Mike McCarthy wants Cowboys QB Dak Prescott to reduce turnovers, play 20 games in 2023

·4 min read
Ron Jenkins/AP

Sometimes you must read between the lines.

And when it comes to Mike McCarthy’s goal for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, the message was hiding in plain sight.

“My goal is for Dak to play 20 games next year,” McCarthy said at the NFL Owner’s meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. on Tuesday. “If he plays 20 games next year, obviously we’ll be right where we want to be.”

If the Prescott and the Cowboys play 20 games next season, it would put them some place the franchise hasn’t been in 27 years.

The Cowboys have just four playoff wins since their last trip to the Super Bowl in 1995 when they won the fifth title in club history.

McCarthy directing back-to-back 12-win seasons for the first time since a four-year run from 1992-1995 when the Cowboys won three Super Bowl titles.

But the past two seasons have ended with losses the San Francisco 49ers in the wild card and the divisional playoffs the past two seasons.

The Cowboys focus of the offseason is to do whatever it takes to get over the hump. That starts with helping quarterback Prescott to be successful.

That includes McCarthy taking over play calling and installing a new scheme on offense to give him better protection as well as trading for receiver Brandon Cooks to improve the team’s offensive weapons.

After not missing a game through the first four years of his career, Prescott has missed 17 games the past three years combined.

“What we’re trying to do is make Dak more available, which if you look at the last three years he needs to be more available,” Jones said. “And everything we’re doing and feel good about in this offensive line should make him more available. And we’re doing some things in the line, some technique and some philosophy that will really help Dak out.

“So I’d say to our fans, these adjustments that we’re making in our offense, both at receiver and at what Dak’s responsibilities are before that snap, and both at his protections and ways he can give himself more protection by some options of getting rid of the ball, all of those things, I think you add all of that up and you are going to see Dak at his very best.”

Getting Prescott to play at his very best also includes helping him to make better decisions and reducing the career-high 17 interceptions he tossed last season.

He had a league-high 15 in the regular season despite playing only 12 games. He had two more in the crucial playoff loss to the 49ers.

McCarthy and Prescott have already spent more time together this offseason than any since 2020. And they have spent hours not only going over each and every interception from 2022, but the last three seasons.

“Definitely, we spent some time,” McCarthy said. “ He was in for the captains’ workout (earlier this month). So he came up and spent about four hours with [quarterback coach] Scott [Tolzien] and I. And we went back and looked at his decision-making opportunities and the interceptions and potential interceptions and just talking through it.”

While some of the interceptions were the fault of the receivers or bad luck, too many were the result of Prescott’s poor decisions.

Poor protection is partly to blame, which is why McCarthy is changing the blocking scheme up front to protect him better.

The philosophical changes on offense, including using more West Coast principles, will also reduce Prescott’s pre-snap responsibilities and hopefully result in faster and cleaner decisions with the ball.

“Football is an easy game. If you want your guys to play fast, give them less responsibilities,” McCarthy said. “And that’s where the secret sauce in putting together a good offensive system, in the ability to be multiple to have the variations to protect your core concepts, to make sure the ball is distributed to your perimeter players, to make sure your giving guys the opportunity to fit their skill set with that, it makes it easier and cleaner for the quarterback.”

“Were we 70% checking plays at the line of scrimmage and we go back to 55%? So that’s a 15% increase of less responsibility,” McCarthy added. “So it’s not like it was wrong before. So let’s not, please don’t twist anything. Because it’s how we’re going to utilize the plays moving forward. When you use them, which situation you use them that’s slightly different.”

McCarthy believes it all will result in a better Prescott for at least 17 games.

The goal is 20 and a trip to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.