As the new offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, part of Brian Schottenheimer's role includes fielding tough questions from the media that will quickly make the rounds on social media. Yet when asked about his first memory of working with Mike McCarthy, Schottenheimer answered it with the ease of a Sunday afternoon stroll.
It was in Kansas City in 1998 while serving on the staff of Brian's father, Marty Schottenheimer. McCarthy was in his fourth season as the Chiefs' quarterbacks coach. The younger Schottenheimer was starting his second NFL gig after spending the previous season on Dick Vermiel's staff in St. Louis. Vermeil's meticulous nature helped Schottenheimer during his acclimation with McCarthy.
"He brought me a binder that was about this big of all the reports that I was responsible for … and basically dropped it on the table and said, 'Hey, this is where you're starting,'" Schottenheimer recalled. "He taught me how important it was to learn the game. ... He's a hell of a football coach."
Their paths have again crossed in Dallas a quarter century later. Schottenheimer was brought in to further improve a Cowboys offense that finished fourth in the NFL in scoring in 2022. While the offense won't be entirely the same as in recent years, Schottenheimer doesn't plan to make wholesale changes. What the Cowboys call and when they call it may be the biggest change regarding the offense.
"It's been a grind. It's been fun," Schottenheimer said when asked about the work of installing the offense with McCarthy. "As you know, look, the system's not broke. They've won a lot of games here. Mike's been around for that. … They've scored a ton of points. … We've had a lot of discussions."
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Schottenheimer said the Cowboys are currently teaching the system to the players and will do so during the first two phases of voluntary workouts. They'll run a version of the offense during OTAs, which is currently the focus of Schottenheimer and the staff. He said he expects the offense will be tweaked before training camp based on what happens during OTAs.
One thing that will likely be different from the Dallas team of a year ago is its need for speed. That's evident in a couple of offseason moves: trading for wideout Brandin Cooks and drafting running back Deuce Vaughn, two speedsters to inject into this offense.
"We wanna play physical, fast and to make everyone cover the entire field," Schottenheimer said. " … I want us to be able to play fast."
"Well first of all, I love him," Schottenheimer said. "I've always admired him from afar. I've competed against him many times.
"I love the man, I love the work ethic. He's a tireless preparer. The way guys follow him. They way he wants to be coached. The way he wants to be open-minded to trying different things from a fundamental standpoint, things like that. That shows you the sign of a true winner, a champion, and it's been awesome. I'm looking forward to working with him and really all the guys. All the guys have been great."
Optimism can be the best word to describe Schottenheimer's outlook about the Cowboys offense for 2023, and for good reason. The Cowboys have one of the league's top quarterbacks in Prescott, a solid offensive line, a Pro Bowl running back in Tony Pollard and a receiving corps that features two former 1,000-yard wideouts in CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks.
Talent aside, Schottheimer -- whose career highlight to this point was when the Jets made back-to-back AFC title game appearances with him serving as offensive coordinator in 2009-10 -- feels that the Cowboys offense, led by Prescott, has the intangible qualities to be a special unit.