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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Dak Prescott Has Look of an All-Time Great

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 16, 2016

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys passes while under pressure from linebacker Lawrence Timmons #94 and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward #97 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game at Heinz Field on November 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Cowboys defeated the Steelers 35-30.  (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Dak Prescott is having a better rookie year than Ben Roethlisberger, Deion Sanders says it's over for the Packers and an interesting theory on the NFL and President-elect Donald Trump.

     

1. Dak Prescott Is Making History

When you ask people in front offices across the sport who revel in NFL history, and study it constantly, who they think had the best rookie quarterback season of all time, one name consistently comes up. 

Ben Roethlisberger.

It's easy to understand why. He replaced Tommy Maddox in Week 2 of 2004 and subsequently put together a run few rookies, at any position, ever had. He went 13-0 as a starter and demonstrated a comfort level most rookies never feel. Heck, many veterans never experience it.

The final tally on Roethlisberger's rookie year: 66.4 percent completion percentage, 2,621 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. This has been the standard against which all rookie seasons at the position are compared.

Possibly until now.

In Dak Prescott, I see the most calm, accurate leader as a rookie quarterback I've ever covered. That includes Roethlisberger.

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The possibility that Prescott may become the new rookie standard is also becoming clear to coaches and executives around the league.

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers shakes hands with Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys at the conclusion of the Dallas Cowboys 35-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 13, 2016 in P
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Like Roethlisberger, Prescott has shown an ability to play better when the game gets tighter. But many of these NFL types believe Prescott is even cooler than Roethlisberger was under pressure.

"I keep waiting for him to stumble, but he will not," former quarterback and current analyst Rich Gannon said on the CBS Sports show NFL Monday QB. He continued:

I don't want to say flawless, but he has done a great job of making good decisions and taking care of the football. … When is the last time a rookie quarterback with a rookie behind him at the running back position went into Pittsburgh and [dominated the] Pittsburgh defense? That was as impressive of a performance that we have seen from a bunch of young guys in a while.

The coaches and executives B/R spoke with also say Prescott handles the blitz better. That's hard to imagine, considering Roethlisberger, then and now, handled it as well as any quarterback ever has.

Prescott is rewriting how rookies play position, said these executives.

Pay attention; we may be watching history unfold before our eyes.

          

2. An Odd Trump Theory

The presidency of Donald Trump is good news for the NFL, according to a team executive with whom B/R spoke. Why? The theory is interesting, and a little bit out there.

Here goes: "Under President [Barack] Obama, the country was intellectual and looked at facts. I think that's why our ratings fell. People read a lot about our scandals or CTE and didn't like what they saw. Under Trump, the country will care less about truth or facts. It'll be [more raw] and brutal. Football will be more of an outlet. We'll go back to liking our violent sports."

      

3. Time for Packers to Pack It in?

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 13:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers is sacked by Brian Orakpo #98 of the Tennessee Titans during the game at Nissan Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Deion Sanders doesn't like what he sees out of Green Bay this season, as he said on the NFL Network:

Packer fans, I want you to hear me clearly: It's not what it used to be, ain't gon' be what it was and it's a wrap. Now, you may get into the playoffs because the Minnesota Vikings have fallen and they cannot get up, and the Detroit Lions are the Detroit Lions … So you may get into the playoffs, but you're probably one-and-done. Two-and-done at the most. You're just a poster in the playoffs; you won't go far.

Harsh, but Sanders is probably correct.

Aaron Rodgers has spent much of the season getting ripped for his play, and while he is at fault for some of the Packers' mess, if you think he's the main problem, you don't know football.

There isn't a quarterback in the history of the sport who could win with this collection of players. The defense gave up 47 points to the Titans and in the process made Marcus Mariota look more like Marcus Elway. While the offensive line is OK, the Packers don't have even a decent run game. And their receivers have been pedestrian at best.

Dan Marino couldn't win with this team. Neither could Joe Montana. Neither could the Avengers. Well, maybe the Avengers could. But definitely not the Fantastic Four.

Those are the facts when your roster is a wreck and needs to be almost totally rebuilt. And my guess is that's exactly what will happen.

       

4. What Are the Panthers Doing?

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1st quarter during the game at Bank of America Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/G
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Some around the game are puzzled with how little regard the Panthers seem to be showing Cam Newton in their play-calling of late. "Why are you running a guy with recent head injuries so much?" wondered one assistant coach. "I don't get it." There were others across the league who felt the same.

Analysts such as Rodney Harrison from NBC are asking the same question. Running the football is part of what makes Newton dangerous, and the fact that he is averaging 4.6 yards per carry this season proves that. But he's coming off a concussion suffered in October, and it might be wiseat least temporarily—to not run him up the middle where he's guaranteed to get smashed again and again.

        

5. Take It from Rodney Harrison, Darrelle Revis Is Struggling

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 17: Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals runs a route while being covered by Cornerback Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 17, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo
Al Pereira/Getty Images

The Jets defense has been a disappointment this season, and Revis is a big reason why, as Rodney Harrison, a former safety, explained on NBC's Football Night in America:

He's no longer a top-five cornerback because in this league, playing defensive back, injuries make you old quickly; trust me, I know. He's lost speed, he's lost quickness and he's also lost his confidence. There was a time when no one would even attempt to throw at Darrelle Revis. Now the game plan is attack Darrelle Revis. I think the long-term plan for Darrelle Revisif he wants to continue to play in the leagueI think he has to make a switch to free safety.

That makes a lot of sense, and it's what I think will happen, too.

       

6. The Best Story You Will See in a Long Time

It comes from the NFL Network's Andrea Kremer, and it's on how former NFL running back Warrick Dunn helped broker peace between police and the citizens in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after a series of tragic police shootings.

Dunn has long been one of the NFL's best ambassadors, both as a current and former player. The piece is worth your time.

       

7. Just in Case You Needed Another Reason to Believe in Ezekiel Elliott

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMEBER 13:  Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys in action against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 13, 2016 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There are numerous stats about how great the Dallas rookie runner has been, but perhaps the most impactful may also be among the most overlooked.

Elliott's 83-yard touchdown catch against the Steelers on Sunday, along with his 60-yard touchdown run in Week 5 against the Bengals, made him the first rookie back to have a 60-plus-yard touchdown run and an 80-plus-yard touchdown catch, since Gale Sayers in 1965.

Elliott continues to do things few rookies ever have, including reaching a mark no one has in more than half a century.

        

8. NFL Players Are Inhuman

Dolphins tackle Branden Albert dislocated his wrist during Sunday's game against the Chargers, reported the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Then Albert had the wrist set back in place.

And he could play this week.

I don't know how smart, or healthy, Albert is, but it demonstrates pretty remarkable toughness.

         

9. A Dubious Honor

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 13:   Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans throws a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at EverBank Field on November 13, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It's hard to pick which team has been the most disappointing this season, but the Texans and Bengals are making it an interesting race.

Houston's Brock Osweiler has been one of the biggest free-agent busts of the past few years. Last week, he passed for 99 yards. Titans running back DeMarco Murray threw for 10 yards and a touchdown himself against Green Bay and had better form. It's amazing to think some fool actually picked the Texans to make the Super Bowl. His name rhymes with Spike Beeman.

True, it is weird to say a Texans team that's 6-3 is disappointing, and there is an element of ridiculousness to the statement, but Houston could easily be 3-6 or worse. A team simply cannot prosper consistently when it must overcome its quarterback.

If you're looking for a more conventional selection, consider the Bengals, who are 3-5-1 after coming off a 12-4 record and bringing back most of their team. The only team in the AFC North that's worse than them are the winless Browns.

       

10. Another Moment of Belichickian Genius

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on October 30, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

As we have seen so many times before, and likely will again, Bill Belichick took a rule, straddled the line between legal and illegal, and outsmarted his coaching opponent.

Here was the situation: fourth quarter, against the Seahawks on Sunday night. It appeared Seattle runner C.J. Prosise scored a touchdown from the 1-yard line. The officials, however, disagreed. Pete Carroll's challenge failed. On the next down came the Belichick special.

Key to this is the NBC microphones picking up one of the Patriots defenders yelling "shift!" The instruction was uttered in a frenetic way, different from how most shifts go. Most happen subtly, with a pat on the backside or a few words. They rarely happen with a sudden, coordinated and chaotic "shift!"

As it was yelled, the Patriots defense shifted to the left—very aggressively and simultaneously. The Seahawks had probably never seen anything like that in the pros before. How do I know? Because almost the entire Seattle offensive line moved. It was fooled. 

Defenses can talk and shift all they want, but they cannot simulate a snap count. They can't yell "hut" to get offensive players to move.

In effect, though, that's what the Patriots did in this case, but they disguised it as a shift.

I heard from several assistant coaches who were watching the game who felt the same way. One of them reminded me that the Patriots pulled a similar move last year against Pittsburgh, and it worked then, too.

Sure enough, after checking the Googlenator, I found the Steelers complained about the same trick, under almost exactly the same circumstances.

"I thought that there was a rule against that," Roethlisberger said at the time, per CSNNE.com's Phil Perry. "Maybe there's not. Maybe it's just an unwritten rule. … We saw it on film, that the Patriots do that. They shift and slide and do stuff on the goal line, knowing that it's an itchy trigger finger-type down there."

"They time it up in the cadence," Ramon Foster told USA Today's Tom Pelissero (h/t Perry). "Yeah, that's one of the things they do. Welcome to Foxborough."

Foster added: "Kudos for them for thinking of that and making it happen in that situation. I can't be mad. That's on us. We can't false start."

"We're not trying to simulate anything," Belichick said at that time, per Perry. "We're allowed to move on the defensive side of the ball, and we're allowed to move together. We don't have to move one at a time. If we move, then we make a call and we move. We're not trying to simulate anything. We're just trying to move the defense. That's perfectly legal. Defenses have done that for, I don't know, probably 75 years." 

Well, that's not exactly true. Yelling "shift" and moving quickly as a quarterback is making the call at the line of scrimmage is simulating the snap. It just is. But good for Belichick for thinking of it.

Why is all of this important? It's another slickand make no mistake, smart—move by Belichick. We've seen something like this before. This isn't cheating. This is what coaches should do, and far too many don't. Belichick, unlike many in his profession, sees a rule and exploits its loopholes.

Patriots players seemed far too giddy after Seattle was called for a false start on the maneuver for this to be just any ordinary false start. And that means other teams likely will try it.

They may have missed it before, but now that opponents have seen it work, they won't miss it again.

After the false-start call, the Seahawks were later forced to kick a field goal.

Belichick isn't perfect. The play-calling at the end of the Seahawks game (done by his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, but Belichick oversees all) was awful.

But he continues to show, in most every other way, why few are better at this coaching thing than Belichick.

      

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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