What exactly would a Dak Prescott candidacy for NFL MVP look like?
I can feel the question sparking a social-media meltdown already, but I'll press on. After all, it's mid-June and this is the time for idle speculation.
The topic is in the news cycle already, as NFL.com's Adam Schein listed Prescott as a top dark-horse candidate to win this year's award. FanDuel pegs him at +1600, essentially 16:1 odds.
Prescott has the benefit of being the starting quarterback for the one team guaranteed to be in the headlines regardless of its record.
But, as evidenced by the past 30 years, that's not enough on its own.
Emmitt Smith is the only Cowboy to win the AP's NFL MVP, all the way back in 1993 when the team's '90s dynasty was at its peak.
What would it take for Dak to buck that trend? Honestly, not all that much more than we've already seen from him.
For starters, though, he'll need to be healthy. Prescott ran through his first four years in the league without an absence,
but he's missed 17 games over the past three seasons — roughly 34% of his possible games.
Most of that is due to his devastating leg injury in 2020, but he missed a game with a calf strain in 2021 and another five after fracturing his thumb in 2022.
Since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978, only two players have missed more than two games the year they won NFL MVP: Joe Montana in 1989 and John Elway in 1987.
During this current 10-year run of quarterbacks winning MVP, dating back to Peyton Manning in 2013, no winner has missed more than one game.
A healthier season will be paramount for Prescott — not just for his own stats, but for the Cowboys' overall chances in their conference.
Speaking of which, winning goes a long way in determining the MVP race.
Eight of the past 10 NFL MVPs quarterbacked his team to the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, and nine of them finished with at least 12 wins. e easier.
In recent memory, the only quarterback to take home an MVP without at least 12 wins is Matt Ryan in 2016.
Not to take any credit away from Ryan's phenomenal season, but it's worth remembering that his victory coincided with Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension for the eventual AFC No. 1 seed Patriots,
while — coincidentally — Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott each received MVP votes for that year's 13-3 Cowboys team.
Prescott has a solid record of 61-36 as a starter, and the Cowboys have finished 12-5 in consecutive seasons.
Even so, Dallas hasn't finished better than the No. 3 seed since his rookie year,
and last season the Cowboys were a wild-card team after losing the NFC East to MVP candidate Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles.
There's a certain threshold of team success required, and it starts at about 12 wins and a division title — though preferably more.