Jerry Jones, Cowboys, leaving door wide open to part ways with Dak Prescott. Let's hope Jerry knows what he's doing here...

Jerry Jones, Cowboys, leaving door wide open to part ways with Dak Prescott. Let’s hope Jerry knows what he’s doing here…

It’s not easy being America’s Team. Though the popularity of the NFL shines a spotlight on each and every one of the league’s 32 clubs, no team faces more consistent scrutiny in the national media than the Dallas Cowboys.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott has been the Cowboys’ starting quarterback for eight years, which makes him uniquely equipped to comment on the criticism his team regularly deals with. At a charity event Monday night, Prescott responded to a question about the culture surrounding the Cowboys, and he was unequivocal in his support of the team and its leadership.

“The culture is great from my standpoint,” Prescott said. “My point is that’s something I’ve bragged on and took pride in. So if there’s questions of that or concerns on that, I feel attacked.”

Dak Prescott is right to defend the culture of the Dallas Cowboys.

Most teams would kill for the regular season success the Cowboys have enjoyed. Dallas has gone 12-5 each of the past three years, but with only one playoff win to show for it, critics have jumped at the chance to tear them down once they come up short in January.

National media personalities such as Stephen A. Smith have taken particular glee in kicking the Cowboys when they’re down, which I’m sure has to get old for someone like Prescott, who finished second in the MVP voting this past season and has performed at a consistently high level since winning the Cowboys job as a fourth-round draft pick in 2016.

It’s easy to blame nebulous things like “culture” when a team fails to come through on the big stage, but it’s curious how that narrative can follow a team like the Cowboys and not a team like, say, the Bills, who have also been superb in the regular season with Josh Allen at quarterback but have yet to reach an AFC title game.

Football is a zero-sum game. One team wins, the other team loses. We talk about teams that win as if they have some kind of secret sauce that the losing team lacks. Do the Packers have a better culture than the Cowboys because they beat them in the playoffs, or were they just playing their best football at the end of the season while Dallas was coasting to a 3-1 record against four of the worst teams in the league?

When Jerry Jones resisted calls for Mike McCarthy’s head following the loss to Green Bay, it was seen by many as a sign of weakness and an acceptance of mediocrity. Conversely, as the Pittsburgh Steelers have stood by Mike Tomlin after years of one-and-done playoff exits, they have been mostly lauded for their strong culture and emphasis on continuity. You can’t have it both ways.

Jones is one of the most criticized owners in the NFL, and in a lot of respects, he brings it upon himself. He’s very open with the media, sometimes too open, and that can be a distraction. You can’t argue, though, with the roster he has put together, or with the commitment he has made to Prescott, who is in the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the league.

Culture is a fickle thing. If the Cowboys win the NFC next season, most will proclaim that the culture in Dallas has shifted. In reality, such a breakthrough would just be indicative that after years of falling short, the Cowboys learned what it takes to win. The funny thing is, after defending the team’s culture this week, the ability to change the narrative is in Prescott’s hands. Will he take the Cowboys to the promised land? Unfairly or not, he’ll need to if he wants to put an end to all of the questions.

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