For roughly 65 plays a game over 65 regular-season games and three playoff contests, Kellen Moore called plays into Prescott’s helmet as the offensive coordinator. Add in some preseason series, as well as all of the practices over those four years, from organized team activities to minicamp to training camp and then the regular season.
That has to add up to more than 5,000 times Moore yapped into Prescott’s ears since 2019.
This spring, it’s all new for Prescott. Moore is now the offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers, and coach Mike McCarthy is the Cowboys’ playcaller.
Prescott went from the cadence of Moore, who is from Washington state, to McCarthy’s Pittsburgh lilt.
“It’s different. I’ll tell you, you hear that accent a little bit more when he’s calling these plays,” Prescott said of McCarthy’s delivery. “He called one out there, and I looked back, and I go, ‘Was it the right one?’ [with McCarthy nodding back] ‘Yeah, it was.’ It’s just that his accent was tough to hear.”
Pittsburgh accent aside, McCarthy has had to adjust to calling plays again. He had not done it since his head-coaching tenure ended with the Green Bay Packers late in the 2018 season.
“Most people sing in the shower. I’m calling the final drive of the Super Bowl again,” McCarthy said earlier in the offseason. “Driving in the car, I’m thinking of plays.”
McCarthy and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer spent the offseason retooling the Cowboys’ offense.
Schottenheimer said the offense was not broken. The Cowboys finished fourth in scoring and 11th in yards per game, although Moore, quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, offensive line coach Joe Philbin and running backs coach Skip Peete were not retained.
Just as McCarthy did in 2020, when he took over as head coach and left the offense in place, McCarthy has adapted the phraseology of his West Coast scheme to what Prescott has known since his rookie year, 2016.
“We’re still in Dak’s language,” McCarthy said.
The subtleties of how a play is run might be different, based on the change where an out-breaking route that was once strictly performed at a precise angle might now be rounded off. Or Prescott might have been asked to make a certain read high to low; now it is low to high.
“Are you reading it the same as you did before? Are you emphasizing things differently?” McCarthy said. “Just really the techniques and fundamentals within the schemes.”
In McCarthy’s first three years, he and Prescott spent plenty of time together, but not nearly the same time as a quarterback and playcaller meet. This offseason has been about delving into the “whys” and “hows” of the changes to the scheme.
The hours are limited due to offseason rules, but Prescott says he understands the importance of knowing McCarthy’s philosophy as much as he did Moore’s.
“Just being able to understand, being in the same wavelength and understanding why he’s calling a play, what’s the purpose of the play, what he expects out of that, and making sure we’re on the same accord there. It has to be that constant communication,” Prescott said. “[After last week’s OTA] he said, ‘You know what, go look at everything we put in and make sure we’re running the things you like and the things we’re good at. If it’s something you’re a little iffy about, let’s get it out. Let’s master what we’re great at.’ Just having that clear communication, being able to work with him day in and day out, it’s new. It’s refreshing. It’s fun for both of us.”
The last time McCarthy called plays, he had banked 11 years of experience with Aaron Rodgers. He knew what the quarterback liked, mostly. The quarterback knew what McCarthy liked. While much was made of how it ended between McCarthy and Rodgers in Green Bay, they had seven seasons with at least 10 wins, won five NFC North titles, made it to three NFC Championships Games and won a Super Bowl.
McCarthy and Prescott won’t have the same hands-on experience in 2023, and McCarthy understands time is a luxury.
“I’m not really worried about the football part of it,” McCarthy said. “The everyday football part as far as the drills, scheme. It’s just more the collaboration of calling the game. ‘How did you see this play? This is how I see it. This is what I see.’
We have this thing we call, PCP, just really the purpose of the playcall. Playcall purpose. PCP. It’s one thing to learn the play and the intricacies of the play, but I think when you can continue to anticipate when and where it’s going to be called, I think that’s the stronger communication and connection that the quarterback and playcaller has to have.”
McCarthy said this week’s minicamp will be important to the rapport he and Prescott establish, especially since it is the first time the Cowboys will have full team drills. That figures to grow when the Cowboys get to training camp in Oxnard, California, as well as however much Prescott plays in the preseason.
McCarthy pared down the verbiage of his offense because time is of the essence.
“I believe this: A clean, quick playcall is much better than the perfect, late playcall,” McCarthy said. “Because if I’m giving him ample time at the line of scrimmage, he has the ability to play fast, communicate, get it out and attack the defense. And he also has the time to make that check to put us in the perfect play.”
Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy, Dak Prescott learning to talk same talk – ESPN – Dallas Cowboys Blog