Dak Prescott is better than Tom Brady. There, I said it.
Say it with me, Dakdazerdatmoney
Welcome to Dak Doubters Anonymous. By coming to this meeting, you have taken the most difficult step and I am very proud of you. We like to start every meeting by ridding our bodies of any unfounded Dak Prescott hate by chanting our mantra. Let’s start slowly.
Repeat after me:
Good! Let’s keep going!
The last time you all threw logic and reason to the wind and hated on Dak was during his prolonged contract extension negotiations. Fueled by the team’s hesitance, some of you haters argued that Dak wasn’t worth top-tier quarterback money.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith’s mantra was in response to hordes of Dak doubters who spent the 2020 offseason arguing that he was not deserving of the four-year, $160 million contract he sought and eventually received. Then the Dallas Cowboys started the season 1-3, and the naysayers foolishly attempted to use the team’s record to discount Dak’s start to 2020. You could see that Dak and the Cowboys’ offense were being sabotaged by an underperforming defense. Before Dak’s Week 5 injury, he was dealing with a league-worst starting field position average of the 23-yard line, but miraculously they were the third-highest scoring team in the NFL, averaging 31.5 points per game. Here’s the average drive start ranking for the top five highest-scoring offenses at that point in the season:
|Team||Points/Game ranking||Avg. drive start ranking|
|Green Bay Packers||1||5|
Holding the Cowboys’ 1-3 record against Dak wouldn’t be fair considering that their defense had a per-game Expected Points Added (EPA, defensive efficiency) of -14.32, which was ranked 31st in the league after four weeks. For context, the most efficient offense in the league last season was the Green Bay Packers with a per-game EPA of 14.27, which means that in those first four weeks before Dak’s injury, the Cowboys’ defense was so bad that it made its opponents (Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns) better than the best.
Dak led the league with 422.5 passing yards per game, nearly 100 more yards per game than the next guy, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. And the doubter would make the valid point that counting stats such as yards per game is not a valid measurement of a quarterback without realizing that neither is a win-loss record. They’d say, “Dak is just racking up yards in garbage time.” OK, then let’s use Total QBR, which accounts for things such as game scenarios and opponent quality. QBR is not perfect, but it’s the most objective quarterback evaluation stat that we have. And Dak’s QBR of 74.4 was good enough for fourth in the league, after four games. So, the doubters had been beaten back.
Then in Week 5, Dak broke his ankle. It was gruesome to see. The Cowboys’ offense without Dak foundered. His value had never been more clear.
|Cowboys offense rankings||weeks 1 – 4 (with Prescott)||Weeks 6 – 17 (without Prescott)|
The Dak doubters were dead.
Until last week, when ESPN published a list of the top 100 NFL players for 2021 as voted on by 50 NFL experts. Dak was 12th on the list, with four quarterbacks ahead of him: Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Allen. It was the quarterback after Dak who summoned the zombie haters.
Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, and coming off a 40-touchdown, 12-interception regular season. He was behind Dak.
If we are talking about career accomplishments, Brady is in a class of his own. But, if we are projecting performance for next season, which the list clearly states, Brady has peers and Dak is absolutely one of them. To think that Brady might have a slightly better season would have been a reasonable response, but zombies can’t reason. I had the nerve to agree with the order of the list and I was met with, “How dare you” levels of incredulity. Look at yourselves in these replies:
These people don’t live in reality and here are the numbers to prove it. (They probably think global warming is a hoax too.)
Comparing their 2020 QBRs might be a bit unfair since Dak only played in four full games and Brady played all 16, so here are their cumulative QBRs since Dak’s rookie season in 2016:
|Total QBR||2016-2020||No. of Games|
This makes Dak the third- and Brady the fourth-best active quarterbacks by QBR over that time period. If we narrow the time period to just the three most recent seasons (2018-2020) to get a more current look at the players and a large enough sample size, Dak drops to 66.7 and Brady to 63.4.
Maybe Dak’s QBR is inflated by the advantages created by play-action. Or maybe that Brady outperforms Dak in challenging situations. Take a look:
|QBR, 2018-2020||PA QBR||Vs. Blitz||Under pressure||Third down||fourth quarter||red zone|
Dak is better versus the blitz, under pressure, on third down and in the fourth quarter. But, not in the red zone.
There it is, the red zone! It is the most difficult area on the field for a quarterback to operate. And over the past three seasons, Brady has been significantly more efficient than Dak, even without the ability to threaten the defense with his legs. Here are their red zone QBRs by season:
|Red Zone QBR||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020|
From outside the red zone over the past three seasons, Dak’s QBR is 96.9 compared with Brady’s 88.6. And Dak has the advantage when attempting passes of 20 or more air yards:
Admittedly, the red zone is awfully important. But, so is everything else. Now, you have a choice to make. You can use this slim shred of truth to construct your own reality where Tom Brady is much better than Dak Prescott — but that’s not the case.
The red zone is not enough reason for Dak Prescott to be routinely underappreciated. Stop it.
TruMedia statistics were used in this report.