FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott’s new quarterbacks coach with the Dallas Cowboys has far more NFL starts and touchdown passes than either of his predecessors.
Oh, and Jon Kitna easily has the most interceptions as well.
“It’s just the fact that I can tell them, ‘I’ve already paid that cost for you. You don’t even need to look at the route when you get this coverage. I’ve already done that. I threw that pick. So go somewhere else,'” Kitna said. “I think there’s some respect for that.”
Experience aside, Kitna clicked quickly with Prescott by appealing to his desire to build on his first playoff victory, which came two years after the unheralded fourth-round pick became the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in what began as a fill-in role for the injured Tony Romo .
And by building, that means from the ground up with Prescott’s technical skills. The two-time Pro Bowler who has started his entire career noticed the attention to footwork and other details of the mechanics of throwing from his third position coach in four seasons.
“He kind of said it best,” Prescott said of Kitna, who made 124 starts with 169 TDs and 165 interceptions. “Every other position has gotten more technical over the years whereas the quarterback position has kind of faded away from that.
“It’s just good to get back to the basics, getting better at the drops, getting better at how you’re basing everything you want to do when you throw the ball.”
The late Wade Wilson, who made 69 starts in the 1980s and ’90s, was Prescott’s QB coach his first two years, replaced last year when Kellen Moore went straight from being Prescott’s backup to his new position coach.
The promotion of Moore , who appeared in just three games over six seasons, to offensive coordinator created the opening for Kitna.
The 46-year-old has plenty of background with the Cowboys, having started nine games in 2010 when Romo was injured. Dallas had to bring him in as an emergency backup for the final week of the 2013 season when Romo was hurt again. He didn’t have to play.
Kitna went back to his job as a high school coach in Washington state, then was hired at a Dallas-area school. Kitna was around some the first two years of Prescott’s career when he would bring his Waxahachie staff to Cowboys practice.
But Kitna had to get in the same QB room to get the impression of Prescott he has now.
“He’s a rare individual,” Kitna said. “From a physical standpoint, the mental standpoint, the experience standpoint, the leadership, on down the line. I don’t think you even want to even try to put limits on what that would be, what his best is.”
Kitna says Prescott sometimes challenges him as much as vice versa, in part because Kitna is new to some parts of the Dallas offense despite his long history with coach Jason Garrett, who joined the Cowboys as offensive coordinator 12 years ago.
The other part is Prescott pushing Kitna to keep pushing his new understudy.
“He comes out every day wondering, asking the whys,” Kitna said. “Why am I doing this? Why are we doing this drill? What do you want me to do this for? Because he wants to know why it connects and how it’s going to help him become an elite player in this league for a long time.”
While many of the questions for Prescott these days revolve around when he will get a contract that figures to make him the highest-paid player in club history, he tries to deflect with talk by saying his focus is on the locker room and the meeting rooms.
A big part of the success that put Prescott in position for a big contract was his leadership trait. Dallas coaches noticed in visits with Prescott before his draft, and teammates saw it even before Romo went down with a back injury during the 2016 preseason.
Garrett had seen that before as well — when Kitna was a backup in the Dallas locker room.
“What’s most impressive to me about each of those guys is their ability to connect with other people, players, coaches,” Garrett said. “They just have a really infectious spirit about them that’s contagious. I think it’s good to have a new voice for Dak.”
Prescott is listening.
“I’m feel like I’m getting better at everything, from footwork to being able to throw in every platform,” he said, “no matter if somebody’s in my face and I have to throw it now or being able to move and escape and get the ball out.”
Kitna has a few ideas about where not to throw it, too.
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