There is no more important decision a coach has to make in the NFL than whether and when to change starting quarterbacks. But sometimes that decision can be made for him, easily, and Dak Prescott will get that chance on Sunday when the Cowboys play the Packers.
This should be a no-brainer.
If Prescott continues to play as he has, why in the world would the Cowboys even consider going back to Tony Romo as their starter? Yet that's exactly the smoke coming out of Jerryworld these days.
Knowing when to change quarterbacks for the long-term is arguably the toughest decision an NFL team has to make, but this one should be easy.
Romo is 36 years old, he has played four games in two seasons and a full schedule only twice in seven years, and he never has taken the Cowboys to even an NFL championship game, let alone a Super Bowl. But Jerry Jones likes him. And earlier this week, Jones declared, "Tony is our No. 1 quarterback."
Prescott is the league's eighth ranked passer, and he has started his career in Dallas like few before him. In his first five games, he has thrown 155 passes without an interception, completed 69 percent of his throws, and led the Cowboys to a 4-1 record.
It's never easy for a team to change quarterbacks, particularly when replacing a veteran who has had at least moderate success. Yet there are ample examples in recent years of teams that knew when to pull the plug even if it seemed a wrenching decision at the time.
--In 2001, Bill Belichick replaced Drew Bledsoe (who had taken the Patriots to a Super Bowl five years earlier) with a young Tom Brady when Bledsoe was hurt. Even after Brady was knocked out of the AFC championship game and Bledsoe rescued the game, Belichick went back to Brady as his starter for the Super Bowl. It was a move not met with universal approval. But it kinda worked out okay, wouldn't you say?
--Perhaps the mother of all recent quarterback controversies occurred in San Francisco when, in 2001, George Seifert had to choose between Joe Montana, who already had won the Super Bowl four times, and Steve Young. He chose Young and traded Montana. It was not a popular decision, but the 49ers went on to win a fifth Super Bowl with Young.
--This past year, Denver had to make a couple of particularly excruciating calls. First, the Broncos put Peyton Manning back into the lineup at the end of the season after fill-in Brock Osweiler had helped guide the team to the top of the AFC West and ultimately, the No. 1 playoff seed. Denver won the Super Bowl with Manning, although the argument could be made that the Broncos succeeded despite their quarterback, who by then was a mere shadow of himself. Then the Broncos allowed Osweiler to sign with Houston and ultimately replaced him with a couple of kids.
It will be some time before he know the long-term result of that decision, but, for now, the Broncos are doing better than the Texans.
--And, of course, Green Bay had to decide when Brett Favre's annual vacillation over retirement was too much for the franchise to bear. With Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings, the Packers eventually cut the cord with Favre. Favre played three more years with other teams, while Rodgers soon matched his record of winning one Super Bowl.
No one questions the transition any longer although now, Rodgers appears to be in decline. In 2014, he was the NFL's second-ranked passer. In 2015, he was the NFL's 15-ranked passer. This season, he is the NFL's 19th-ranked passer.
And along comes Prescott on the other side and, despite Jones' affinity for Romo, anyone who thinks Romo - who last year was healthy enough only to play four games - would be a slam-dunk upgrade over Prescott surely has not been paying attention.
The last time the Packers and Cowboys played at Lambeau Field, of course, was the playoff game two years ago which Dallas thought it would win on a Dez Bryant catch that a replay official overturned. So there is that little sidelight hanging over Sunday's match, too.
But what's really nice is that we have a consequential game between two marquee franchises, a game that not only will have significant impact on this year's outcome but also could be a major stepping stone in Dallas for years to come. If Prescott continues to play as he has, it's hard to see the Cowboys going back to Romo. No matter what Jones is saying these days.
--Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.