OXNARD, Calif. — Dak Prescott was warned just before his first meeting with reporters at training camp that Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy had just delivered his best line yet in California.
It was something about quarterbacks being the key to winning the Super Bowl.
Dallas is the furthest behind among the NFL’s storied franchises for a trip even this far into the playoffs. That’s part of why the QB star was tipped off by PR staff before stepping onto the podium.
Prescott knew what his coach was saying.
“I feel like we’ve talked about it in many conversations,” Prescott said. “Obviously the old saying defense wins championships, it’s true. And when he says quarterbacks win the Super Bowl, that means they have to make big plays in big moments in games like this.
Despite all the talk about the Cowboys not coming out on top in time for a final game in a 23-17 home loss to San Francisco last January, most hasn’t been whether Prescott has ran too far trying to set a final throw towards the end zone.
Maybe it was a moment of vagueness in a big game for Prescott. Maybe not. But that came after numerous other misfires for an offense that deteriorated from one of the best in the NFL at the start of the season to one of the most inconsistent late in the season.
McCarthy has been invited to camp for two days where he thinks the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year can improve as Prescott, the starter since Week 1 of his freshman year, is 29 and carries a record 1-3 in the playoffs in his seventh season.
The soundbite that had Twitter buzzing came halfway through the response.
“It’s Dak Prescott’s offense and I think you see him taking possession of it,” McCarthy said. “Because at the end of the day, the defense wins the championships, but the Super Bowl is won by the quarterback.”
McCarthy also left little doubt that he thinks Prescott is capable of joining Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman as Super Bowl-winning QBs in Dallas.
Prescott understands that’s how quarterback legacies are defined in Dallas. He may have replaced the Cowboys’ best quarterback not to win a Super Bowl in Tony Romo, whose preseason injury created Prescott’s opportunity six years ago.
“The ones we hold at the highest level are the ones with Super Bowl rings,” Prescott said Monday. “So that starts there for me to try and replace the guys that came before me and do something for this organization that hadn’t been done for a long time.”
The Cowboys haven’t even reached an NFC Championship Game since the last of the franchise’s five Super Bowls in the 1995 season. They have three NFC East titles with Prescott, but also two losses in the first playoff games. at home, including as the NFC’s top seed in his rookie year.
Prescott said Chad Bohling, the Cowboys’ mental health consultant, showed him clips of the quarterback’s postgame press conference after the loss to the 49ers, along with some of star running backs Ezekiel Elliott.
It could have been the equivalent of pressing a reset button for Prescott.
“That feeling is an unpleasant feeling and it’s one that, when you think about it, you want to go to work,” Prescott said. “You want to do everything you can to make sure you don’t feel like this anymore.”
Two weeks before camp, Prescott said he was in the best shape of his career. Just days into training camp, tight end Dalton Schultz said Prescott’s shots had “a lot more power.”
Prescott credits an off-season training regimen that focused on rotating his body, using his legs and finding ways to increase power at different arm angles.
He’s also more than a year away from the horrific ankle injury that ended his 2020 season in Week 5 and enters the second year of a record-breaking, $160 million four-year contract.
McCarthy said his line on quarterbacks and Super Bowls is his opinion, based on statistics. He also has proof of his only Super Bowl victory as a coach in Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers was the game’s MVP when the Packers won the Super Bowl under McCarthy. Since joining Dallas in 2020, McCarthy has said more than once that the offense should be about putting the quarterback at ease.
“That’s how I see the journey and the vision of how you prepare your team and what your team should look like,” McCarthy said. “And I think he’s a guy who mimics exactly what you’re looking for because he’s always looking to improve in all areas.”