Prescott unsurpassed among rookie passers

Eric Goska
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Dak Prescott of the Cowboys is worthy of a jersey number in the 100s.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looks to pass.

He can’t get one, mind you. The NFL doesn’t allow anything above 99.

But the rookie quarterback is playing at such a high level, he deserves special recognition. A uniform number reflecting his passer rating would be a fitting honor.

For much of this season, Prescott has been playing like a veteran. Statistically, he’s been off the charts.

On Sunday, he can add to his accomplishments. As he has done all season, he’ll start at quarterback for the Cowboys, this time in a divisional playoff game against the Packers.

The "R" after Prescott’s name in the lineup might be one of the last giveaways that he is a rookie. Having led Dallas to an NFC-best 13-3 record doesn’t betray him. Being the third-rated passer in the league doesn’t give him away, either.

Prescott is that rarest of rare. He’s just the third rookie quarterback to earn a passer rating of 100 or more.

Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III were the first, both in 2012. Griffin compiled a mark of 102.4 for Washington. Wilson just made it (100.03) with Seattle.

Ten years earlier, the Rams’ Marc Bulger (101.5) came up short. His 214 attempts were 10 shy of the NFL minimum needed to qualify.

With Dallas, Prescott completed 311 of 459 passes for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. His rating of 104.9 is a rookie best.

Overall, the 23-year-old native of Louisiana ranked third in the NFL behind Matt Ryan (117.1) and Tom Brady (112.2). He beat out veterans such as Aaron Rodgers (104.2), Drew Brees (101.7) and Wilson (92.6).

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The number 100 has shown up repeatedly for Prescott. He encountered it on his first attempt as a pro when he completed an 8-yard pass to Dez Bryant to give him a rating of 100 even.

Though he didn’t come close to 100 in that season-opening 20-19 loss to the Giants (69.4), Prescott made up for it later. He hit triple digits in 10 games (minimum 20 attempts), a number second only to the 12 of Ryan.

Doing so 10 times established a rookie record. The previous best had been seven by Wilson and Griffin.

Dallas has yet to lose when Prescott hits 100. He has ranged from 103.8 in his second start, a 27-23 win at Washington, to a high of 141.8 in a 35-10 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns.

Prescott pushed his season rating above 100 for good against Cleveland. He did so with a 26-yard touchdown toss to tight end Jason Witten that put Dallas ahead 7-3 early in the first quarter.

That was his 225th pass attempt. His season rating has been north of 100 in each of his last 234 throws.

Years ago, rookie quarterbacks seldom got this type of workout. Only 10 rookie or first-year players attempted 200 or more passes in a season from 1920 through 1959. The number increased to 30 (1960-1979), then 35 (1980-1999) and 48 since 2000.

Prescott hasn’t been perfect. The New York Giants had his number and twice beat Dallas.

His rating in that one-point loss in the opener (69.4) was his second-lowest. He dropped to 45.4 in the rematch, a 10-7 setback at New York on Dec. 11.

But overall, this newcomer has been a cool customer. In 56 seasons of Cowboys football, only Tony Romo in 2014 had a higher passer rating (113.2) than Prescott.

Prescott now awaits a more imposing challenge. It’s the postseason where rookie quarterbacks, while having a greater impact of late, historically have been limited.

Since 1970, 16 rookies have started 24 games at quarterback in the playoffs. Their record in those games was 8-16.

The six winners were Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, T.J. Yates and Russell Wilson. Flacco and Sanchez each won twice.

None of the six advanced beyond the championship game.

The Cowboys’ postseason past has been one of more ups than downs. Their 34 wins are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most all-time.

Dallas also had some memorable matchups with the Packers. It defeated Green Bay three times in the 1990s alone.

Troy Aikman was their quarterback then. In victories by 10, 26 and 11 points, Aikman posted passer ratings of 103.7, 121.1 and 107.5.

Duplicating those types of numbers may be too much to ask of Prescott. Only one rookie — Wilson, with a rating of 109.1 in a 30-28 loss in Atlanta — ever earned a rating of 100 or more in a playoff game (minimum 20 attempts).

However, if anyone is up to the task, it’s Prescott. Based on his play, he’s a rookie in name only.

nflgsis.com and pro-football-reference.com served as references for this article.

Postseason series

Overall: Dallas leads 4-3

At AT&T Stadium: First meeting

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (8-6 overall; 1-0 vs. Dallas)

Cowboys: Dak Prescott (first playoff start)

Best in Class

Highest rated rookie passers in NFL history (minimum 224 attempts).

Rate     Name                          Year

104.9   Dak Prescott               2016

102.4   Robert Griffin             2012

100.0   Russell Wilson           2012

98.1     Ben Roethlisberger     2004

96.0     Dan Marino                1983

91.5     Marcus Mariota          2015

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