Whitlock: Dak Prescott’s $160 million contract was always a mistake

The Dak Prescott pity party kicked off Sunday night, shortly after it became obvious that the Cowboys would struggle to score on the Buccaneers.

In the nightcap of the NFL’s opening Sunday, Prescott’s Cowboys managed a single field goal in a 19-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

Tom Brady vs. America’s Team was supposed to be the “Top Gun: Maverick” of the football weekend. Instead, it was a snoozefest, largely because Dak can’t fly at Brady’s altitude even for short stretches.

Dallas’ $40-million-a-year quarterback is worth half as much as Brady but is paid twice as much as the seven-time Super Bowl champion. At age 45 and entering his 23rd season, Brady charged the Bucs $15 million this season for his services.

Brady has always played for less money than he’s worth because he’s always prioritized winning above salary. Brady is self-aware. The 199th pick of the 2000 draft, Brady has never forgotten he needs to be surrounded by high-level talent to win games. He left New England because Bill Belichick wouldn’t buy him the talent he needed to excel.

Tampa has and will.

Dak Prescott will regret forcing Jerry Jones to give him a $160 million contract a year ago. The big contract comes with big expectations and a lack of sympathy.

Sunday night, when Dak jogged off the field after injuring his thumb, Cowboys fans booed their quarterback and a couple of people tossed their trash at the seventh-year player.

Prescott is no longer the Mississippi State underdog, the fourth-round pick who unseated Tony Romo in 2016. Prescott is an overpaid, average quarterback who doesn’t mask the deficiencies of his teammates or coaches. There’s nothing special about Dak Prescott. He’s a poor man’s Tom Brady who is being paid like he’s Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen.

No one in Dallas really cares that Mike McCarthy is a bad head coach. Or that Jerry Jones is a mediocre general manager. Or that Dallas’ offensive line and receiving corps are suspect. No one cares that Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is unproven and perhaps in over his head.

Prescott is one of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s supposed to mask problems, not accentuate them.

Last night, Prescott exaggerated Dallas’ problems. He threw the ball inaccurately. His arm strength isn’t exceptional. He’s not a dynamic runner. He’s Tom Brady without Tom Brady’s intangibles. Brady’s number-one intangible is self-awareness.

Being married to a filthy rich supermodel (Gisele Bundchen) makes it easier for Brady to compromise on his NFL contracts. I get that.

But at some point, a quarterback like Prescott needed to figure out that an extra $5 to $10 million a year wasn’t going to be worth the raised expectations. Cowboys fans wouldn’t be booing Prescott if he was the 15th highest-paid QB rather than the eighth.

Prescott isn’t Lamar Jackson. I actually believe it would be easier to win a Super Bowl with Prescott than with Jackson. Prescott is a pocket quarterback. Jackson is a dual-threat improviser. Over the long haul, football rewards the pocket passer more than the scrambler.

Having said that, Jackson’s value to the Ravens far exceeds Prescott’s value to Dallas. Jackson is an elite runner who can win games without elite receivers, an elite play-caller, or even an elite offensive line. Jackson will be worth every dime Baltimore pays him. And that’s true even if he gets hurt and loses effectiveness. He’s already earned his record contract. He’s single-handedly carried the Baltimore franchise for four straight years.

Dak doesn’t carry Dallas. He makes the ride smooth when the Cowboys have the necessary pieces to roll. Dallas doesn’t have the necessary pieces.

Last night’s thumb injury is the luckiest break Dak caught against Tampa. He’s going to miss the next six to eight games. He has an excuse for a poor season. The Cowboys will fire Mike McCarthy at some point this season. Dak will start the 2023 season with his third head coach.

It will likely be Sean Payton. Jerry Jones will ask Payton to turn Prescott into Drew Brees. Payton will fail. Brees had elite accuracy. Dak doesn’t.

It’s going to be a long pity party for Dak. The excuse-makers will blame McCarthy and Jason Garrett, Dak’s original head coach.

Greed and ego undermined Dak Prescott: both his own and his agent’s.

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