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FRISCO, Texas – Quarterback Dak Prescott can’t stop thinking about the Dallas Cowboys’ 23-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
He entered the off-season in the belief that the Cowboys were ready for a deep run and perhaps to calm the franchise’s 26-season Super Bowl drought. Instead, they were the only home team to lose the first weekend of the playoffs.
“There are probably some games, some moments in an athlete’s career, that just stick with them forever, and I’m sure it’s going to be one of them,” the quarterback recently said at the Ford Center.
The disappointment may continue, but the work of renewing the optimism he had in January will begin soon.
After the loss to the Niners, Prescott said he would take some time to restart. He continued to play in the Pro Bowl after a long period of constant rehab due to dislocation and compound fracture of his right ankle in 2020, the right latissimus strain he sustained in training camp, and the right calf injury he sustained in October.
A year ago at this point, Prescott was just about to come out of a cast after another surgery on his right ankle. He was in a walking boot and a month or so away from signing the richest deal in Cowboy’s history: four years, $ 160 million, including a $ 65 million signing bonus.
If 2021 was about Prescott’s return to health, 2022 would be about his ability to bring the Cowboys back to a Super Bowl with a list that may look very different from the one that finished 12-5 and won the NFC East.
“Dak has the skills to make it happen,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said at 105.3 The Fan in Dallas after the season ended.
However, the story is not on the side of Prescott, who is entering his seventh season as the Cowboys’ starter in 2022.
Since 1980, only three quarterbacks have reached their first Super Bowl with their original team after a longer run that starts every game than Prescott has had as the Cowboys’ starter. Ken Anderson was in his 10th season with the Cincinnati Bengals when they played Super Bowl XVI. Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan were in their ninth season as starters for the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons in their first races for the Super Bowls XLI and LI, respectively.
Prescott comes after a season in which he set a franchise record for touchdown passes (37). I have completed a career-best 68.8% of his passes. He threw for 4,449 yards in 16 starts, the second-best total of his career. He directed the No. 1 offense in terms of yardage and points.
Still, it was not good enough to get the Cowboys past the first weekend of the playoffs.
It was almost as if Prescott had two seasons within a season: the first six games before he suffered a calf injury and his last 10 after the calf injury.
Before being injured on the overtime touchdown pass to receiver CeeDee Lamb to beat the New England Patriots in Week 6, Prescott was an MVP candidate, throwing 1,813 yards with 16 touchdown passes for four interceptions while completing 73, 1% of its passes.
After the injury, he threw 2,636 yards with 21 touchdown passes and six interceptions and completed 66% of his passes. Those numbers are still good, but not at the level Prescott showed in the first games of the 2020 season before his ankle injury and the first six games of the 2021 season.
“I went through a period right there in the season and just did not play my best ball and people were trying to say it was the calf,” Prescott said on The Rich Eisen Show podcast. “The calf got better. I did everything I had to do to make it heal.”
Something happened, be it the inefficiency of the running game in part due to the partially torn back cruciate ligament Ezekiel Elliott incurred in October, the refusal to give running back Tony Pollard more looks, the disagreements on the offensive or the lack of availability of key receivers. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup or Lamb due to COVID or injuries.
At times, Prescott’s footwork seemed out of hand, though coach Mike McCarthy called it a “general statement.”
“I do not think it is, you know, ‘my God, we have to fix it’, no, that’s not the case,” McCarthy said. “I think, like with everything else, if he was standing here, he would tell you that there are some throws or some things we might need more reps on or more timing. And I think with the challenge of have multiple perimeter options [out], to get in harmony with every guy on every particular route, work through the route tree, we definitely need to keep working on the details of it. So I think it’s all going to be a part of moving forward. “
Another thing changed after Prescott’s calf injury on Oct. 17. His personal quarterback coach, 3DQB’s John Beck, took a job as an assistant to the New York Jets on Nov. 2 to help tutor Zach Wilson, the overall No. 2 draft pick.
Prescott said he still received feedback from Adam Dedeaux, Beck’s partner.
“The in-season is not that important, I think you could say, as much as the offseason is,” Prescott said during the season. “But yes, I look forward to coming back to him [when] the low season happens. “
Prescott credits Beck and 3DQB as part of the foundation of his success. While his pre-match warm-up became a viral sensation, the details of the program helped promote Prescott’s game. Last free season, however, they could not do everything they wanted due to Prescott’s recovery after the ankle injury.
– 3DQBTexas (@DamianDevon) April 7, 2021
“Everything should involve rehab,” said Beck, who will not return to the Jets. “As in the beginning, there were days when we could not have him on his feet through a normal working day. We had to do things that took him up and be strategic in terms of how we would work with some rotation skills, his balance, his mechanics without requiring too much of his legs and ankle too soon. “
Given the details involved in the position of the shoulder relative to the hips and the torque required to make certain throws, there was only so much they could do.
“Dak by nature is a pusher,” Beck said. “He’s going to push the envelope. He’s going to try to get back before, ‘Hey, I’m fine. Let’s go.’ But you have to be smart about it. “
Most of the power comes from Prescott’s right leg, though not every throw requires the same amount of strength. Much of the work Prescott goes through is simulating game situations so that the unnatural can become natural.
“The roof is coupled that way to have good feet and be as clean as possible,” Beck said.
The goal last season was to get Prescott back to where he was before the injury. Now the goal is to make him better than he has ever been, “even if it’s only one percent,” Beck said.
Training jumps between the Dallas area, including Prescott’s backyard track and California. The time on the ground varies. Sometimes teammates will be present with Prescott putting together trips to build a better relationship on and off the field.
“I know he’s excited about having an offseason that feels like his normal offseason,” Beck said.
Beck is right.
“Just having a full offseason to be able to review my training and not worry about getting my leg healthy, all my quarterback exercises and everything I do in a normal, healthy offseason,” Prescott said.
In addition to his health at this point a year ago, Prescott’s contractual future was in doubt. Would the Cowboys place the franchise mark on him again? Could they justify such a large contract coming after such a serious injury?
These questions were answered in March when he signed a deal that averaged $ 40 million per season, topped only by Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes ($ 45 million) and subsequently topped by Buffalo’s Josh Allen ($ 43 million).
While not perfect, Prescott answered questions about his ability to return from injury during the season.
Now Prescott, who turns 29 in July, has to answer another question: Can he take the Cowboys to a Super Bowl?
“I’m working. That’s all I know,” Prescott of the AT&T podium said after the loss to the Niners. “I might take a week or so to get away. You could say clear your mind. But it’s a little hard for me, especially after a season like this, to have a chance, to have the people we have, I think it’s a season that will probably hold on to me and motivate me through the rest of my career, not just this low season. I’ll get back to that pretty soon.
“I look forward to getting better, becoming a better player and doing what I can to help the team get back to that position, but more importantly win.”