How different will Cowboys’ offense look with Mike McCarthy calling plays?

This time of year is never quite as exciting as the video snippets make it out to be.

Social media will showcase the slow-motion throws and the first look at new players in their new uniforms. And while it is fun to be reminded that football is on the horizon, the reality is that NFL teams are merely installing the schemes they’ll execute during training camp.

In Frisco, Texas, the Cowboys will be moving through the spring at walk-through and jog-through paces, saving anything that resembles competitive football for camp. It’s change that no doubt came about because of head coach Mike McCarthy being fined $150,000 over the last two years for featuring too much physicality in his offseason practices.

“I’m glad you find humor in the amount of money that I’ve lost, because my wife and I don’t really think it’s funny,” McCarthy said Thursday.

The change isn’t going to lend itself to eye-popping content, but it does underscore the important part of the offseason workload. For the first time in four years, the Cowboys are tweaking their offense, as longtime offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is now in Los Angeles, while McCarthy must find time in the day to add playcalling duties to his schedule for the first time since 2018.

“It’s never enough. I’m here right now missing the damn quarterback meeting,” McCarthy said from his press conference.

McCarthy will be doing his best to find time over the next three weeks. Between now and the conclusion of the Cowboys’ mandatory minicamp on June 8, they’ll have eight installs to put down a base layer of knowledge heading into training camp. And while the Dallas defense is working toward a third straight season with the same staff in place, McCarthy and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are tasked with carrying the offense forward without Moore.


Fortunately, it’s not as if an overhaul is sorely needed. As Dak Prescott himself pointed out, the Cowboys have been among the NFL’s best offenses for much of the last few years.

“There are some changes. It’s not like we’re going to throw away our playbook and try to start over, anything like that,” Prescott said. “Obviously, we’ve had some success. There is good there.”

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With that in mind, it seems smart to make the transition as easy as possible on Prescott. When McCarthy was hired in 2020, he noted the importance of deferring to the quarterback’s comfort level with the language of the scheme. Even without Moore in the building, it sounds like that’s been the same approach during the ramp up to these installs.

“We’re still in Dak’s language,” he said. “I think the evolution from ’21 and ’22 is really the direction we want to continue to build off of. If you look at the statistics of those three years of offense and the direction we’re going, we’ll continue in that direction.”

Dallas Cowboys WR Brandin Cooks: ‘[Dak Prescott’s] special’

Dallas Cowboys WR Brandin Cooks: '[Dak Prescott's] special'

If that’s the case, hopefully the transition will be as smooth as possible from a mechanical standpoint. And with those weeks to work together, Prescott and McCarthy can focus on the human element. Prescott joked on Thursday that it was entertaining hearing his head coach’s Pittsburgh accent in his headset after so many years working with Moore. 

Away from the playing field, McCarthy also stressed the importance of communicating the timing and the purpose behind each decision. “We have a thing called PCP. What’s the purpose of the play call, play call purpose — PCP,” McCarthy said. “It’s one thing to learn the play and the intricacies of the play, but I think when they can anticipate when and where it’s going to be called, I think it’s stronger communication and connection that the quarterback and play caller need to have.”

That’s the mundane reality of OTAs in a nutshell. But if Prescott and McCarthy handle that business in the next few weeks, it should lead to plenty fun results in the coming months.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter at @davidhelman_.

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