FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will evolve in 2023 because they'll have a new voice relaying the plays into quarterback Dak Prescott's helmet. Former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is in the same role with the Los Angeles Chargers after Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy let him go to return to calling plays. 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."
"Funny, this is the 'Texas Coast,'" Prescott said Wednesday, via ESPN. "We just renamed that, the quarterbacks. It's got definitely some West Coast principles, but has a little bit of what we've done in the past and just obviously marrying them together with a lot of detail and maybe in a sense, a system that's not out there. So there you go."
New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer went out of his way to clarify on Thursday, the final day of the Cowboys' mandatory minicamp, that many elements of Kellen Moore's attack will remain in place. A logical decision since Moore's offense 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.
"I've said it and I do believe it, it wasn't broke," Schottenheimer told CBS Sports Thursday. "What they've done here over the last five-six- seven years has been really good since Dak came into the league. We wanted to keep a lot of that in place. That's what our players know. We're a veteran, strong offense that has added some really cool pieces. We were very selective about the changes we made. We tried to protect some of the language, the things Dak has used for a long time, but we certainly added some wrinkles. Not to put a number on it, but we're somewhere in that keep 70 percent-ish. We've certainly added some flavor. The things that we put in that are new, not only Dak, but [right guard] Zack [Martin], and [left tackle] Tyron [Smith] and those guys, TP [running back Tony Pollard] like some of the adjustments we made. It really has been a collaborative thing with a lot of good give and take. Stuff that's been in place [here]. stuff that Mike's done, stuff that I've done in Seattle [as their offensive coordinator from 2018-2020], and again, it's nice to kind of get through this offseason and then we'll go to training camp, tweak somethings, and then start getting ready for games."
One of the adjustments in the new system will likely be more up-tempo, no-huddle action, a staple of McCarthy's offenses alongside future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers when the two were together on the Green Bay Packers. Dallas averaged 65.5 offensive plays per game in 2022, a number that ranked as the ninth-most in the NFL. The Cowboys are likely looking to climb into the top-five in that metric in 2023.
"When you can change your pace, you're gonna catch [the defense] off-guard," Prescott said Wednesday, via the Cowboys' official website. "You want as many at-bats so we'll try to get as many plays as we can, as many chances to make big plays. Lastly, we want to be the aggressors. We want to attack these guys and push the tempo. We just want to make sure that we're dictating the pace and being the aggressors so the team is on our pace and not theirs."
Schottenheimer has made a conscious effort to keep his office door open for Prescott and other Cowboys veteran players to provide their feedback about the augmented offense because of how much feedback from his players in other roles has shaped his coaching career.
"In my career, I've learned almost as much from the players as I have from other coaches I've been around as well," Schottenheimer said. "[Hall of Fame wide receiver] Isaac Bruce is [one] probably, when I was in St. Louis as a young quality control coach under [head coach] Dick Vermeil. Isaac Bruce taught me a lot of what I believe as a receiver-background guy, and it's because they actually played the game. So of course, Dak was involved in some of the things, and we talked to [right guard] Zack Martin and a lot of the veterans. It's been cool because the staff that's in place [here] there's a lot of guys that have been in place. [However,] I'm new. Mike calling the plays is new. [Offensive line coach] Mike Solari is new, but, there's a lot of guys that understand the history of what it's been here. That made it easy for us to kick ideas around and make decisions. he players, certainly the veterans, were involved in some of the decisions that we made. The things that we tweaked, they like it."
One of the goals of their new offense is to become more efficient, score more points and have fewer turnovers, obviously. Last season, Prescott hindered the offense's efficiency by co-leading the NFL with 15 interceptions. Yet, the Cowboys don't see their quarterback as "needing to be fixed" so much as he needs to embrace some of the safety nets the new "Texas Coast" offense will provide.
"He [Dak Prescott] certainly doesn't need to be fixed," Schottenheimer said. "There's no question about that. The guy is a great player, and you guys have watched him more than I have. He's a competitor. He's going to compete and say 'I can make that throw.' He's just got to understand situations in the game, down and distance, and all that stuff and clean up some of the decisions he knows last year that he kind of missed."
Schottenheimer is entering his fourth stint as an NFL offensive coordinator in 2023 with the Cowboys with previous runs as the New York Jets OC (2006-2011), the St. Louis Rams OC (2012-2014), and the Seattle Seahawks OC (2018-2020). When working alongside Prescott after his 15 interceptions co-led the NFL last season, he draws from his early days helping run a team's offense and his time coaching Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre back in 2008.
"I love one of my early experiences as an offensive coordinator was with the Jets in 2008, and I was coaching Brett Favre," Schottenheimer said. "You guys have seen Brett play. He would try and force a ball between like three guys. At least one of the three guys would be waiting there and would catch it. He would come over to me after they did, and I'd be like 'Dude, what are you doing?' He would say 'my bad, my bad.' We would be alright, and we were going to move. I would get up, and Brett would say 'Hey Schotty, I can make that through. I can make that throw.' I would then have to say 'that's not the point, but you can make that throw sometimes.' "It's a little bit of that competitive spirit. These guys, they all have that. Again, Dak loves some of the things that we're doing from training the footwork and timing and some of the rhythm things and tying the routes to his feet. So, we're expecting that all to be easier."
Another area McCarthy and Schottenheimer are looking to tie even tighter around Prescott in addition to timing the routes to his footwork is the way they pass-protect him. Prescott was under pressure on 31.4% of his dropbacks in 2022, a number they would like to see decline in 2023.
"When you look at interceptions, there's so many factors that go into it," Schottenheimer said. "The point is the protection part of it of us trying to tighten up some of the pocket and make it a little bit firmer and how we kind of fit our backs into being the sideboard for different whether you're sliding protections, things like that. ... That's more of a philosophy for Mike [McCarthy] and I that we've been around. [Offensive line coach] Mike Solari and I've been together a couple different times. That is something that we've definitely worked towards doing .I feel like we've come away with not only just the right answers, and fits for blitzes, everyone talks about blitzes and how you block those up, but just even in a four-man rush. Whether you're sliding or whether you're in a pocket declaration, we block into how you fit the pieces together. If the backs are involved, or whether they're blocking someone who just fit in through a gap, they're always involved, and we definitely want to play in a physical mindset in all protections issued."
Not only do they want their running backs "always involved" as pass-blockers, but they also aim to maintain the use of multiple running backs even though franchise-tagged rusher Tony Pollard has been declared "the lead back."
"Yeah, we want to be multiple," Schottenheimer said when asked about running back usage in the new Dallas offense. "We talk about getting a guy like Deuce [Vaughn], although was one of the coolest stories I've ever seen and I've been around in a lot of draft rooms and war rooms. It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The raw emotion from Deuce and his dad [Assistant Director of College Scouting Chris Vaughn], it was awesome. A player like that gives you flexibility. A player like [undrafted North Dakota State full back] Hunter [Luepke] gives you versatility. There's so many things you can do. If you watch Hunter's tape, he actually played tight end, running back, and fullback. Those guys did a great job [in OTAS and minicamp]."
Another area that's been an added bonus about their "Texas Coast" offense reformation is how it has reinvigorated McCarthy. That's something Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a six-year head coach with the Atlanta Falcons from 2015-2020, has immediately picked up on in the transition, which he feels could pay dividends down the road for Dallas in 2023.
"It's really cool to see Mike in that role," Quinn told CBS Sports Thursday. "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. Hopefully we have a lot of fun out in California."