FRISCO, Texas -- Quarterback rankings in the Tony Romo era have always been a fun task, with those believing the Dallas Cowboys quarterback should not be ranked highly because of a lack of playoff success being just as correct as those who believe he is (was?) an elite quarterback, if not at the very top of the list.
While it looks like Romo’s days with the Cowboys will be coming to an end, unless Jerry Jones can truly sell ice to Eskimos and convince Romo to remain in a backup role, the rankings will not go away.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano offered up his Quarterback Confidence Index last week, and the Cowboys checked in at No. 19.
That surprised me.
Here’s Graziano’s methodology, laid out in the column: This is not simply a ranking of starters, though starters (especially those who never miss games) obviously make up the bulk of the formula. Nor is it a pure comparison of quarterbacks' accomplishments to date. It's a rating based on the confidence each team currently should have in those at the position.
So this doesn’t mean Dak Prescott is the 19th-ranked quarterback in the NFL. It means the Cowboys’ quarterback situation is 19th-best in the NFL. Feel better? Yeah, I think that’s a little low, too. But my guy Graz breaks the index into categories: All set; Set but for how long?; Caught on a speed bump; Trending up; Just fine; Keep it up, kid; Watch your back, and No idea.
The Cowboys check in at "Keep it up, kid," with Tennessee, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
An argument can be made that the quarterback situations are better for those four than for, say, Cincinnati and Minnesota, which are in the "Just fine" category. Would you rather have Prescott, Sam Bradford or Andy Dalton? Washington is in the "Trending up" category, with Kirk Cousins set to be franchise-tagged again if he doesn’t reach a long-term deal.
It’s interesting to compare this to the Confidence Index points from the 2016 season. The Cowboys checked in at No. 30 in September. Handing the keys over to a rookie fourth-round pick, even one who had played as well as Prescott had in the preseason, did not inspire much confidence, so it made sense for Dallas to be in the bottom third.
In October, the Cowboys moved up to No. 18. In November, they moved to No. 5. And they ended up at No. 6 in December.
Maybe the return of Romo had something to do with the confidence going up. If something happened to Prescott, the Cowboys would have been better off than any other team having to play its “backup” quarterback late in the season.
If I were constructing a ranking, albeit with different criteria than this list, I’d probably have Prescott somewhere in the 10-14 range.
Graziano wants to see more from Prescott, which is a completely fair expectation. Everybody should want to see more from Prescott, even as well as he played in a season that ended with him being named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
He is not a finished product by any stretch. Neither was Romo after the 2006 season. Romo ignited a Cowboys run to the playoffs that season and had 19 touchdown passes in 10 games. He was intercepted 13 times as well, but the Cowboys offense caught a spark.
In 2007, Romo threw 36 touchdown passes, which remains a team record, and piled up 4,211 passing yards, the most in franchise history at the time. The Cowboys went 13-3 and had home-field advantage in the playoffs.
That season didn’t end the way anybody in Dallas wanted it to, but the Cowboys knew they had their quarterback.
So there’s nothing wrong with observers wanting to see Prescott do it again in 2017 before moving him up the rankings.
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