FRISCO – Mike McCarthy knows that 2023 will be unlike any other season he's spent in Dallas. The magnifying glass that used to focus on Kellen Moore as the offensive play-caller, now shifts squarely to the head coach for the first time since he was in Green Bay.
Paired with Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator, McCarthy holds the keys to an offense that has shown promise previously but has failed to truly reach its peak. One advantage he does have, is having both Schottenheimer and the entire quarterback room return from 2022.
"If you look at the history of our offense here," McCarthy said. "2020 was really trying to figure out who we were wanting to be. I think the evolution from 2021 to 2022 is really the direction we want to continue to build off of."
Dallas reached its statistical peak under Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator in 2021. After finishing middle of the road in 2020, the team ranked first in total yards per game (407.0) and tied for second in passing yards per game (282.4). 2021 also revealed the true potential of Tony Pollard's impact on the ground and set the table for a better year rushing to follow.
In 2022, the efficiency ratings took a step forward while the yards per game numbers took a minor hit. The Cowboys finished first in red zone efficiency (71.4%) and fifth in third down conversion percentage (45.5%) after finishing outside the top five in both categories the year before. While the team finished 11th in total yards per contest (354.9).
With a relatively new offensive hierarchy, how will things change without Moore calling plays for the first time since 2019? The first true change would appear in a shift of language and communication. Both elements are established very early in the offseason and first put to the test throughout this week's OTAs.
However, according to McCarthy, that won't see much of a change either.
"We're still in Dak's language," McCarthy said. "We're definitely building off it."
Why is that important? It keeps everyone on the same page and does so more consistently. Changing the quarterback language could not only hinder the growth of an installation process, but also the cadence and cohesion of the offensive unit around it.
"As far as the installation plays come, obviously, there's some adds some things taken out, Prescott said. "I think you just get an overall feel that maybe the game's going to just be called a little different."
Not a complete carbon copy of the 2022 offense, and not a complete overhaul either.
"It's not like we've thrown away our playbook and tried to start over or anything like that," Prescott added. "We've had some success. So, there is good there."
While Schottenheimer and Dak have already spoken to their early connection as coordinator and quarterback, having McCarthy in the quarterback's ear will be still be something unique for Prescott. Even if the language is similar.
"It's different. You hear that accent a little bit more. When he calls these plays," Prescott said with a grin. "It's been fun, us being able to just work with him in that light. Everyday hands on. It's exciting. It's refreshing. And I know he's enjoying it getting back into football, headfirst into the film, and just what we're doing so it's exciting."