There are no favors being done by the Dallas Cowboys for Dak Prescott, who has proven he belongs in the conversation for NFL MVP in 2019. Although the clear frontrunners remain Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson, there are a handful of others who qualify to be in the minds of MVP voters but, as is always the case, team record will play a large part in the process.
With the Cowboys sitting at 6-5 on the year, the leadership and statistical level up of Prescott is being masked by inconsistencies in other areas of the team's arsenal. From receiver drops to awkward situational play-calling, from a defense that struggles at times to get off the field to arguably the worst special teams unit in all of football, the reality is the Cowboys' record would be far below .500 if not for Prescott's level of play.
That also means, however, they could easily be 10-1 entering their clash with the Buffalo Bills, if not for said issues.
The Cowboys have been hoping to sign Prescott to an extension for months now, tailoring their offers in the hopes of getting him to put pen to paper, but he's held off doing so for a variety of reasons. Initially, the former fourth-round pick wanted to allow the market to play in his favor. It did just that when Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff inked their mega-deals this year.
The only thing left for Prescott to do at that point was to decide if he'd sign a deal that likely placed him higher than Wentz, comparable with Goff but below Wilson -- or to bet big on himself in 2019. He's doing the latter, wholly unconcerned with any contract talks as he works to steer the Cowboys back into January and hopefully beyond.
If he continues playing at his current career-best level, owner Jerry Jones -- who has long wanted to get Prescott locked into a new deal -- has no problem paying the rising cost of admission.
"Let me just say this: I think all of us, including the fans, want to win a damn football game. OK?" Jones said. "I know we've got a lot of things to think about. Who's coaching, who's playing, who's compared to another player someplace else. How about, let's win some ballgames, folks. We can [and will] take [care of] that other stuff.
"I'm not known as a guy that gets hand cramps when I'm writing checks, but I want to win games."
Talks remain ongoing but mostly paused, for now, as Prescott himself focuses on doing his part to help get the wins everyone so desperately wants; and while his value continues to break through the ceiling set by Wilson.
It's a payday that'll arrive for the 26-year-old in one way or another, be it via a multi-year extension or Jones applying a 2020 franchise tag worth a projected $26.7 million. There's plenty of salary cap space for the Cowboys to absorb such a hit, considering they're projected cap space will tap dance around the $100 million mark, but they'd prefer to get things hashed out with Prescott sooner than later.
Until then, the goal remains winning, and at only one game above the .500 mark, Jones knows the Cowboys are running out of time; and things become particularly more poignant as he continues to face questions about the future of head coach Jason Garrett. When it's all said and done, the same Jones who admitted to wasting the prime years of Tony Romo is deathly afraid of doing the same with Prescott, and while Garrett is likely safe through the 2019 season -- there's no better moment than the present to right the ship en route to a potential extension of his own.
"No one has earned the right to say, 'I'm a Jason Garrett man' more than me," Jones said, before reaffirming his expectations. "I don't have to win the Super Bowl in [non-football] business every year. I can come in sixth and have a hell of a year, but in this business -- you gotta come in first. You've got to come in first.
"So fundamentally, you've asked for something that's a very narrow window to begin with. I want Jason to get it done."
And Jones isn't talking about later, either.
"Let's do it right now," he said, noting how key a victory against the Bills would be only four days after dropping a close one to the New England Patriots.
"No team feels like that it's played at it's very best -- no team feels that way. We're always looking for improvement."
The good news for them is they don't need improvement at the most important position in football, because Prescott has that part covered.
It's why he's earned what's inevitably coming to him, but if the Cowboys want to earn a sixth Lombardi trophy, they'll need to give him some help. The check Jones is prepared to slide Prescott's way is already sizable, but if Garrett and the troops can rally around their QB and help him lead them to Super Bowl appearance and/or victory, this might be the one time Jones does in fact get a cramp in his golden hand.
Not that he'd have any problem with that whatsoever.