Mike McCarthy’s to-do list with Dallas Cowboys: From Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott to Jerry Jones - Jori Epstein, USA Today
Mike McCarthy has a lot to do as the new head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Where does he start?
1. Maximize Dak Prescott’s growth and ability
Prescott has started every game for the Cowboys since he was drafted in the fourth round, 135th overall, in 2016. In 2019, he posted his best statistical year as a passer, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Prescott wasn’t perfect last season, inconsistent at times in both games (his 463 yards and two touchdowns vs. Green Bay were marred by three interceptions) and in stretches, particularly late in the year. But his footwork, throwing mechanics and ability to read defenses improved significantly from earlier years. Now McCarthy will mentor Prescott like he has Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Dak,” McCarthy said Wednesday at The Star. “I can recall his rookie year when we played ‘em there in Green Bay. I’ve always been impressed with him. You’re going to able to run the whole offense and then some. I think he has an incredible foundation to build off of.
“And our offensive system will be built around making the quarterback successful. That’s the way I’ve learned it. That’s the way I believe you play offense. We have a great one here to work with.”
Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy speaks on 2020 plan for analytics, play-calling and more: ‘We’re looking at everything’ - Patrick Walker, CBS Sports
Mike McCarthy talks analysts, schemes, and more with Shan and RJ of 105.3 The Fan.
Speaking with 105.3FM the Fan for the first time in his Cowboys tenure, even he trolled himself a bit for his recent stubbornness.
”I used to have a saying, and I probably shouldn’t say it, but it was an old thought process -- not out of disrespect -- but it was to keep the analytics component in check. I used to say, ‘statistics are for losers’,” he said. “Because the only statistic that mattered was wins and losses.”
While McCarthy is no longer tugboating that decrepit theme, he also wants to be clear analytics is a tool he’ll readily employ with the Cowboys, but it’s not the Holy Grail.
”I think you have to be smart about the analytics,” he said. “It’s very important, but the reality of it is how it’s applied to your everyday operation, because we don’t play football in an air conditioned room -- well, AT&T Stadium, I’m going to have to change my words there -- but there’s also the human element that you have to involve in your decision-making. So, I think analytics gives you the ability to sharpen your edge in preparation, and be a little quicker in your decision-making during a game; but there is an instinct and awareness component that you definitely have to tap into on when you push the envelope and when you pull back.”
In other words, the screwdriver isn’t the hammer and the hammer isn’t the screwdriver, but both are needed to get the job done.
Film room: Potential immediate fixes for the Cowboys’ biggest offseason roster needs - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
The Cowboys will need to hit a home run this offseason in order to get back to where they need to be in 2020. Here’s a few ways they can do so.
Free agency fix: DJ Reader, Houston Texans
If the Cowboys would like a more immediate fix than the draft would provide, then look no further than DJ Reader, who has the versatility to play in whatever scheme Nolan implements with the Cowboys.
Reader probably won’t come cheap, but he would immediately fill the biggest hole on Dallas’ interior defensive line. Take a look at this play from Houston’s game against Buffalo in the Wild Card round.
With his shade alignment over the center, Reader’s primary job is to occupy that A-gap. Once the ball is snapped, notice how he attacks the initial double team, which puts him in position to not only hold his ground but it also slows the right guard’s climb to the second level, which enables the LB to get downhill and in position to play off the block.
Once the guard climbs to the linebacker, Reader has already put the center on his heels, which makes it easy for Reader to shed the block and make the tackle.
This is the type of play the Cowboys have been missing from the defensive tackle position recently, and it’s something Reader has proven capable of consistently replicating during his time in Houston.
With a boatload of unrestricted free agents, who will be back wearing the star in 2020?
The Cowboys have over 25 free agents this offseason that will likely require some lengthy discussions that have already been underway.
Cowboys COO Stephen Jones, the team’s VP of player personnel, said he expects new head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff to have a big input in these decisions, but not necessarily with the top two.
Jones made it clear the Cowboys have every intention of re-signing both Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, a plan that has been in place long before this latest coaching change.
“Huge priority for us. Obviously, that will find its way in a hurry,” Jones said specifically when asked about Dak’s contract. ‘We have to be back interacting with Dak and his representation and Amari and his representation. And then working with Coach McCarthy and his staff to give us a third-party evaluation.”
Whether or not the Cowboys use the franchise tag, the transition tag or just a long-term deal to retain Dak and Cooper, those two likely won’t be going anywhere. After that, Jones said he’s excited to get a different take on other free-agents such as Byron Jones, Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins.
Will the Cowboys have an even easier strength of schedule in 2020?
With similar schedules, Baltimore’s rivals in the AFC North also rank among the top 10 easiest schedules, as do the NFC East teams, which will face the NFC West in addition to the AFC North. That could spell soft landings for the NFC East’s new crop of head coaches -- Mike McCarthy in Dallas, Ron Rivera in Washington and Joe Judge with the New York Giants. Rivera will have a “revenge game” of sorts against his former team, the Panthers, in Washington.
On the other end of the spectrum, the AFC East teams are looking at tough sledding next season, with the Patriots (.535) and Jets (.531) facing the stiffest competition in the NFL. Among their non-division opponents will be the AFC West and NFC West, so there will be plenty of cross-country travel for teams in all three divisions.
To that end, NFC West teams are also facing a difficult, travel-heavy schedule. Those squads will play the AFC East and NFC East, accounting for five games each in the eastern time zone. Additionally, the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals will have seven games against playoff teams.
See below for our full strength-of-schedule rankings based on opponent winning percentage, from easiest to most difficult:
Yes, Stephen, you do.
Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones made it clear Friday on 1310 The Ticket, Dallas plans to get a deal done with Dak, and noted sides almost completed a pact before the season started.
”We’ve got to land the plane and get his deal done,” Jones said, via Jon Machota of The Athletic. “That’s on Jerry and myself. He’s our future. I think he stepped up and improved in all ways last year. ... We went over this in depth with Coach McCarthy and he thinks [Dak] is a top-end, top-caliber quarterback. We can do everything we want to do and more with Dak. [McCarthy] can’t wait to spend time with him. We’ve got to land the plane on his contract and get him signed up sooner than later. He deserves everything he has coming. We got real, real close there to start the season and just didn’t finish up. He’s so laser-focused on wanting to win football games and compete that he really didn’t want the distraction once we didn’t get it done in that first week of going back and forth with the contract. We just got to move forward. He’s our quarterback of the future. I’ll take him any time when you go to war against these guys. We’re fortunate to have him.”
The Cowboys had a disappointing up-down season to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
Prescott, however, showed he could be part of the long-term solution, finishing one yard shy of tying Tony Romo’s franchise record of 4,903 yards passing in 2012.
The Cowboys new head coach also probably wants this Dak deal to get done.
Prescott played McCarthy’s old Packers team twice as a rookie in 2016. He threw three touchdown passes in a decisive 30-16 win at Lambeau Field, only the sixth start of his career.
Three months later in a divisional-round home loss to Green Bay, Prescott threw three more touchdowns and helped the Cowboys tie the game late before Rodgers’ improbable third-and-20 conversion to Jared Cook set up the deciding field goal as time expired.
In Prescott, McCarthy sees a quarterback who can do it all.
“You’re going to able to run the whole offense and then some,” he said. “And I think he has an incredible foundation to build off of.”
Hall of Famer Brett Favre played under McCarthy for two years in Green Bay. In 2007, McCarthy’s second year on the job, Favre had one of his most efficient seasons (28 touchdown passes to 15 interceptions, 95.7 passer rating) and the Packers went 13-3, advancing to the NFC Championship game.
He believes McCarthy will tailor his style to fit Prescott’s strengths.
We debuted a brand new show on the BTB podcast feed on Friday... Talkin’ The Draft with Connor Livesay and Dalton Miller. Once a week the guys will discuss prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft and who makes sense for America’s Team. Listen to the debut episode here.
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Here’s how Cowboys fans are feeling after the first week of the offseason. A new coach helps!