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Mission: Super Bowl

OXNARD, Calif. — Dak Prescott was given a clear warning before his first encounter with the press in training camp that Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy had given his best statement yet in California.

Something about quarterbacks being the key to winning Super Bowls.

Among the NFL’s storied franchises, Dallas has gone the longest without coming even close to a Super Bowl. That’s why the All-Star passer got the heads up from the public relations staff before taking the podium.

Prescott knew what his coach was talking about.

“I feel like we’ve talked about it in a lot of conversations,” Prescott said. “Obviously the old saying that defenses win championships is true. And when he says quarterbacks win the Super Bowl, he means they have to make big plays at important moments in those games.”

There was a lot of talk about the Cowboys not getting the play out in time for one last chance in a 23-17 loss to San Francisco at home in last January’s wild-card round. But little was said about whether Prescott overran in his bid for one last shot at the end zone.

Maybe it was a moment of imprecision by Prescott in a big game. Maybe not. But it came after several blown opportunities in an offense that went from one of the best in the league at the start of the season to one of the most inconsistent.

After two days of training camp, McCarthy was asked if he thinks the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year can improve as Prescott, who has been a starter since the first week of his freshman year, turns 29 and reaches his seventh season in the NFL with a record of just 1-3 in the playoffs.

The statement that made Twitter go crazy was in the middle of his response.

“This is Dak Prescott’s offense and I think you’re going to see him take it on,” McCarthy said. “Because, at the end of the day, the defense wins championships, but the Super Bowl wins the quarterback.”

McCarthy also left no doubt about whether he thinks Prescott is capable of joining Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman as quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls in Dallas.

Prescott understands how a quarterback’s legacies are defined in Dallas. He took the place of perhaps the best Dallas quarterback to never win a Super Bowl, Tony Romo, whose preseason injury opened the doors for Prescott six years ago.

“Those we hold to the highest standard are those with Super Bowl rings,” Prescott said. “So that’s the goal for me, to try to fill the shoes of those who were here before me, and do something for the organization that hasn’t been done in a long time.”

The Cowboys haven’t even made it to an NFC championship game since the last of the franchise’s five Super Bowls during the 1995 season. They have three NFC East titles under Prescott, but two losses in opening games for the Cowboys. playoffs at home, including as the top seed in the NFC in his rookie year.

Prescott said Chad Bohling, the Cowboys’ mental health consultant, showed him videos of his post-loss news conference to the 49ers, along with some of star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

It could have been the equivalent of pressing a reset button for Prescott.

“That feeling is unpleasant and when you think about it, you want to go to work,” Prescott said. “You want to do everything you can to make sure you don’t feel that way again.”

Two weeks before camp, Prescott said he was in the best shape of his career. Two days after camp, tight end Dalton Schultz said Prescott’s pitches have “a lot more power.”

Prescott credits an offseason training program that focused on rotating his body, using his legs and figuring out ways to increase power at different arm angles.

He’s also more than a year removed from Prescott’s gruesome 2020 season-ending ankle injury in Week 5, and he enters the second year of a four-year, $160 million club-record contract.

McCarthy said his line on quarterbacks and Super Bowls was his opinion, based on statistics. He also has proof of his only Super Bowl win as a coach at Green Bay.

Aaron Rodgers was MVP when the Packers won at the Cowboys’ home. Since he arrived in Dallas in 2020, McCarthy has said more than once that the offense should focus on making the quarterback feel comfortable.

“That’s how I see the journey and the vision of how you prepare your team and what your team should look like,” McCarthy said. “And I think he’s a guy that emulates exactly what you’re looking for, because he’s always looking to improve in every area.”

To know

Among the historic franchises of the NFL, Dallas is the one that has gone the longest without coming even close to a Super Bowl.

The Cowboys haven’t even made it to an NFC championship game since the last of the franchise’s five Super Bowls during the 1995 season.

They have three NFC East titles under Prescott, but two losses in home playoff openers, including as the NFC No. 1 seed in his rookie year

meet him

Dak Prescott

Position: Quarterback

Date of birth: July 29, 1993 (age 29) in Sulfur, Louisiana

Height: 1.88 m / 6’2”

Weight: 103 kg / 228 lb

High School: Haughton (Haughton, Louisiana)

College: Mississippi State (2011–2015)

NFL Draft: 2016 / Round: 4 / Selection: 135

Team: Dallas Cowboys (2016–present)

Numbers

(Until 2021)

TD–INT: 143–50

Passing yards: 22,083

Complete percentage: 66.6

Passer Rating: 98.7

Yards per carry: 1,460

Touchdowns per carry: 25

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