(Editor's Note: Over the next month, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into the 2023 season. Today, the staff writers continue the series by wondering what to expect from Mike McCarthy as the play-caller.)
4) What to expect from McCarthy as play-caller
Patrik Walker: I expect Mike McCarthy 2.0, if we're being honest. The old ball coach is looking to pull some new tricks out of his bag for 2023, and that's evidenced in a few ways. The "Texas Coast" offense is shaping up to be much more versatile and unpredictable than any offense McCarthy ran in Green Bay, and the hiring of coveted analytics minds in June (i.e., John Parks and Sarah Mallepalle) prove this isn't your grandfather's Cowboys anymore. I'm of the belief that while McCarthy will still have conservative ways when justified, his evolution has arrived.
Nick Eatman: I expect a little more balance in the play-calling and probably some old-school running-game elements. Not saying it'll be a smash-mouth football approach because McCarthy likes to throw the ball around. But I do think you're going to see a little more inside running to keep the chains moving. That being said, I see Tyler Smith sticking at left guard just because of the inside beef that will be needed to play that way. I'm also excited to see what they do with Brandin Cooks and the speed that he brings.
Mickey Spagnola: A lot. Coach Mike was an excellent play-caller during his days in Green Bay, not only winning that Super Bowl during the 2010 season but exploiting the talents of quarterback Aaron Rodgers along the way. In nine of his first 10 seasons in Green Bay the Packers offense finished Top 10. Then in 2017 when losing Rodgers for the entire season the Packers fell to 21. Twice the Packers had the No. 1 offense in the NFL and a total of five Top 5 finishes during his days. With the offensive firepower the Cowboys have, assuming the offensive line stays healthy and comes together, plus Dak Prescott stays healthy, no reason to doubt his ability to coordinate and call plays so the Cowboys will remain as dynamic offensively as they were last year.
Nick Harris: There's a misconception going around that Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys are going to lean on the run more this season, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In looking at the analytics from his final three seasons in Green Bay as the play-caller, it shows that he was not afraid to pass on early downs, and success followed. From 2016-to-2018, the Packers were 1st, 11th and 4th, respectively, in the NFL in passing on early downs. Enter Brian Schottenheimer – who also has a reputation for airing it out – and there's a clear picture ahead of what this offense will rely on in 2023: Dak Prescott.
Kurt Daniels: When it comes to specific plays, there may not really be a noticeable difference in what the Cowboys do aside from likely utilizing more of the West, er, Texas Coast style of offense with quick passes requiring fewer reads. As Mike McCarthy said, "We're still in Dak's language." Where the real change might occur, however, is in the overall big picture of the game – setting up the opponent now for a payoff later, giving the defense a rest when needed, etc. "Play-call purpose" is how McCarthy referred to it, and is more of what this team needs to find success.
Kyle Youmans: Through the offseason there have been several different clues dropped by Mike McCarthy on how the offense could look. Stressing the run, making things easier on Dak Prescott, and making sure the top playmakers on offense get the ball in space. To a certain extent, all of these can become a reality at the discretion and design of a play caller. The toughest to accomplish might be running the ball with uncertainties to an offensive line and new-look running back room. But the remainder of the play calling can center around quick-developing play design and spacing. Both of which could open up the possibilities for all other playmakers.