FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys begin the offseason with plenty of unanswered questions, including the future of more than 20 impending free agents from a 12-win team that desperately wants to improve on a first-round playoff exit in 2021.
Somewhat surprisingly, there are few questions about the coaching staff.
When the season ended, many thought that at least one of Dallas' coordinators -- offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and/or defensive coordinator Dan Quinn -- would leave for a head coaching opportunity. The offense finished first in total yards and points, and the defense produced a huge turnaround from 2020, leading the league in takeaways.
Quinn returned on a new deal after interviewing with five teams, a decision that Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones called a "huge victory" for the franchise. Moore is also set to return after interviewing with four teams but not securing a head coaching offer elsewhere. (His last interview, the Miami Dolphins, hired 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel instead.)
And Jones has emphasized that head coach Mike McCarthy's job security was never in question, despite speculation to the contrary following the Cowboys' 23-17 playoff loss to San Francisco.
"The idea of Mike being twisting in the wind just wasn't the case at all," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in late January. "We were sitting there trying to keep Dan Quinn and trying to maintain continuity on our coaching staff."
Jones has always valued staff continuity, particularly over the last 20 years. He has long maintained that it was a mistake to fire Chan Gailey in 2000 after the team made the playoffs twice in two seasons.
So far, the only change on McCarthy's staff this winter appears to be at receivers coach, where Adam Henry has an expiring contract. The Cowboys reportedly plan to hire Robert Prince, who has coached receivers for the Texans and Lions since 2014 and was Boise State's offensive coordinator in 2011 when Moore was the Broncos' star quarterback.
Moore's return as play caller is important for a couple reasons. The Cowboys believe Moore, 33, continues to have a bright future just four years into his coaching career, and McCarthy wants to keep a similar offense in place for quarterback Dak Prescott for – let's say it once again -- _continuity's _sake.
That said, McCarthy emphasized that the offense must continue to evolve and improve in specific areas. Though dominant at times and statistically among the league's best, the production wasn't as consistent after the bye week, including the playoff loss.
"We've talked before about how the season goes, how the first third of the season, the challenges you have there, then the second and third and how tough it is in the final third. You break that down in all three phases," McCarthy said. "Specifically to the offense, you've got to take a hard look at that. What made you successful early? How did you go through the adversity and tribulations of injuries and changes in your lineup, because you have to play a little differently then. There are concepts and people you need to help. Do we have enough help in our protections?
These are all questions that are very fair and we're going to take a normal look at it. It's not like we're taking a hard look at it. But we definitely need to tweak some things."
The roster will change this offseason, as it always does. That's life in the salary cap era.
But Jones has faith in the club's track record of targeting the right players in free agency and the draft -- and the coaching staff putting players in the right positions to succeed.
"The constant here is we have great coaches, great staff," Jones said.