EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The NFL Playoffs are officially underway with an expanded field for Super Wild Card Weekend. Six games are on the slate from Saturday through Monday in what I like to call the most wonderful time of the year. This year, it’s the Dallas Cowboys taking center stage on Monday night in a Week 1 rematch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The Cowboys are a proud franchise whose fan base judges their success with Super Bowls. However, Dallas’ last Super Bowl win came in 1995 and they’ve won just four playoff games since beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. Since Dak Prescott took over as quarterback of “America’s Team” in 2016, the Cowboys are just 1-3 in the postseason, including last year’s 23-17 loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers.

NFL quarterbacks typically get all the credit for the wins and too much blame for losses, especially in the playoffs. But when you’re paid as much as Prescott is, it comes with the territory. Prescott has proven to be one of the league’s best quarterbacks in the regular season, but simply hasn’t got it done when it matters most… the playoffs.

In four career postseason games, Prescott has thrown six touchdowns against three interceptions with a passer rating of 87.9. Not bad, but not great either. Mediocrity from the quarterback position seldom gets the job done in the playoffs. His play certainly hasn’t been good enough for an organization to build around him if he can’t come through in crucial moments.

Take for example last year’s loss to the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which shouldn’t have come down to a botched quarterback draw on the final play of the game. Dallas had a chance to win before their final possession of the game, down six with 2:42 remaining in regulation and the football. As I sat there and watched the Cowboys turn the football over on downs in just six plays, I had zero confidence Prescott was going to lead Dallas 84 yards down the field for a potential game-winning score (meanwhile, over in Kansas City, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes were worried about scoring too early in the final minute of regulation, leaving time on the clock for the other.)

Expecting to win vs. hoping to win is a huge difference. To me, Prescott and the offense took the field hoping to win rather than expecting to lead Dallas to their first NFC Championship in nearly three decades.

The argument made by fans defending Prescott after last year’s debacle will give you plenty of excuses. The offensive line played terrible (that’s true,) the run game was non-existent (also true,) and their receivers didn’t make enough plays (I guess that’s true, too.) However, I feel like these are all indictments on the quarterback as well (remember, quarterbacks get too much blame for losses.) The all-time greats (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, John Elway, Brett Farve, Roger Staubach, Steve Young, Terry Bradshaw, just to name a few) found ways to get it done in spite of glaring weaknesses around them. In fact, most of the quarterbacks listed above found ways to make average players look elite at times (who was Wes Welker without Brady or Manning.)

I don’t think anyone is arguing Prescott is even close to being an elite quarterback at this point in his career, but the truth is the Cowboys need him to be elite if they expect to get back to the Super Bowl anytime soon. That’s the type of player they’re paying him to be. 

Prescott, who became the first player in NFL history to lead (or share lead of) the league in interceptions despite missing at least five games, certainly has a golden opportunity in the playoffs with no true favorite in the NFC. It’s wide open and there for the taking. To me, it’s about as close as a career-defining moment for Prescott as there comes. For his sake and Cowboys fans everywhere, I truly hope this team makes a run. They have the pieces, especially on defense, to do exactly that (I still wish this team would’ve gone out and acquired a big-time wide receiver, or maybe just hold on to Amari Cooper.)

Outperforming Brady and the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay on Monday night would be a nice first step, but once again — fair or not — it’s Super Bowl or bust for the boys. The Cowboys need Prescott to deliver or find someone else who can.

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