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How Will Mike McCarthy’s System Look With the Dallas Cowboys?

The Cowboys Offense Under Mike McCarthy

Kellen Moore
“Creative.”

That’s the most common word associated with Kellen Moore’s first year as Cowboys offensive coordinator. Dallas finished with the league’s number-one offense in total yards (431/game) and sixth in points (27.1/game).

When the offense was flowing, there would be more three wide receiver sets, split backfield and plenty of pre-snap motions. Where the offense fell apart was when the running game couldn’t get going, causing the play calling to become stale.

Rinse and repeat; run on first down, pass on second down and if it’s third and four or longer, it’s likely a pass or possibly a delay handoff. If it’s third and three or less, it’s likely a power handoff between Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, with a possible play action pass. Stale and predictable.

Mike McCarthy Already Assembling an Excellent Coaching Staff

Enter Mike McCarthy. Now instead of continuing, conservative play calls to play to “not lose,” the new offense will have a West Coast feel with an emphasis on the passing game.

This was how it went during McCarthy’s time in Green Bay. Having a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers throwing to receivers like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams would obviously yield a lot of results.

How Mike McCarthy’s System Looks in Dallas 3

However, Mike’s got more toys to play with in Dallas. He’s never had a running back like Ezekiel Elliott who’s great at running the ball, as well as catching and blocking in the passing game. He’s also never had a receiving trio like Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb.

McCarthy’s most common offensive set is a three wide receiver 11-personnel set. That would look like the receivers mentioned, a running back (either behind the offensive line or sometimes in the slot) and a tight end either lined up with the offensive line or split out with the receivers.

It’s a set that we saw more of with Kellen Moore in his first year as the offensive coordinator, more than a base 12 or 13-personnel like they did with Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett calling the offense.

How Mike McCarthy’s System Looks in Dallas 1

For perspective, a base 11-personnel is the image above. With the Cowboys, that would look like this:

WR1 – Amari Cooper

WR2 (slot) – CeeDee Lamb

WR3 – Michael Gallup

TE – Blake Jarwin

RB – Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard

What Moore’s play calling allows Prescott to do is utilize his threat as a runner, and the running backs at his disposal to spread the ball around to his array of weapons. With McCarthy’s offensive scheme, we could see another career year for their franchise quarterback.

In addition to 11 as their base set, not only does McCarthy love to spread the ball down the field but we could see plenty of four wide receiver sets, and even potentially some with five. This would be an almost complete turnaround from what teams have come to expect from Cowboys offenses.

How Mike McCarthy’s System Looks in Dallas 2
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 12: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after a play in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Lastly, it’s important to note from McCarthy’s Packers run that he inherited two years of veteran Brett Farve, while helping to develop Aaron Rodgers for two years. Not only does he not have to deal with an aging quarterback but he also doesn’t need to mold a 22-year-old quarterback out of clay.

He’s getting a young, Pro Bowl quarterback in Dak Prescott who doesn’t come with the ego that Farve reportedly had late in his time in Green Bay. There’s also no sign that Dak has the unwillingness to be coached that Aaron Rodgers has displayed at times.

With Prescott, McCarthy got a mature leader who’s thrived as a passer in one year with Kellen Moore as his offensive coordinator. With these receivers and tight ends, it could be even better than he had at any point in Green Bay. There’s no reason to think otherwise that we couldn’t see this offense elevate even beyond what it did last year.

With all the weapons, the quarterback and the connection between QB and OC, the implementation of Mike McCarthy’s new offense is going to result in ridiculous, even maybe video game-type numbers for the Dallas Cowboys.

Go ahead and get excited.

What do you think?

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Shane Carter

Written by Shane Carter

Lifelong Cowboys fan, who doesn’t mind telling the harsh truth. I’ve got a Bachelors Degree in Electronic Media and Communications from Texas Tech University. I welcome all opinions but I will shut down any troll.

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  1. I’ve heard many complaints about Cowboys finishing 8-8 and losing the divisional title to the Eagles. I always want to see the Cowboys at the top of the heap, but considering the outcome of the 2020 draft I believe it may have been a blessing for Dallas. My thought is if Dallas reversed the 2019 standings and defeated Philadelphia in the final game then Philadelphia would have been at pick 17 and would have drafted CeeDee Lamb. In that case would Dallas still have done well in the draft? Just a thought, but God forbid!

    • It would have been a disaster for us if the Eagles role was reversed in the draft. Good catch.

  2. Can’t help myself…I’m freaking excited again. It doesnt feel like the normal hype train. It feels like we will be really good.

  3. Last remaining question this year. What team would trade number 1 next year to pay Dak 35 million a year? Any takers??

    • Chicago, Las Vegas, Boston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee. Carollina. The NYG would trade in an instant. Washington would give 3 firsts if Dallas was stupid enough to take them.
      Before the draft, add Miami, Cincinnati.
      Dak is a top 5 QB with 2 pro bowls, a playoff win and annual improvement, plays every game, rushes for 300 yards and 6 TD a season in addition to throwing for 30 TD and who has shown he can handle the bizarre world of Jerry . Chicago just gave up on Trabiski after spending massively in draft picks, money and time. Finding a QB is the hardest thing in sports.

  4. I’m a born and raised Boyz fan, but now suffering in Philly. Suddenly, Dak is the weakest link on the Cowboys offense. He consistently left at least 3 touchdowns per game on the field because of his inaccuracy. None of his great 2019 numbers are against winning teams. Dak can’t carry us the way Rogers; Wilson; or Brady can. No matter how many weapons we have, Dak will be our Biggest question mark. I don’t trust him and neither does the Cowboy organization. Did I mention he has not accepted the tag and may not play, which could be a blessing in disguise.

    • He consistently left at least 3 touchdowns per game on the field because of his inaccuracy…so he should have thrown 40 or 50 instead of 30? LOL!

      None of his great 2019 numbers are against winning teams….lies watch a game.

      I don’t trust him and neither does the Cowboy organization….if they didn’t they would have drafted a young guy

  5. I’m absolutely shocked that Dak has turned down 35/year 105 guaranteed for a qb who didn’t make the playoffs in a very bad nfc least last year. I’ll take dalton for 7 mill and with the 31.4 freed up from Dak and a couple draft picks- this team would be much better!!! Dak is good, so am I at my job, but I don’t make the most in my company neither should Dak be highest paid qb. People are losing their jobs and lives & Dak says” no I’m good with 31.4 “ I’m not showing up!! R u kidding- it’s such a bad look

  6. shane, agree with everything you say.

    Also can’t wait to see tony pollard used as a definite threat – only 100 snaps last season was heinous gross criminal under-utilization by former coaching staff of a very talented player. Also keen on seeing the battle for starting left guard and center play out.

  7. Funny, I was in the camp to place non-exclusive tag on Dak back then and referenced signing Dalton for an extreme discount to Dak.

    The FO blew this one. Not because they did the exclusive tag, but because they failed to recognize that Dak wasn’t going to do a deal that would allow the team to add/keep high quality players going forward. Something that Dak REQUIRES to be successful.

    This should have been apparent to the FO, when Dak turned down a 31M raise IN SEASON last year. They really misread this one. We could have had 2 #1’s, plus Dalton or Teddy or some decent tier 2 guy who could get it done.

    Additionally, I am not even slightly convinced that Dak can run a timing based West Coast offense. His delivery is too slow and his anticipation is below average IMO.

    Great move signing Dalton, this offense should suit him quite well.

  8. This is Daks team he has had to deal with a poor coaching staff and still accomplished more in his first four years Then a lot of Romo years and I like Romo but Dak is young and can still improve into a top five or ten QB. I would take him running this offense over 90 percent of the qbs in this league he proved he can sling It he has an actual qb coach in Mike McCarthy I think everything fell apart last year just like they always do with Jason Garrett even before Dak. Dak will prove a lot of people wrong the next few years with this system and weapons. Just pay the man his 4 year deal instead of the 5 years if he doesn’t improve it gives the Front office a chance to get out quicker they were the ones that messed up in not paying him a few years ago back before he hired Todd France. Don’t let this drag out into the season.

    • They couldn’t pay him a few years ago, a player has to be in the league for at least 3 years before they can get a new contract!! And the front office did try to pay him after his 3rd season!! But of course Dak turned it down!! It’s not the front offices fault that Dak is greedy!! And his agent is asking for a stupid amount of money!! I say give him one last offer and if he don’t take it, let him walk!! He’s not worth 35 million and reports are that he’s turned down 35 million with 110 million guaranteed….. He’s not worth that much let alone more than that!!

  9. Well Just get rid of him…..isn’t that what Cowboys fans want? Go down the list, Romo, Murray, Irvin etc. The only fanbase in football that hates the players and front office consistently. I remember after losing (and being cheated) to the 49ers in 1994, DC fans on TV screaming they suck. Typical, though I tend to think Dak’s dislike isn’t mostly because of his play or win loss record

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