I’m not saying the 23-year-old Prescott is going to be better than the 36-year-old Romo some day, and so the Cowboys should be thrilled to have Prescott take over for Romo down the road. I’m saying Prescott is better than Romo right now, and should remain the Cowboys’ starting quarterback even after Romo recovers from the broken bone he suffered in his back in the preseason.
Prescott completed 18 of 24 passes for 227 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions, as the Cowboys whipped the Bengals on Sunday for their fourth straight win. For the season, Prescott has completed 107 of 155 passes for 1,239 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating of 101.5 is better than Romo’s career passer rating of 97.1, and much better than Romo’s passer rating last year, which was 79.4. (Even when he was healthy, Romo didn’t play particularly well last year.)
Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who leads the NFL in rushing, obviously deserves plenty of the credit for the Cowboys’ four-game winning streak as well. But you can’t separate Elliott’s success from Prescott’s. On Elliott’s 60-yard touchdown run Sunday, Prescott faked a bootleg, and it was the threat of Prescott running that kept the Bengals from closing to the middle of the field, where Elliott ran free. Romo doesn’t have the same running threat as Prescott, and I would expect Elliott’s production to decline if Romo returns.
The Cowboys, from all indications, disagree with my assessment: Head coach Jason Garrett, owner/G.M. Jerry Jones and his son and right hand man Stephen Jones have all said that Romo remains the franchise quarterback and will start as soon as he’s healthy again.
I think that’s a mistake. Prescott is an outstanding young player who’s only going to get better. When you have a quarterback playing the way Prescott is playing, you don’t bench him.
After the Cowboys scored a touchdown to go up 28-0 in the third quarter, Romo could be seen celebrating on the sideline and saying, “It’s over.” He meant the Cowboys’ game against the Bengals. But he also could have been talking about his tenure as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. Romo has had a fine career in Dallas, but there’s now a younger, better player ready to replace him.
Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s games:
Speed up the game, refs. One of the real issues the NFL needs to address is the pace of its games. The best way to improve the pace would be for the officials to speed up their rulings, which often take way too long. It reached a ridiculous level yesterday in Oakland, when the officials talked and talked and talked some more after initially ruling that the Raiders had caught a touchdown pass in the end zone. After the officials got together and debated it for what seemed like longer than Hillary Clinton debated Donald Trump, referee Gene Steratore finally announced a penalty. I re-watched the whole thing on my DVR and timed it. Three and a half minutes elapsed between the end of the play and Steratore announcing, “After a brief conversation, we have pass interference.” But it wasn’t over there. Steratore then went to the sideline to talk to Raiders coach Jack Del Rio. By the time Del Rio decided to challenge the play, four and a half minutes had elapsed. At that point, CBS went to a commercial while Steratore reviewed the replay. But when CBS came from the commercial, Steratore still hadn’t made a decision. By the time Steratore announced that the ruling on the field would stand, and the Raiders lined up for their next play, nine minutes had passed. If the NFL is wondering why TV ratings are declining, perhaps it should consider how many fans turned off the TV during that nine-minute delay.
Sammie Coates is something special. Coates, the Steelers’ second-year receiver, got things started for Pittsburgh yesterday with a 72-yard touchdown pass. Coates now has six catches of 40 yards or longer this season, more than any other receiver in the NFL. (Only three players had more than six 40-yard catches all of last season; Coates already has six in Week Five.) Coates finished the game with six catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
The Colts better fix something soon, or Andrew Luck will break. Luck was sacked five times in yesterday’s win over the Bears, bringing his season total of sacks to an NFL-high 20 — and putting him on pace to get sacked 64 times this season, by far the most of any season of his career. “It’s obviously a big concern for all of us,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said after the game. “You never want to get your quarterback hit and sacked.” The Colts better do something about that big concern soon, or else they’re not going to have Luck on the field much longer.
Another good game for Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer. Although the Bears lost to the Colts and Hoyer missed an open receiver on his last pass of the game, the reality is Hoyer has played well in his three games as Chicago’s starting quarterback: He has 300 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in all three of his starts for the Bears. Jay Cutler has only had 300 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in two of his 99 starts for the Bears. Hoyer should remain the Bears’ starter even after Cutler gets healthy. Hoyer is also playing better than Brock Osweiler, who usurped Hoyer as the Texans’ starting quarterback. The Texans could have kept Hoyer for $5 million this year but instead chose to cut Hoyer and give Osweiler a four-year, $72 million contract. That’s not looking like such a good idea.
Why did Jets coach Todd Bowles punt? Midway through the fourth quarter, the Jets trailed 24-13 and had the ball at midfield. On fourth-and-2, Bowles decided to punt. That is a preposterous decision. According to Pro Football Reference, no team has ever won a game when it punted on fourth-and-1 or fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter while trailing by 11 or more points. Punting in that situation is essentially giving up. Why do it?
Brady’s back. Tom Brady was outstanding for the Patriots on Sunday, showing no rust from his four-game Deflategate suspension and playing a nearly flawless game against the Browns. “The team played really well,” Brady said. “It’s been a fun week getting ready to play and doing what I love to do. I’m proud of the way the guys played. The line played great.” Some day the Patriots may want to replace Brady with Jimmy Garoppolo, but there’s no doubt that Brady is still the starter in New England. Save the quarterback controversies for Dallas.