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Move on from Dak? Why Cowboys’ immediate future still runs through Prescott

Prescott didn’t live up to his own standards this season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t reinvent himself.

It requires no effort to say the Dallas Cowboys should move on from Dak Prescott ASAP.

We watched the 19-12 loss to San Francisco, and we saw all the bad plays he made. Yes, he sucked against San Francisco. Or stunk. Or whatever adjective you choose to use. But he’s still a quality quarterback, one of the league’s best.

After you move past the NFL’s elite quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson (when he’s healthy) and Joe Burrow, there’s not a lot of difference between guys ranked Nos. 6-12 in the league.

So you can move on from Dak if you want to, but that journey to the next quarterback can be a lonely road.

Maybe, you get lucky and go from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers or Tony Romo to Dak. But you could be the New York Jets who have been searching for a franchise quarterback since “Broadway Joe.” Or the Miami Dolphins who have been searching for one since Dan Marino retired in 1999.

Dak, if we’re honest, has never been a dude who was supposed to elevate average players and lead them to a Super Bowl. That’s typically reserved for Hall of Fame caliber players such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees and Rodgers.

But that’s essentially what the Cowboys asked him to do this season.

It was a dumb idea.

Don’t forget, the five receivers active against Tampa Bay in the season opener were CeeDee Lamb, Noah Brown, Dennis Houston, Simi Fohoku and KaVontae Turpin, who was more punt returner than receiver.

Ridiculous.

James Washington, a free agent signee, was never going to be more than just a guy.

You can win regular season games with Dak, who has helped guide the Cowboys to consecutive 12-win seasons. But in the playoffs against tougher competition, he’s going to require more talent.

The Eagles drafted DeVonta Smith in the first round and then traded for A.J. Brown. San Francisco had a good team but Jimmy Garoppolo was never going to lead them to a Super Bowl without considerable help, so they traded for Christian McCaffrey.

Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls in five seasons with a Hall of Fame running back, a Hall of Fame receiver, a perennial Pro Bowl tight end in Jay Novacek and an offensive line good enough to get its own episode of “A Football Life.”

And we aren’t even going to talk about the star players the Cowboys had on defense during the Aikman era.

So, there’s nothing wrong with saying Dak needs playmakers on offense to make these Cowboys go.

The Cowboys had two real playmakers on offense – Lamb and Tony Pollard – this season and a bunch of solid players. They need more, and it doesn’t matter whether they acquire them in the draft, free agency or trade. (Hint: They need more than one.)

Clearly, Dak didn’t have a great season by his standards.

He passed for 2,860 yards with 23 touchdowns and tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions in just 12 games. He had never thrown more than 13 interceptions in a season and he threw the ball 490 times that season. He only threw 394 passes this season, so clearly it has been an outlier of a year.

There’s nothing in his résumé that says he’s a turnover machine. He’s always been a player who protected the ball.

This season reminds me of 2012 when Romo threw 28 touchdown passes and tied Drew Brees with a league-leading 19 interceptions. Brees led the NFL in passing that season (5,177 yards). He vowed after the season to play better and make better decisions – and he did. In 2013, he had 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In 2014, he had 34 and 9.

Romo reinvented himself. Dak can do the same thing.

More talent will help, and Mike McCarthy also needs to take a hard look at whether he needs another quarterback coach or offensive coordinator.

Prescott’s due to make $31 million in 2023 and $29 million in 2024.

He ain’t going nowhere, so the Cowboys better figure out how to maximize his talent.

Jean-Jacques Taylor, a former SportsDay columnist, is the host of JaM Session Podcast which can be heard Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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