM