Dak Prescott was the only bright spot for the Cowboys this season. The fifth-year NFL quarterback was on his way to making history this season, potentially breaking records for passing yards as he tried his best to keep Dallas in the postseason hunt. Prescott was also playing on the franchise tag this season and playing for a new contract beyond this season. Meanwhile the Cowboys were making a bet on new head coach Mike McCarthy to finally get the team to the next level. The stakes for both the player and the team were huge.
We won’t get to see how it all could have unfolded. In the third quarter against the Giants on Sunday, Prescott took off running on a first-and-10 in the red zone, was tackled by a New York defender, and suffered what was later confirmed as an ankle compound fracture and dislocation. Medical personnel quickly wrapped Prescott’s leg in an air cast and carted him off the field, with the quarterback in tears:
The opposite has been said, but this moment, Dak Prescott, the epitome, and the embodiment of leadership. You don’t cry over things you don’t care about immensely.— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) October 11, 2020
Speedy recovery Dak. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/oJHaLgidwZ
The full severity of Prescott’s injury was not immediately known, but the quarterback was taken to a local hospital for tests and treatment and will undergo surgery Sunday night, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Prescott’s season is almost certainly over.
Playing in relief of Prescott, Andy Dalton was able to rally the Cowboys to a 37-34 win off a last-second Greg Zuerlein field goal. Dalton was able to hit Michael Gallup on multiple downfield sideline throws to put the team in position for Zuerlein’s heroics. Now at 2-3, the Cowboys have a path to winning the putrid NFC East—but it’ll be more difficult without Prescott.
Prescott was in the midst of a career year. Entering Week 5, he led the NFL in passing yards, and he will likely continue to do so for at least another week or two even though he isn’t on the field playing. With 166 yards against the Giants, Prescott now has 1,856 passing yards on the season. He entered Sunday more than 300 yards up on second-place Tom Brady, who had already played his Week 5 game on Thursday night. He had a chance to shatter the NFL’s passing yards record set by Peyton Manning in 2013. And his efficiency numbers—QBR, PFF grade, adjusted net yards per attempt, etc.—were all at or near his career highs.
The Cowboys needed Prescott more than ever this season. Their defense entered Week 5 at 24th in DVOA, and Dallas had faced double-digit deficits in three of its four games. The Cowboys have also faced season-ending injuries to both of its offensive tackles (La’el Collins and Tyron Smith), making Prescott’s job even more difficult. Though the Cowboys were just 1-3 before Sunday’s game against the Giants, Prescott was the only reason the team had been competitive in the first place. Without Prescott under center, the Cowboys’ season is in limbo.
Prescott’s future is also uncertain. The quarterback entered 2020 playing on the franchise tag after talks on a contract extension stalled. He bet on himself to earn a massive contract with his play in 2020, and four weeks into the season, he’d proven everything he needed to. But with a presumably long road to recovery in front of him, his future is not guaranteed.