FRISCO, Texas — This year's biggest shakeup within the Dallas Cowboys organization had little to do with a roster move at all, the decision to release running back Ezekiel Elliott being a close second, but it was instead head coach Mike McCarthy parting ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore — replacing him with Brian Schottenheimer.
The latter is entering his second year with the Cowboys but this time in a cornerstone role, though he won't be tasked with calling plays, because that honor has been commandeered by McCarthy. That said, he will be one of the two maestros for building out the plan on a weekly basis, and he's aiming for a specific style of Cowboys offense going forward.
"We wanna play physical, fast and to make everyone cover the entire field," said Schottenheimer. " … I want us to be able to play fast."
The addition of wideout Brandin Cooks via trade and running back Deuce Vaughn in the draft are evidence of that, to say the very least.
Moore had long been a front office favorite who survived the regime change that saw McCarthy ushered in as Jason Garrett departed, climbing the ranks from backup quarterback to quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator all in the span of only three years. In his time in Dallas, Moore coordinated an offense that, at one point, had quarterback Dak Prescott in the MVP conversation and the unit as a whole ranked No. 1 in the league.
So don't expect Schottenheimer and/or McCarthy to toss the current playbook, despite having also shuffled seats at the offensive line, running backs and quarterbacks coaching spots.
"It's been a grind [but] it's been fun," Schottenheimer said. "As you guys know, the system's not broken. It's not broken. They've won a lot of games here. Mike's been around for that.
"They've scored a ton of points and I have a ton of respect for Kellen [Moore] and [Doug Nussmeier], and Skip [Peete] and [Joe] Philbin — I've coached with most of those guys before. In terms of the process, we're getting organized for OTAs. We've had a lot of discussions."
A lot of those discussions center around installs going forward, something Schottenheimer is very familiar with as a former play-calling offensive coordinator for the Rams and, most recently, the Seahawks.
"When you start with OTA Install 1, and you go through the process, there might be things in OTA Install 1 that may be different from Training Camp Install 1," he explained. "The way it's set up is pretty cool. The [players] hear it in Phase 2, for the first time, and we're 12 concept teach days in. A concept teach day is where we take a family of plays and install those, all of the different adjustments and things, with not as many formations.
"And then when we get into OTAs, we'll actually put together real installs with specific formations with builds, and then we'll tweak those as we prepare for training camp."
There's a plan going forward, it's already being executed, and all involved understand just how important it is for the Cowboys to take the next step in the postseason in 2023. For his part, Schottenheimer might be unaccustomed to not calling the plays as OC, but if it means possibly hoisting a Lombardi trophy in February, count him in.
"I have not [been in this situation before], but I'm excited — I really am," he said. "There's no ego on my part. I just wanna win. I wanna help this team win for the players, first and foremost, and for this organization and the Jones family — [I have] all the respect in the world for Mike.
"And that's my job: to help prepare the guys and prepare the staff and be in a position where we feel like we can go out there every week and compete and stack a lot of wins together. I'm excited about the process, but it will [admittedly] be a little different because I've never done it."
Given the amount of weapons the team has on offense, there's at least a solid chance his first time will be the charm.