MIAMI — Dak Prescott knows he’s amid an offseason of change.
For the first time in the quarterback’s Cowboys career, Jason Garrett will not be his head coach.
Prescott’s rookie contract is running out, an extension or franchise-tag designation necessary before Prescott again plays for the team.
And Prescott will need to learn, at least to some degree, a new offense under former Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
So Prescott is buoyed to hear that as McCarthy revamps his offense, he intends to keep the terminology the Cowboys have already been using.
“It’s huge,” Prescott told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday while promoting Sleep Number. “That’s big. I mean, that’s one of the biggest things when you talk about a quarterback, when you talk about leading an offense. Because if the terminology stays the same, that lessens that learning curve, that gap of, ‘I’ve got to learn that before I can teach it.’ Well now, I know that so I can go straight to teaching.”
McCarthy retained just three 2019 coaches while welcoming 17 newcomers to his Dallas staff. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was granted a second year on the job. McCarthy has his “goal” is for Moore to call plays and “build off what’s in place.”
“I want to keep the language on offense the same,” McCarthy told local beat writers this month. “I’ve been in the same terminology since . But this will be good for me, and, frankly, it’s not about me. That’s why the opportunity for [Moore] to call plays is the focus, his relationship with the quarterback.
“What Dak has established here in this current offense is very important to me as we put this offense together.”
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Prescott said Thursday that it “definitely helps” if he can focus on learning system changes and not also “extra words.”
Center Travis Frederick explained further. Frederick equated learning a new system and new terminology to learning an entirely different language.
“But if you know the same language but you just have to put a different dialect on it? A different accent? That’s a different story,” Frederick told USA TODAY Sports, also in conjunction with Sleep Number. “You already know what it is but it’s going to appear a little different. When you call a route concept [that’s] still going to be the same thing, it’s just going to be called with a different pairing? That makes it super easy in your brain the way that organizes that.”
Frederick said he hadn’t heard from McCarthy, Moore or offensive line coach Joe Philbin on schematic plans. But he’s had “brief” conversations with McCarthy and Philbin, with the latter asking Frederick, when they crossed paths in early morning workouts, about Dallas’ offensive line personnel and background.
The Cowboys have a slew of free agents this offseason including Prescott and two receivers: Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb. A veteran slot target, Cobb played eight seasons for McCarthy in Green Bay before joining the Cowboys on a one-year deal in 2019. He caught 55 catches for 828 yards and three touchdowns last year. Should Dallas re-sign Cobb, he’ll be the lone player with experience in both systems.
“I’m sure it’d be so beneficial,” Prescott said. “If he stays and he’s around, which obviously I want, he can be an instrument for me to help and to maybe go to and say, ‘Hey, what are we trying to go here? I know what y’all did in Green Bay, and I know what we did here, but where’s that medium? Where can we meet that?’
“So that’s interesting you say that.”
The Cowboys posted a league-high 431.5 yards per game in 2019 and ranked sixth in scoring (27.1 points). But they finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Hall of Fame former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said this week that “without a doubt” the roster was as talented as advertised—“there’s not many coaches who wouldn’t have traded their roster with the Cowboys,” Aikman added.
But why did the Cowboys’ statistical rankings and record look so different?
“Because they were,” Prescott said. “Sometimes we got ourselves down in games and had to throw. That’s when you saw the numbers come from, the numbers increase.
“Numbers or not, I feel like I took a step individually and I feel like our offense took a step.”
Prescott and Cowboys teammates will look to take additional steps under McCarthy. Prescott is excited about working with a coach who has guided the likes of Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. But he hasn’t and won’t ask Rodgers about his new coach, instead preferring to make his own judgments.
He and his teammates will need to reinforce McCarthy’s message, Prescott said, for the team to achieve peak success. And first, Prescott will need to receive the franchise tag or a new contract. He knows his teammates want that for him, too.
“My teammates know me well enough that they know [money]’s not why I play the game,” Prescott said. “It will be a blessing when it comes, and that’s the nature of our game and nature of our business. But they know that’s not my motives, that’s not what gets me going
“I think it frustrates them probably as much as it frustrates me.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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