Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.
In this space, I articulate positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Today, I'll explain why the Cowboys need to reconsider how they value their quarterback.
In what is becoming a weekly tradition, it seems I have to take some time to apologize to an NFL receiver for doubting him.
It was Keenan Allen last week. This week, it's Amari Cooper, which is kind of an evergreen thing. I mean, I called him the WR1 heading into Dallas' game against the Eagles. But this stems back to October, when I mocked the Cowboys for giving up a first-round pick for Cooper. And I know a lot of you will be all, "Yeah, I kind of felt that way, too." Which is probably true. But I really went after it. I feel like I'm the face of the "Haters who didn't believe in Amari Cooper" club:
The only thing that has aged as poorly as that tweet is your sense of humor if you think saying "This tweet aged poorly" is still funny in this day and age. It's as clever as still doing the "Wassup" gag. And while I admit it made a comeback a half-decade ago in that Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg movie, the point is, stop doing that. We can all start doing better, savvy?
With that said, maybe I should stop giving the Dallas Cowboys advice. I clearly was wrong about the Cooper trade, while owner/GM Jerry Jones was spot-on. Jones has enjoyed an ultra-successful career built on making moves that were perceived as risky, from his purchase of the Cowboys to getting rid of the only coach the franchise had ever known for a college football guy to building Jerry's World, and now giving up a first-rounder for Cooper, who was not performing in Oakland. Jones has made some great moves. However, this would not be one of them:
"When I say, man, he's our future. I don't know how we could ask for more, to have this opportunity for him to progress the way he has," Jones said last month. "If someone walked in here right now and looked like they were going to get the No. 1 pick in the draft and said we'll give you two picks for Dak ... I wouldn't even consider it. No."
Yeah, he's referring to two first-round picks. I read that quote and thought he was talking about Cooper the whole time. And when I saw that he was talking about Dak Prescott, it hit me like Leighton Vander Esch tackling a ball carrier running across the middle of the field. And I know this is bad timing. Prescott just threw for 455 yards in a thrilling win over the defending champs. That was dandy. But let's not get swept up in the emotion of the moment. Sure, the Cowboys (and the Bears) look like the two best teams in the NFC this week. But no. This sounds like what people say when they get together with their friends on New Year's Eve. They say stuff like, "Why aren't we doing this every month?" And then you don't see them again until next year. So, let's try to remain grounded. Two first-round picks for Dak? I would more than consider it.
So, while it's fun to take a victory lap right now, dunking on those idiots who questioned the Cooper trade (hello!), you still risked a first-round pick on a receiver who had underperformed, and -- most importantly -- you haven't won anything yet. Your quarterback still has plenty to prove. Make no mistake: He's been good. Damn good. As a guy known to talk about fantasy football from time to time, I admit he's been really terrific. Let's look at Dak's numbers since Cooper's arrival -- they've all improved. He's gone 5-1 during those six games. He's completed nearly 75 percent of his passes. He's throwing for about 286 yards per game. And that passer rating -- it's 105.7!
Really, really good. But who are we crediting for this? Did Dak just suddenly learn how to play quarterback on an expert level, like your little brother who was working on his "Madden" skills while you were away at college and then started crushing you when you returned home? Or did Cooper have some impact here?
And if Cooper helped Dak, isn't it reasonable to assume he could help out some other quarterback, as well? Like one you could fetch for a pair of first-round picks Jerry's mythical suitor would be willing to offer for Dak?
You also know that I'm here to keep it real with you -- Dak still misses a ton of throws. He missed some connections with Michael Gallup that could have blown the game open on Sunday. He makes some questionable decisions. That game-winning touchdown pass to Cooper could have just as easily been a pick-six if the Eagles weren't fielding replacement-level defensive backs in the secondary.
I mean, this five-game winning streak is really impressive. It's great. And I don't want to put a damper on your enthusiasm. But now people (like the GM/owner) are talking about turning down two first-round picks, and you know the talk of a long-term deal will start to reach a fever pitch here in the coming weeks (2019 is the final year of Prescott's rookie contract). Shoot, Jerry's been openly discussing his intentions for months:
"Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas back in early November. "He's young and he's going to get extended."
Slow your roll, dude! Take a look at our friends down in Duval County, Florida. I'm not saying Dak is Blake Bortles, but you think the Jaguars are happy with the money they gave to their recently benched QB in the offseason? Giving Dak megabucks right now would be woefully premature. He just hasn't displayed the type of consistency you need from a $100 million quarterback.
Let's allow cooler heads to prevail here. At least wait and see how the rest of this season plays out. Then sit down and think real hard about the 25-year-old signal-caller in the offseason. One of the biggest advantages of hitting on a Day 3 pick like Prescott -- especially at the quarterback position -- is the tiny slice of your payroll that said player takes up. Dak has a base salary of $630,000 this season -- that won't be the case on his next contract. And, of course, a big-bucks QB deal affects everything else on the roster. Isn't DeMarcus Lawrence a free agent after this season? And hey, that Cooper guy's contract is up after 2019. Thinking those two might command a few bucks ...
Take your time here, Jerry. You have the advantage in this situation. You wouldn't just walk onto the lot of a car dealership and immediately tell the salesman "I'll take it!" before at least getting the full sales pitch and taking a test run. Don't rush to do anything immediately. You're the Dallas Cowboys. I know you've become accustomed to having quarterbacks play very well in the regular season. But I'm old enough to remember a time in the 1990s when your quarterback -- Troy Aikman -- didn't put up the same gaudy regular-season numbers as a couple of his NFC counterparts, Steve Young and Brett Favre. Instead, Aikman was content with going out and beating them in the playoffs. That's a guy I would have never considered trading.
One more thing ...
Hey, Chicago Bears. Love what you did on Sunday night against the Rams. Obviously, this makes you strong Super Bowl contenders. But you can't let Green Bay come to Soldier Field and win on Sunday when you're on the verge of clinching the NFC North title. It's like that time when Luke Skywalker showed up in all black in "Return of the Jedi." The force is strong with you. Finish this thing.