Dallas Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones said he didn’t give Dak Prescott a heads-up.
Jones said he didn’t give head coach Mike McCarthy advance notice, either, before pulling the trigger on a trade for quarterback Trey Lance.
“We didn’t tell anybody until we did. Period,” Jones said. “My point is, we just wanted to get it done.”
The comments raised almost as many eyebrows as the Cowboys sending a fourth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers on Friday evening for the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Even as Jones positioned acquiring Lance as a long-term development play, fans and analysts wondered about Jones surprising Prescott with this move. Could Lance succeed or one day back up Prescott? How close would a direct competition be?
Let’s ask another question: Are people reading too much into who Jones did and didn’t tell?
“Yeah, I think they read a little too much into it,” Prescott told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday. “As I’ve said before and I made it known, I understand that’s the front office and they have a job to do, and I believe in everything that they’re doing. Whether it’s additions or trades to this team, they’re doing it for the betterment of the whole team.
“So, I’m just excited to, as we have, welcome Trey and just continue to make our room better, make our offense better and our team better. I know he’s gonna do everything he can to do that.”
Prescott will, too.
Entering his eighth season as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, no QB1 in the league is longer-tenured than Prescott. He started 97 regular-season games, winning 61, while completing 66.6% of his passes for 24,943 yards, 166 touchdowns and 65 interceptions. He has rushed 352 times for another 1,642 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Prescott’s productions and his challenges — including his league-high 15 interceptions last season — inform how he’ll approach this season. The Cowboys have won 12 games each of the past two years but their NFC championship game drought dates back to 1996.
“I definitely feel like I’m at my best mentally, physically,” Prescott said. “Quarterbacks, we get better with the experiences of seeing defenses, being in different situations, really just getting the feel of the game more and more and understanding what’s a disguise, what’s not.
“And as much as that, the change of the play-caller and the [offensive coordinator] has been something that’s been enlightening.”
For the first time since joining the NFL in 2016, Prescott will compete with a new offensive system. McCarthy will call Dallas plays for the first time this year, integrating the West Coast principles that guided the Green Bay Packers’ success in McCarthy’s 13 seasons as head coach. Expect the Cowboys to emphasize quarterback footwork and receiver route depth more intentionally this season than in Prescott’s career to date.
“Being detailed as probably ever before and getting everybody [on] the same page has been fun,” Prescott said. “So yeah, I’m excited. It feels like I’m a rookie again, honestly.”
Lance, in terms of experience, is a de facto rookie. He has attempted 102 NFL passes, completing 54.9% of them for 797 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in two years. Lance rushed for another 235 yards and one touchdown while in San Francisco.
Lance fractured his fibula and damaged ligaments in his ankle last September, requiring two surgeries before season’s end. Prescott could relate, requiring his own two ankle surgeries during the 2020 season after he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle.
Prescott texted Lance after the latter’s injury.
“Going through something like that myself, I just wanted to reach out, share my support,” said Prescott, who had met Lance briefly at a marketing opportunity during Lance’s predraft process. “Just wanted to let him know I was there for him. Any questions or anything that he had, feel free.”
Prescott plans to take a similarly open approach to Lance joining the Cowboys’ quarterbacks room. Speculation about a QB controversy any time soon overlooks the reality that journeyman Sam Darnold just beat out Lance for the 49ers’ second-string job. In that competition, Lance had deeper history with the playbook and coaching staff than Darnold.
Now, Lance arrives at a new system without the benefit of offseason installs or preseason reps. Cooper Rush is firmly entrenched as the Cowboys’ backup after Rush won four of five starts last season, and one of one the year prior. So consider the rumblings surrounding any eventual quarterback controversy to be external noise rather than internal reality.
Lance, to his credit, is not the one peddling them. He declined even to share what he believes his strengths are when asked Tuesday, saying he needed to learn the playbook and the team before he could contribute. Lance added that Prescott “welcomed me with open arms,” Lance arriving with “nothing but obviously tons and tons of respect for him as I think he obviously deserves and gets from across the league.”
After a disappointing two-plus years with the 49ers, Lance hopes to earn respect in Dallas as well.
“I believe everything happens for a reason and I think I’m here for a reason,” he said. “Regardless of what it is, I want to find a way to help the team.”