NFL – MY PICK FOR 2016 MVP: DAK PRESCOTT

The 2016 NFL regular season is coming to a close which means the race for the league’s Most Valuable Player award is heating up.

Lots of deserving names are being floated around for the honor, but one player stands out to me above the rest and that is Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

These are the facts: 

  • Dallas selected Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft (135th overall).  He became the Cowboys’ third string QB.
  • During training camp, he competed with 2nd yr QB Jameill Showers for the backup job after the true backup Kellen Moore broke his leg.  Reports indicate that Showers outperformed Prescott during this time,  but coaches chose to start Prescott at the preseason opener.
  • During the preseason, Prescott was a “breakout performer”.  He went 39 for 50 (78.0%), 454 yards, 7 TDs, 0 Interceptions.
  • Starting QB Tony Romo suffered a compression fracture in his back during the Week 3 preseason game and was expected to be out 6-8 weeks.
  • Prescott resumed the duties as the starter in Romo’s absence.
  • Overall, Prescott’s excellent performance continued into the regular season.  He was known for veteran-like maturity, efficiency, and poise.
  • During Week 11, Romo returned to the active roster and said he was healed and ready to play, but the team decided to stick with Prescott as their starting QB.
  • Romo conceded and became the team’s backup for the rest of the year.

Prescott’s stats through Week 16: 

  • He broke the record for most passes without an interception to open a career at 163 (previously held by Tom Brady in 2000-1) and went on to extend it to 176 (Week 6);
  • He became only the 3rd quarterback in NFL history (besides Dan Marino and Russell Wilson) to throw multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games (Week 11);
  • He broke the record for most games with a 100+ passer rating with 11 (previously held by Russell Wilson in 2012 with 9 games);
  • He is tied for the most wins as a rookie quarterback in the regular season (13) and has a chance to break the record during the last game of the season (Week 17);
  • His first season is statistically analogous to Tom Brady’s 2001 breakout year (3,630 yards, 23 TDs – 4 Int’s, 105.7 rating);
  • He led the team to a 13-2 record, the Cowboys won the NFC East division, retained the #1 NFC seeding, and clinched home field advantage during the playoffs.

Leadership Skills:

It is obvious that Prescott’s on-the-field performance allows him to at least be in the conversation of MVP.

But, there’s more to him than just a skilled player who has the ability to execute with quality.

Prescott has proven that he is a true leader who understands the talent around him and knows how to generate chemistry.

Both qualities have helped the veteran players and rookies come together, rally around him, and create a winning team that appears to be Super Bowl bound.

Right from the start, when Romo went down on the field in August, Prescott took the reins with ease and control and earned the respect from the guys in the huddle.  Enough so, that veteran TE Jason Witten noticed it.  He said, “I think that’s the first time we all kind of said, ‘Wow.  This is pretty impressive on how he’s handled it.”

In the locker room, Prescott has used humor to draw players in like giving out leftover Trick-or-Treat candy and playing “laundry basketball” with the guys.

He’s said, “I have fun, I show them the difference of having fun and then being locked in and handling your business.  That allows people to gravitate toward you and know we can joke.  We can joke, but as soon as it’s time for football we all lock in and get focuses on our job.”

And then there’s Prescott’s relationship with WR Dez Bryant.  Prescott has managed to calm down the sometimes temperamental superstar and harness his passion for greatness.  He’s also worked hard to find chemistry with him over the course of the season and when it’s clicked,  the passing game has been magnificent.

On the sidelines, Prescott has also been known to encourage teammates even when times were tough with a never give up attitude.

Maybe these leadership skills have come natural to him, or maybe as SportsDay pointed out on Nov 11, Prescott is proficient in reaching out to players, because he earned a master’s degree in “workforce leadership” from Mississippi State.

Or, maybe it’s because every time he took over for an injured starter in high school, college and now the NFL, he outshined them.

But, one thing is clear, Tony Romo never had this kind of success with his teammates chemistry-wise and probably never will.

It’s true that Dallas has been surging in the running game for years and was waiting for a sensational once in a generation talented running back like Ezekiel Elliott to come along.

The Cowboys also have the best offensive line in the league which has protected Prescott and given him time to be efficient as well as guide his powerful offense.

Yet, even with a great team behind him, I don’t feel Romo would have been able to bring the 2016 Cowboys to the same kind of success.

The players just believe in Prescott unlike they could ever believe in an injury-prone 36 year old Romo.  The Cowboys’ management realizes this, or else they’d have put him in when he was ready to go.

You may argue that perhaps chemistry just ignited around the two sensational rookies (Prescott & Elliott) which has emboldened the team.

But, I don’t believe the team chemistry sparked by Prescott happened incidentally.  As I pointed out earlier, he’s worked hard to make it happen.

And, for those reasons, Prescott should be the MVP this year.

What this 23 year old has done in spectacular fashion this season is immeasurable and not many could have pulled it off.

Honorable Mentions 

Tom Brady has performed incredibly well this season since coming back Week 5 from suspension via the Deflategate scandal.  For sure, he’s been instrumental in helping the Pats close in on the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.  But,  the fact is, New England won 3 games without him and only lost the 4th due to the injury of the backup QB (who by the way finished with a 115.5 passer rating).  While Brady has helped keep the momentum going for the Pats, he shouldn’t earn the award just because he is the best QB in the league, or greatest of all time.  Give him Offensive Player of the Year award instead.

If you are going to vote for Brady as MVP, then Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan should trump him. Ryan is putting up “historic” stats this season, has a better passer rating than Brady (115.5) overall, and has completed TD passes to a record 13 different players this season.  Some even say his offense is one of the “best ever” because they are close to equaling the total points scored by the 1999 St. Louis Rams.  But Ryan still doesn’t compare for me to the job Dak Prescott did and the intangibles he brought.  A close second, but no cigar.

Ezekiel Elliott has been a phenomenon.  The 1st round draft pick for Dallas and former Ohio State RB has put up 1,551 yards rushing this season and may break Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson‘s long-standing rookie record of 1,808 yards.  However, he alone has not helped Dallas to its success this season.  He’s been great, spectacular, and fun to watch.  But, he’s the Rookie of the Year, not MVP.

After starting the season 4-6, the Green Bay Packers have gone on a tear and won their last 5 straight games.  A large part of the reason has been the revival of QB Aaron Rodgers whose toughness and talent have been on display and peaked down the stretch.  It’s enough for some experts to think he has a shot at his 3rd MVP award.  I’m not convinced since his early season struggles almost cost the team a chance to fight for a playoff berth.  Comeback Player of the Year probably.

 

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