The Dallas Cowboys offense under former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore wasn't broken: It averaged 27.7 points per game across his four seasons running the offense from 2019-2022, the second most in the NFL since 2019 behind only the Chiefs' 28.8 points per game. However, patience in Dallas can wear thin after regular-season fireworks end up as postseason duds. The Silver and Blue made their 12th playoff appearance in a row without reaching the conference championship round, the longest such streak in NFL history. Their latest postseason defeat, a 19-12 loss at the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional round last season, is certainly one where the blame lies more with the offense than the defense. 

Following the defeat, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy opted to return to a familiar role as an offensive play-caller, meaning 2023 will be the first of his four years with Dallas radioing the plays into quarterback Dak Prescott's helmet on game day. He called offensive plays in six seasons as an offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints (2000-2004) and San Francisco 49ers (2005) as well as throughout the bulk of his 13 seasons as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers from 2006-2018. McCarthy is invigorating the existing playbook with elements of his foundational West Coast offense, which led Prescott to name Dallas' new offense the "Texas Coast." Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn revealed at Cowboys minicamp in June that he's seen a rejuvenated version of McCarthy since he took over offensive play-calling duties this offseason. 

"It's really cool to see Mike in that role," Quinn said on June 8. "It looks, from my opinion, like he's having a blast. Sometimes as a head coach, when you're not the play-caller, you are yearning for it. I've seen that with him, the energy he has for it, and it just looks like he's having a blast. He sets the whole menu and the table for us, and we're having a good offseason, but him specifically, I've felt some happiness and some joy for him going out there, and you can see his competitive juices going. We'll have some good battles [at training camp]. I've coached against Mike for a long time, he's one of the very best."

McCarthy confirmed Quinn's minicamp observation at training camp out in Oxnard, California on Thursday. 

"It's the chance to compete," McCarthy said. "The offensive staff has been incredible. I really like the connection we've been able to establish in our time together. We're starting to see our vision come together now that we're back into it. The pure competition is the thing I missed the most."

Although McCarthy explained his play-calling process will differ from the last time he called plays for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Dallas' offense will mostly stay the same. New Cowboys offensive Brian Schottenheimer said they are keep "70 percent-ish" of the offensive structure and language from the Kellen Moore Era (2019-2022). 

"It's [calling plays] different all the time," McCarthy said. "The year 2000 was my first chance to call plays in New Orleans, and I think about how much offense has changed since then. I actually spend the beginning of my time away looking at things from my earlier days. I spent time looking at things from New Orleans and my early days in Green Bay. I think it's like anything when you have a level of experience, you look back to draw on that if there's something that fits to help our players this year. There's continuity here with Brian and [offensive line coach] Mike Solari. Our background are tied with how we want to play and the things we believe in. At the end of the day it's about our players. Our language has been in place from Day 1 here because of Dak and our offensive players. We've done a good job building off that. We need to keep getting the concepts oiled up the way we want them and talking about the variations we want on them so that we're attacking the defense. We're off to a good start. Our missed assignments on Day 1 were minimal."

Aligning the timing of the Cowboys' route progressions to Prescott's footwork and altering their pass-projection schemes. Prescott was under pressure on 31.4% of his dropbacks in 2022, a number they would like to see decline in 2023. 

"The biggest change of our offense is our protection in the pass game," McCarthy said. "The second line of the defense is the running backs."

Even though there isn't much overall change in the grand scheme of things, both Pro Bowl wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and Prescott were gushing about the new streamlined offensive communication that's come from the play-calling switch, going from Moore to McCarthy. 

"The comradery and confidence Mike [McCarthy] has calling his plays," Lamb said Thursday when highlighted the perceived differences to the players with the coaching change. "He trusts in his players. He believes in players over plays. You can design all the schemes you want, but we have to go out there and make it come to life. Schotty [offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] and those guys want to simple it down and let us be us. You have to make it simple for the players because once again you play fast, you get the most out of everybody. The thing that they've done is you get more options out of the simple plays ... just knowing your responsibility and your place, you can line up wherever you want. He's [McCarthy] added his twist to a few things, it's not that different, but it's simple. It's easy to catch on, it's not complex. It makes it easier to get to something else when in coverage. You always have to have a Plan A and Plan B in this league."

Prescott agreed, conceding he has a better idea of the "why" behind each play call with McCarthy on the headset. 

"I know there will be a lot of benefit from it," Prescott said Thursday. "Mike is an aggressive guy, fun guy. [I'm] spending a lot of time with him and getting to know him. I'm understanding the plays and what he wants in each situation. Understanding his purpose allows me to play a little bit quicker and more free. He always says 'It's about making the quarterback feel comfortable.' I feel that as we move forward. That's what it's about, just keeping those conversations on-going, so I can play freely out there ... It's been a huge jump in the details since the change."

Not only is Prescott playing loose and free, but according to Lamb, the Cowboys quarterback has the freedom to also call plays as well as heavily influence McCarthy's play call. 

"All the offense is in Dak's hands now," Lamb said Monday on 105.3FM The Fan. "It's not necessarily being called from Mike or Kel since last year. It's all on Dak. However he's feeling versus the coverage, if he likes the matchup, we're gonna call that play."  

One of the other new ways the offense is structured is by connecting each route progression to Prescott's exact motions, a foundational element of McCarthy's West Coast offensive scheme. 

"There are always early progressions that he can find," Schottenheimer said Friday, via The Athletic. "Everything in this system, the West Coast, is all tied to the quarterback's feet. When you see a quarterback playing really well in the West Coast offense, you'll see his feet are decisive, he's firm on his back foot. That's a big part of it. But the design of it is how do you spread people out and get your guys running vertically into the defense and have the quarterback get the ball accurately to them, that's kind of the genesis, if you would, of the West Coast offense."  

Lamb echoed Prescott's perspective about possessing a deeper mastery of the reasons for each play, which he in turn says has strengthened his relationship with his head coach. 

"We weren't always on the same page [in past years]," Lamb said. "Now, it's a bit different. Everyone can't play quarterback, but it's about getting into the mind of why he's doing things. It's much more easy for us to understand that ... What's better than the best relationship with your head coach? Some guys don't have that type of relationship with their coach. Granted, he was not in the meeting rooms as much or as involved in play-calling, but now it's different. It kind of reminds me of college with Lincoln Riley [at Oklahoma] where he was the offensive play-caller and the head coach. It brings some familiarity."

Despite everyone's familiarity with the bulk of the offensive playbook, McCarthy stressed he will be coaching like they are installing a brand new offense in 2023, an approach that could lead to a more relaxed vibe for his players.  

"We by no means feel like we're starting over on offense, but we are in a Year 1 mindset because the play-calling and how we game plan is going to be different," McCarthy said. "That's natural when you make a change."