FRISCO, Texas – With everything out this way coming to a standstill, save the rookies with a couple of sessions this week, might be a good time for a little story time.
This comes compliments of Brian Shottenheimer, the Cowboys' advisor last year turned new offensive coordinator this year to become head coach Mike McCarthy's right-hand man on offense.
The subject of Dak Prescott's interceptions came up this past Thursday, the final day of the Cowboys' mandatory minicamp during Shottenheimer's interview following practice. He was explaining that nothing "needs to be fixed, no question about that. He's a great player, you guys know that. He's a competitor and he's going to go out there and compete: 'I can make that throw.'
"So just got to understand situations in the game, down and distance and all that stuff, and clean up some of the decisions he knows he kind of missed."
Without saying so, Shottenheimer probably is referring to the interception in the San Francisco playoff game. We all probably remember that.
Tie game, 6-6, second-and-2 from the San Francisco 18, one minute, 24 seconds left in the first half. The Cowboys already had lost running back Tony Pollard for the game. San Francisco's six points came on two Robbie Gould field goals of 47 and 50 yards. The Cowboys' six came on Dak's 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dalton Schultz. The Brett Maher blocked extra point prevented a seventh.
The Cowboys dialed up a pass play, hoping to take advantage of the 49ers expecting the more conservative run call. Plus, the Cowboys likely had a go-ahead field goal in their pocket. Uh, we think, since Maher's extra point already had been blocked from 33 and having missed four extra points in the previous 31-14 playoff win over Tampa Bay from 33 yards out. This would have been a 36-yarder if the Cowboys didn't pick up another yard.
With the pocket collapsing, and easy first down throws available to Ezekiel Elliott or Dalton Schultz to either side, Dak elects to throw over the middle to CeeDee Lamb. But Lamb doesn't sit down at the 14-yard line. He breaks off away from linebacker Fred Warner but right into the coverage of nickel back Jimmie Ward, who tips the ball.
Uh, right into the hands of Warner for the interception that not only killed the potential touchdown drive with 1:15 left in the half of a tie game or a sure field goal attempt, but also provided the 49ers the opportunity for Gould to kick with one second left another 50-yard field goal as time expired in the half for the Niners to take a 9-6 lead.
A big ouch, and even a bigger no-no, no matter who was at fault for the costly interception.
Schottenheimer never mentioning this play while talking about how competitive quarterbacks can be, took us back to 2008 when he was the New York Jets offensive coordinator, with the uber-competitive Brett Favre his quarterback.
"You guys have seen Brett play. He'd force the ball into traffic – there'd be like three guys there waiting for it and one of the three was going to catch it. And he'd come over, and I go, 'Dude what are you doing?'
"And he's like, 'yeah, yeah, my bad, my bad' and we'd move on.
"And then I'd get up to leave, and he'd go, 'Hey Schottie, I can make that throw, though. I can make that throw.' And I'm like, 'Dude, that's not the point. Yeah, you can make that throw … sometimes.'
"It's a bit of that competitive spirit with these guys. They all have that."
Just wanting and willing and believing they can take that shot.
· Coach Joe: Welcome back, Joe Whitt Jr., back on the field coaching. The Cowboys secondary coach and defensive pass game coordinator back coaching on the field during the OTA workouts and minicamp practices after personal health issues last year caused him to take a leave during training camp and back away from any potential accidental contact on the field. And while he admits he's still "working through some stuff," he's glad to be back really coaching. "I'm a real active coach, like to run around, get my hands on, but right now still can't do as much of that. But it's good to be with the guys, man. That's what you miss, being around the guys, being around the other coaches, watching the team grow for a common goal, and going out there and winning games. We only have one goal and that's to win the next game, and I didn't feel like I was a total part of that (last year) because when they hit the field, I wasn't on the field all the time. I feel like I'm totally back now."
· The Maz: Very hard for a defensive tackle to make much of an impression during the powderpuff OTA and minicamp workouts, so hard to give much of an impression on first-round draft choice Mazi Smith. Can tell you he is big. He's wide. He looks quite strong and understand, while at 6-3, 325, he'll be hard to move out of the way. But defensive line coach Aden Durde claims of Mazi, "He's done great so far." Once again, that is needed, remembering the Cowboys finished 22ndagainst the run last year, giving up an average of 129.3 yards a game while yielding more than 100 yards rushing in 11 of 17 games.
· Off Shots: Let's keep an eye on return ace KaVontae Turpin. Last summer's late arrival, after having played a season in the USFL and just concentrating on returns for the Cowboys, is now getting reps at wide receiver with the offense, the position helping him earn USFL MVP honors … This past season the Cowboys played eight games against teams finishing with a winning record, going 6-2, just one game behind the Eagles, leading the league at 7-1 – their one loss coming to the Cowboys … Again, let's go easy on this motion that Dak needs "fixing," considering he had the NFL's third-highest third down conversion percentage at 47.6 percent, behind just Patrick Mahomes (50.0 percent) and Josh Allen (50 percent) … One last nifty Micah Parsons stat, becoming the only Cowboys player to record double-digit sacks in each of his first two seasons and only the third player in the NFL since sacks became an official stat in 1982 to record 13-plus sacks in each of his first two seasons, joining Reggie White and Aldon Smith.
And let's go to head coach Mike McCarthy, talking about what the rookies would be doing this week, still here at The Star getting in a few more workouts before going on break as has the rest of the team since the end of last week's minicamp.
"The biggest thing really is to stay after the weight room part if it and really take the mornings for the coaches to just really – it's more about where they are, what do they need," McCarthy said. "Because we have three days of meetings just to make sure we can get in front of them and keep coaching them, and then that doesn't stop. We make sure they have everything they need when they leave here. And part of the message today was to make sure they have everything they possibly need over the five weeks. And then Dak's going to have a group, these guys will do things away from the facility throughout the five weeks, so just make sure they are engaged with that.
"And then the afternoons are more about their personal space, their skill development with Bryan Wansley (director of player development), life skills is the focal point there in the afternoons. Something we've always done, just always termed it rookie school. We've gone five days, four days, this year based on the speakers and the things Bryan wants to hit because we coordinate this rookie school with the league mandated sessions in season, so this is kind of looked at as kind of a bonus. The timing is important to hit these life-skill topics before they go on a five-week break."
Yep, good timing before the youngin's have all this spare time on their hands.