OPINION: “Best of Rivals: Part II”/The Dak Debate

The eyes of the NFL (National Football League) are most definitely on the Dallas Cowboys. They currently have the best record in the NFL (8 wins and 1 loss) and it would be an understatement to say that they have improved from last year’s upsetting record (4 wins and 12 losses which ranked them at the bottom of their division). The success of Dallas is starting to make football fans question whether they will win the NFC championship title and battle an AFC opponent in Super Bowl LI (51) while coaches are anxiously dreading their matchup(s) with Dallas and analysts and commentators are predicting the team’s and players’ prosperous futures. There is no denying that the attention on Dallas this year has been attributed to the powerhouse duo of their rookies; Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott.

Dallas drafted Prescott in fourth round of the 2016 Draft as an intended backup to 13 year veteran Tony Romo but after Romo fractured his vertebrae in their third preseason game against Seattle, Prescott filled in and has been outperforming Romo in pretty much every way. His pass accuracy, completion rate, rushing and passing yardage, grace under pressure, touchdowns, and lack of interceptions and fumbles are truly unlike anything Dallas has ever seen before.

When Elliott and Prescott triumphed with a 35-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones confirmed suspicions that Romo will not start next Sunday against Baltimore even though Romo fully practiced last week for the first time since late 2014.

“We are going to let the decision make itself,” Jones said to ESPN. “Dak has got a hot hand and we’re going to go with it.”

Since Prescott’s initiation into the NFL, he has passed 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Romo on the other hand, averages about 36 completed passes out of 45 total passes and two (or more) interceptions and sacks in a single game.

Prescott has already distinguished himself as a leader among the Cowboys, so it is not improbable to predict that Romo might never regain his starting position in Dallas. After all, a rookie quarterback outplaying an older veteran is not at all uncommon or unheard of, but this rivalry between Romo and Prescott reminds me of another legendary feud; the battle between Joe Montana and Steve Young for the San Francisco 49ers’ starting position.

Four years ago, sports author Adam Lazarus published “Best of Rivals: Joe Montana, Steve Young, and the Inside Story behind the NFL’s Greatest Quarterback Controversy” (2012). The book documents Montana’s and Young’s college and professional careers, personal lives, interactions with teammates and coaches and most importantly; their legendary rivalry. Montana had gotten older, slower and more beaten up, as all quarterbacks eventually do, and in the two years that Montana was injured, the 49ers prospered with the quick and ambitious Steve Young. This caused a controversial clash of opinions that ultimately lead to Montana finishing his last season in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The only difference I really see between these two scenarios is that Romo does not have as much animosity towards Prescott as Montana had towards Young.

“Football is a meritocracy. You aren’t handed anything. You earn everything. Every single day. Over and over again. You have to prove it. That’s the way that the NFL and football works,” Romo said in an emotional press conference yesterday, “A great example of this is Dak Prescott and what he’s done. He’s earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as it is for me to say, he’s earned that right.”

Although Romo has much more respect for Prescott than Montana did for Young, I still see a “Best of Rivals” scenario quickly unfolding in the near future. I truly believe that the Cowboys will be hesitant to allow Romo to return since Prescott is performing so well and it is probable that Romo might end up requesting a trade to another team or simply end up being dropped by the Cowboys. Keep your eyes on Dallas’ quarterback situation; another “Best of Rivals” scenario is underway.

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