Cooper Rush’s SNF Performance Quiets Any Thought of Cowboys Replacing Dak Prescott | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors
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The Dallas Cowboys are Dak Prescott’s team. They always have been, and the thought of the 29-year-old being replaced by backup Cooper Rush bordered on absurd.
Sunday’s 26-17 loss to the rival Philadelphia Eagles slammed home the point that should’ve been made all along. Rush is a quality backup, who’s more than capable of keeping the team afloat and working within its offensive structure. However, the former undrafted free agent can be a detriment against top competition when asked to carry the offense.
Rush completed just 47.4 percent of his pass attempts and threw three interceptions at Lincoln Financial Field. All things considered, those numbers aren’t as bad as they could have been. The sixth-year veteran opened the game by completing only five of 16 passing attempts with a 1.0 quarterback rating (on a scale of 100) during the first half. In those two frames, the Eagles established a commanding 20-3 lead.
Initially, the Eagles used a five-man defensive front to slow the Cowboys’ ground attack and create pressure on Rush when he dropped back to pass. As a result, Dallas barely even tried to move the ball through the air initially. According to ESPN Stats & Information (h/t Todd Archer), the backup-turned-starter began the contest by going 0-of-5 when trying to push the ball 10 or more yards downfield. His first three completions traveled a meager eight air yards.
The mistake some made was equating team success to quarterback play.
Last week’s outcome served as a perfect example of the disconnect between those who think wins are an individual stat and those who realize a team effort is necessary. The Cowboys beat the Los Angeles Rams 22-10 with their quarterback completing only 10 passes. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined to run for 164 yards, and Dallas’ defense forced three turnovers.
The Dallas Cowboys’ Micah Parsons sacks Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Rush averaged 191.2 yards per game during the team’s current 4-1 stretch. For comparison, 27 other quarterbacks hold a higher average.
In American sports, the lore of Wally Pipp losing his spot in the New York Yankees lineup to Lou Gehrig 97 years ago still serves as an anecdote every time a quality player gets hurts and someone else performs well in his stead. (Technically, Tom Brady should be used as a modern analogy after he took the starting job as the New England Patriots quarterback after a Drew Bledsoe injury. But both apply.)
Everyone loves a good underdog story. The hope is someone cheaper, young and better steps up and takes advantage of an unexpected opportunity. But the NFL isn’t the true meritocracy it often portrays itself as being.
Prescott’s experience and price tag ($20 million this year, with an overall contract worth $160 million) were always going to be the primary factors why Rush had no shot whatsoever to make a legitimate claim, even though he did a nice job holding down the fort while the franchise quarterback recovered from a broken thumb. Prescott is on track to start next week against the Detroit Lions.
“I think Dak took the next step. And had a good day on [Saturday],” head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters when asked about Prescott’s pregame throwing workout. ” … We will get him in there and see where he is tomorrow and hopefully have a plan for him [for this week].”
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
McCarthy added that Prescott hopes to be medically cleared on Monday, per Patrik Walker of the Cowboys’ official site.
“I plan on going into this week and get my full week of practice in,” the quarterback stated.
Really, the Cowboys have no one to blame but themselves for the discourse that ensued over the last few weeks. Yes, Dallas outperformed expectations with Rush behind center and a 4-2 record places it among the NFC’s top four teams. Yet, the Cowboys are third in their own division.
Three weeks ago, owner Jerry Jones stood in front of a throng of reporters and stated he wanted another setup where Tony Romo eventually gave way to Prescott, just with the latter in a role reversal.
“Of course I want it. If [Rush] comes in there and plays as well as Prescott played … over these next games ahead, I’d walk to New York to get that. … Of course we want Dak to be here next week. That’s the thing, you do. But Dak and I want Rush to lead the team to a victory here and get another win. Looking back, when Dak was playing instead of Tony, it was game by game. …
“So do I think that it’s possible for Rush to come in here and play at a level and win games the way Prescott did when he took over for Romo? Yes, I do. Yes, I do. I certainly think that’s possible.”
During another interview on 105.3 The Fan, Jones added: “There’s no question he understands this offense, and he has a makeup of a top quarterback—and I underline the word top—and we’re very fortunate. The very purpose of the backup quarterback is to step in and have your team function on all cylinders without having to give up some of your offense that the starter usually takes with him when he leaves.”
Mixed messages are littered throughout those comments.
Jones insinuated that Rush could take the job from Prescott. He also argued that the former can be a “top” quarterback in the NFL, while saying he was doing exactly what’s asked of a backup quarterback.
Dallas Cowboys owners Jerry Jones (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Unsurprisingly, discussions regarding whether Rush should continue to start even with a healthy Prescott on the roster occurred. The conversation became widespread on the national level. But they should have never been taken seriously.
Rush can be a cog in the machine. Prescott serves as the engine, which is exactly what the Cowboys need when facing the likes of the still unbeaten Eagles and the rival New York Giants.
Prescott’s toughness in the pocket, escapability to create outside of structure and the ability to drive the ball down the field are all vastly superior. Not everything is going to be blocked perfectly. Not every pass attempt will be from a clean pocket. When Rush had to stare down the Eagles’ rush Sunday, he faltered. Prescott is far more capable of handling those situations and creating plays.
The Cowboys have the offensive weapons to exploit the back end of the Eagles defense, if their signal-caller isn’t totally overwhelmed by what’s happening at the line of scrimmage or frustrated by a lack of a running game. Dallas did beat the Giants in Week 3, but New York is getting better with each passing week under Brian Daboll’s supervision. Prescott gives the Cowboys a significant advantage over Daniel Jones, even if the G-Men continue to outperform expectations.
Rush did his job in an admirable fashion. He should be commended for doing so. But the reins will be handed back to Prescott the second he can properly grip them.
“So yeah, I mean, obviously just disappointed that I couldn’t be with the guys these past five weeks, I guess, but I’m excited to move forward and happy as hell with the position that we’re in, and yeah, we can get rolling,” Prescott said.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.