Not everybody who has an opinion about football knows what it actually takes to build a winning team from nothing, let alone one that goes on to terrorize the NFL with a dynasty. Jimmy Johnson does though, having taken the Dallas Cowboys from a 1-15 start in his inaugural 1989 season to two Super Bowl wins (arguably three), and he couldn't have done it without a definitive franchise quarterback in Troy Aikman -- whom Johnson now joins in being vocal about the state of affairs regarding Dak Prescott.
"I would sleep real good if I had Dak Prescott locked up with a big contract and not worrying about his commitment to the team and commitment to winning," Aikman said ahead of the Cowboys' regular-season finale.
Aikman's former coach is now also pounding the drum for Prescott.
"They need to get him signed," Johnson told The Rich Eisen Show.
That's as succinct a message as you'll hear, but the soon-to-be-inducted Hall of Famer didn't stop there. He believes it's egregious things have gotten to the point of a potential second franchise tag, something neither Aikman nor Tony Romo had to contend with when they negotiated extensions in their prime.
"They should have given in to the four-year deal last year," Johnson furthered. "[It] would have saved them some money. They wanted five years. But they've got to get him signed. And not only is he an outstanding quarterback -- he's not Patrick Mahomes -- but he is an outstanding quarterback and on top of that he is a great leader.
"Leader for that football team. So they need to get him signed. And the other thing is until you find somebody better, you don't ever give up a quarterback."
But wait, there's more.
"They should have signed him three years ago," said Johnson. "They should have signed him two years ago. They should have signed him, you know, last offseason. And every time they did not sign him, the price just kept going up. But they need to get it done."
As it stands, the Cowboys have yet to reignite talks with Prescott, sources tell CBS Sports, as they first hope to gain more clarity on the 2021 salary cap. This makes it likely they'll move forward with a second franchise tag at $37.7 million, having squirreled away money in 2020 for a rollover into this year's cap space to help in that scenario -- or a multi-year extension. It's possible the NFL will see a total cap number of approximately $195 million as opposed to the $175 million floor set due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which would also help the Joneses when talks do recommence.
Of course, none of this changes the fact Johnson pointed out, in that the Cowboys are costing themselves both peace of mind and a heap of money by not having the deal done prior to now. It takes two to tango, yes, but the lynchpin in the team's negotiations was Dallas craving a fifth year when Prescott and his agent, Todd France, were dead set on agreeing to four. Having now seen Deshaun Watson become the latest to help frame the market, and with the league's latest four-year deal, and with potential deals landing for Josh Allen and/or reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson -- time truly is money in Dallas.
The longer it takes them to acquiesce to Prescott's ask(s), the worse position they'll be in. And for those wondering why they're not willing to risk attempting to replace him in the draft, well, the science simply doesn't bear that out as a wise move.
This is why owner Jerry Jones himself, who knows exactly how difficult it is to locate a franchise QB -- both from this days with Johnson and in the days post-Aikman but pre-Romo -- recently admitted his inability to fathom how Prescott could have more leverage than he does right now. Johnson and Aikman aren't the only Cowboys legends beating the drum for a multi-year deal with Prescott, as he works to return to the field after a fractured ankle ended his 2020 campaign prematurely.
Emmitt Smith, former teammate of Aikman, former student of Johnson and the league's all-time leading rusher also sees something special in Prescott; as does legendary safety and former Aikman and Smith teammate, Darren Woodson, who labeled any attempt to offer Prescott less money a "slap in the face." That's a lot of NFL wins, accolades and hardware lobbying for the Cowboys to stop playing chess against themselves in their QB negotiations, and especially as they witness the demise of every quarterback drafted ahead of Prescott in 2016.
Both sides want the deal done, but it'll likely have to be the Cowboys who must finally wave the white [and blue] flag and, for his part, Johnson isn't willing to accept excuses for that not happening yet.