Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is taking over the play-calling role and is loving it. McCarthy spoke to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday and gave some insight on how the 2023 season will look.
"This is the most fun I've had since I've been in Dallas," he said on taking over play-calling duties. "Just to be in the meeting room again with the coaches full time. Just to go 8 to 11:30 and break, and you're talking nothing but scheme. I haven't had that. So that part's different."
The team parted ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who was in Dallas for four seasons, three with McCarthy, opening the window for a new play-caller. McCarthy has experience as a play-caller from his time with the Green Bay Packers.
McCarthy believes that the change will be beneficial for quarterback Dak Prescott, who will have a new play-caller for the first time since 2018. The head coach said Prescott is pleased with the shift.
"I think, number one, we all can use a new voice," McCarthy said, via NFL.com. "We all can use a sense of motivation and challenge and so forth. This is a new challenge for him -- his words -- he's very excited about it. I just think, like anything, he's had a chance to go from the different variations of the offense that was in place. He's getting ready to take another turn as far as the variation of what we're getting ready to do. We're gonna build it off of what he has established."
As for what his new voice might look like, McCarthy detailed the change as a shift in mindset and principles.
"Kellen wants to light the scoreboard up," McCarthy said (via the Dallas Morning News), "but I want him to run the damn ball so I can rest my defense.
"I think when you're a coordinator, you know but you're in charge of the offense. Being a head coach and being a play caller, you're a little more in tune with (everything). I don't desire to be the No. 1 offense in the league. I want to be the No. 1 team in the league with the number of wins and a championship. And if we've got to give up some production and take care of the ball a little better to get that, then that's what we'll do because we have a really good defense."
Despite McCarthy's words coming off as a strong critique of his former offensive play-caller, Moore -- now the Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator -- had only positive things to say about working under the Super Bowl Champion head coach.
"It was really fun just to go through the process of merging worlds," Moore said, via ESPN. "I think that was such a fun process. There's just so many little things as you go through game plans and gamedays as you're calling the games, just being able to have those conversations about different ways you can go, different paths you can take, he was really a great sounding board for me."
McCarthy wanting to run the football even more than they did in 2022 would make them one of the most run-heavy offenses in the entire league. The Cowboys were sixth in 2022 in rushing attempts (531), but their per-rush success was in the bottom half of the NFL, ranking 18th in yards per carry (4.3). Dallas was one of the best third-down offenses last season with the fifth-highest conversion rate (45.5%), but Prescott's arm was one of the keys to that success. He averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt, the third-most in the NFL behind only 2022 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes (9.9) and Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (9.4).
McCarthy did emphasize the importance of a quarterback who can throw his team to victory, but after Prescott became the first player in NFL history to lead or co-lead the league in interceptions while missing five games, the head coach is looking to trim the potential for turnovers.
"Your quarterback has to be able to go throw the ball 45 times in a game and win," McCarthy said (via The Athletic). "Can't win a championship in this league if your guy can't have the capabilities of doing that, I believe. But having them do that every week? It's fun. It's fun as hell to call those plays, but that's not the best thing for your team. Time of possession goes to hell, risk for turnover goes up."
Following the Cowboys' playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round in which Prescott tossed two picks, McCarthy thought it was "a good time to make that change," despite Moore doing an "excellent job," according to the head coach. The team hired Brian Schottenheimer as an offensive coordinator this offseason to assist with offensive duties.
McCarthy says about 30 to 35 percent of the offense will change after the departure of Moore, but there will be no "wholesale" changes.