ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy knows what a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback looks like. He was the head coach and offensive play-caller for two such passers in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, former MVPs and Super Bowl champions, as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
McCarthy's current Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott -- who threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns on 29-of-41 passing in a 41-35 Week 13 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday -- is playing at that level. His 26 passing touchdowns this season lead the NFL, and a whopping 20 of them have come since Week 7, breaking the Cowboys' record for the most passing touchdowns in a six-game span.
Prescott trails only San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy in completion percentage, passer rating and expected points/added per play among qualified quarterbacks this season, while ranking behind only Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson in touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2023.
"My expectations, honestly," Prescott said postgame Thursday when asked about his latest stretch of play. "I put a lot into this game. I prepare my ass off. I have amazing coaches and players around me doing the exact same. I really think that that's the expectations that I have for myself. The standard that we've created as an offense and how we're comfortable playing this game. Numbers are numbers. They are always going to be that way, but in the sense of getting to the right play and making the right reads.
"Trusting the ball, trusting and letting the ball go in the right windows to the receivers that I aim. That's really what I look at. At the end of the day, it's about the preparation and the work that I've put into that's just coming into fruition."
With Prescott throwing for 20 touchdowns and only two interceptions across his last six games, he joins McCarthy's former pupil Aaron Rodgers as one of seven quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 20 or more touchdowns and two or fewer interceptions in a six-game span. Rodgers did so an NFL record three times in 2011, 2014, and 2020 -- all years he took home NFL MVP honors. Those first two such seasons came under McCarthy's watch.
Dak Prescott in 2023 season
* Leads NFL
** Most passing touchdowns in a six-game span in Cowboys history
"Well, I never like to compare quarterbacks and to be honest I've been so blessed to be around Hall of Fame quarterbacks," McCarthy said. "Aaron had so many excellent stretches. I'm hopeful he gets to get on to another great stretch up there in New York, but yeah, Dak's playing great ball. It's fun when when you're in this rhythm, he has such great command. It's just the connection with his teammates on the field, on the line of scrimmage. We're getting in and out of things seamlessly. We're playing with a really good pace. That's how we want to play, we want to attack, and you can only do it with the with the championship caliber quarterback and Dak is that guy."
QBs with 20+ pass TD and 2 or fewer INT in a six-game, single-season span in NFL history
|Won NFL MVP
DAL Dak Presott
GB Aaron Rodgers
BAL Lamar Jackson
SEA Russell Wilson
GB Aaron Rodgers
DEN Peyton Manning
GB Aaron Rodgers
NO Drew Brees
NE Tom Brady
Rodgers himself gave Prescott his seal of approval.
"He [Prescott] has become one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch," Rodgers said on "The Pat McAfee Show" Tuesday. "I just love the that he's really playing the position. What I mean by that is... watching him make protection adjustments against these crazy looks and picking things up. I'm watching him bring the tight end back in against a [Cover] Zero pressure and throw an old concept we used to run to CeeDee Lamb in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. I'm watching him use his cadence beautifully and get into this rhythmic 'here we go' into dummy and other cadences.
Rodgers has seen more and more of Prescott and the Cowboys over the last month as he has continued to rehab his Achilles injury, and each time he has come away impressed.
"The last four or five weeks I've gotten to see more of their [Cowboys] games, and I just want to say he's playing the position in a really impressive way," Rodgers said. "I love the way he's playing, like really playing. I'm not talking about just making good throws. I'm talking about it seems more rare that guys are actually really playing the position, where you're making adjustments, you're handling everything at the line of scrimmage. … I love it. I just want to shout out Dak for really impressing me multiple, multiple times."
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Receiving compliments from an all-time great is always meaningful, but for Prescott, the weight of Rodgers' words is increased given he ran Mike McCarthy's offense for a decade from 2008-2018, winning a Super Bowl and two of his four NFL MVPs.
"I mean honestly, having similarities such as understanding the system and understanding plays, and the coaching because he was with Mike (McCarthy) is awesome," Prescott said of Rodgers' praise. "It really is. That's a guy that you talk about being the most talented, or the greatest player to play this position. If you ask 10 people, you are going to get at least four guys, if not more, who say his name. It was awesome, it really was. At the end of the day, it goes back to my preparation and what I put into this thing.
"I am as comfortable as I've been. As I've talked about before, that comes with growth and that comes with experience. It comes with all of the other guys around me preparing, playing and doing everything right throughout the week that gives me the comfortability to throw it to them and trust them. The offensive line is playing well. Everything rolls through them and allows me to feel balanced. This isn't about me, it's about the unit, and us continuing to strive to reach our best."
Prescott is on pace to surpass his 2021 campaign in which he threw a Cowboys franchise-record 37 passing touchdowns through 12 games this season, an indicator that he truly is playing the best football of his eight-year NFL career.
Dak Prescott first 12 games (2021 vs. 2023)
|Expected Points Added/Play
- * Top five in NFL
- ** Set Cowboys single-season pass TD record with 37
"He is getting better, which is saying something when you have his experience and had the reps that he's had in his career, had the successes if you will," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said postgame. "He's also had his share of downturn. Dak is playing the best, he's playing better. In my mind, he's the best he's ever been in general as far as Dak is concerned. I think he's the best he's ever been all around. He's really doing the thing that are coordinated with what Mike wants to do and that the team needs to do to give us a whole football team out there.... It feels rewarding to see a good plan come to bear [fruit], and that's what you're seeing after seeing what they worked on in training camp and in the spring."
Cowboys two-time All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons' rookie year was the 2021 season when Prescott re-wrote some of Dallas' single-season passing records, but he also acknowledges the 2023 edition of Prescott as the best version he's seen.
"Outside of the San Fran game, Dak's been having one of the greatest seasons I've seen since I've been here," Parsons said postgame. "It's truly amazing to see the growth and where he's at. I think right now he's playing at he highest level in the NFL. Just from my standpoint and what I'm seeing; he's staying in the pocket, breaking sacks, making the right reads, he's just playing terrific."