The NFL world has descended upon Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl, one of the offseason’s biggest pre-draft showcases for upperclassmen collegiate players, and the top decision-makers for the Dallas Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones and his son and team COO Stephen Jones are naturally part of the crowd in observation.
Jerry and Stephen touched on a variety of topics on Tuesday including the direction of their offense both schematically and from a player personnel perspective. Here’s what they said and what their comments could mean for the future of the Silver and Blue:
Head coach Mike McCarthy’s West Coast offense that was utilized with the Green Bay Packers is coming to the Dallas Cowboys: “This is an opportunity though [Kellen Moore’s firing] for Mike [McCarthy] and us to use other skillsets and assets that we have as well as Mike’s background and experience of running an offense and calling plays,” Jerry Jones said Tuesday when asked about the reasoning for Kellen Moore’s departure. “He [McCarthy] knows our personnel even more so [than when he was hired in 2020], he knows what they have been doing, and he can meld that into his offensive system that he wants to [use]. I’m comfortable at this time [with McCarthy calling plays] because of how it’s evolved. I’m more comfortable than I would have been if he had been calling plays right when he came in as head coach. I’ve always viewed him [McCarthy] rather than as a walk-around coach but as a coach who could coach the offensive side of the ball. It will be, in principle, the way he operated in Green Bay, which I’m sure he’ll tell you has evolved.”
“We have an outstanding Super Bowl winner in Mike that has proven abilities as a play-caller and as an offensive coordinator. I’m confident that Mike can do anything and everything that this team needs. The team, as far as the players are concerned, really follow Mike. He’s got a personality that is given our players the best that they can be. I’m really impressed with how Mike has coached this team and the unity that he has among the players. I’m looking forward on building on that.”
The importance of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn: Jerry then elaborated on how Dan Quinn’s success as his defensive coordinator the last two seasons gave him even more comfort in having McCarthy call the plays on offense. The Cowboys defense from 2021-2022 has become one of two since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger to lead the NFL in takeaways in consecutive seasons, joining the “steel curtain” Pittsburgh Steelers defenses from 1972-1974.
“Dan Quinn gives us a great advantage here because of his proven ability and the fact that we can really count and put a lot on what he’s bringing to the table for the team as well as the defense,” Jones said unprompted. “To me, this is one of the best shapes in my experience that I’ve been in in coaching.”
Dan Quinn’s ability to help retain defensive free agents: “I’m very excited about that,” Jones said. “His combination of scheme, skill-level there, and the way he gets individuals to buy in to what he wants them to do, that close-knit aspect of it is really impressive. Candidly, I’m anxious to see when Mike gets to do the same thing over on offense and get to see the more direct benefits of that.”
Expanding quarterback Dak Prescott’s football horizons: Jerry Jones noted a big reason for the switch of Moore to McCarthy as the team’s offensive play-caller has to do with Dak Prescott continuing to evolve as a quarterback under McCarthy’s direct tutelege.
“It’s a great way to now expand Dak’s [knowledge], let him have the ability to take directly what Mike [McCarthy] can give him as a coordinator,” Jones said. “He [Prescott] would probably be the first to tell you there are going to be some nuances there that there are new ground for him as well. My point is I think this is just taking advantage of our situation. We happen to have two head coaches now with one, of course Mike being able to completely zero in on running the offense and calling plays. Coordinating all of the offensive blocking, the receiving, and the tight ends. Mike can be right in the middle of it because he’s drawing the plays up and he’s calling them in the game. What this really does for us is maximize the abilities of what we have on this coaching staff when you think about what we have with Dan Quinn and what we have with Mike.”
Still believing in Dak: “I’m very strong on Dak,” Jones said. “We have in my mind a unique person, a unique football player, a unique quarterback… but this whole thing [McCarthy as the play-caller] reflects the upside that I feel in Dak. This has everything to do with the positivity around Dak, and building around Dak. I’m not going to speak for him, but I don’t know anyone who looks in the mirror more than Dak and is into self corrections and improvement. He is very open to doing it better, which doesn’t necessarily mean different.”
Future contracts with Dak: I think you can look at it, absolutely,” Stephen Jones said. “Do we do it or not? It takes two parties to talk. Dak is the key guy on this football team, first and foremost. No one respects him more than Jerry and myself. You’re going to have 12, 13, 14 quarterbacks making $40+ million bucks when looking it up, and he deserves to be in that category… The bigger thing for us is Dak is hopefully going to be our guy for the next ten years. I think Dak will play that long. He takes care of himself, and he’s driven to be great.”
Cowboys would like to have running back Ezekiel Elliott’s future back next year: “As we review the season even more, we are going to see the positives in Zeke,” Jones said despite his rushing yards per game figure decreasing in each of Elliott’s seven seasons. “Zeke will look better the more you look at what he brought to the table to more we get into reviewing what the season was. I don’t want to talk about Zeke until we have had the ability to evaluate our whole season. But I do know this without looking at an evaluation: Zeke was a lot more instrumental to the success we had than what his rushing yards indicated. I believe that. I would like to have him back next year. “
“I think Zeke is the ultimate competitor,” Stephen Jones said. “His style is different than Tony’s [Pollard], and if you’re a fan, Tony’s kind of a fan’s man because of his juice. At the end of the day, Zeke is a blue-collar guy. His competitiveness isn’t something you can define with the stats. That’s the way we look at it. Zeke has been amazing in terms of what he has done with the Cowboys in his tenure here. It’s hard to define. You always want Zeke. The question is ‘do the numbers work?’ Special guy. No one respects him more than Jerry and myself. No one respects him more than this organization. Sometimes it’s a hard business, and we’re going to have, and he knows that, going to have to talk business.”
Handling of the wide receiver position in the 2022 season: “We probably had too much reliance on what [third round rookie Jalen] Tolbert could do because we were high on him coming out and thought he could immediately become a factor,” Jones said. “We thought that we could have better results relative to [wide receiver Michael] Gallup as far as rehab and where he is. The other part, the elephant in the room, when I look at the salary that was involved there over $20 million a year [the dumping of wide receiver Amari Cooper and his $20 million per year salary to the Cleveland Browns] and then look at what we got with that salary to help this football team that we wouldn’t have been to have had we kept it [Cooper’s salary], I like what we did.”
What’s next for the wide receiver position: “We need Tolbert to come on as a young player, and we need to keep looking,” Jones said. “[CeeDee] Lamb did everything and more that we hoped he would do. We need some guys that have a better chance to get open. We probably can do some things in the passing game [schematically] to help [Michael] Gallup get more involved. You can’t take about the receiver position in isolation because receiver freed up more than $20 million to have the team we had.”
Chances Odell Beckham Jr. is a Dallas Cowboy in 2023: “I’ve gotten to know him well, but we’ll be talking,” Jones said.
“Here’s the way we left it with him, ‘Get ready to play and let’s re-visit it,'” Stephen Jones said. “We obviously had an interest for a reason.”
Running back Tony Pollard’s contract chances in free agency after his playoff injury: “The surgery has not been a premiere thought of mine as to looking ahead to the future, and I certainly see Tony [Pollard] in the future,” Jones said.
Expectations for offensive tackle Tyron Smith and his future: “Right now, yes,” Jones said when asked if the 32-year-old, eight-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle will be back on the team after fighting the injury bug the last three season. “With a veteran like Tyron, a veteran like [Jason] Peters, and Terence [Steele]… I like the way we’re going in with our offensive line than I have in the last several years.”
Finally beating Tom Brady for the first time in eight tries in what appears to be his last NFL game: “One time after my first year [as owner], Jimmy Johnson and someone asked me about my first year, and I put a ball up that Herschel Walker had signed ‘this is our win,'” Jones said comparing the Cowboys celebrating their one win when they went 1-15 in 1989 to finally beating Tom Brady. “Someone said to me ‘I don’t know anybody that’s excited about a win more than you are.’ I’m proud of that win, I’m going to hold that Tampa Bay win up like I did that Herschel Walker ball when we won one game the first year, that was my prize. He [Tom Brady] has been outstanding.”
What Cowboys fans can be excited about: “Dwell on the fact that we have won 24-25 football games over the last two seasons,” Jones said. “Dwell on the fact that we have been one of the leading, winning teams. Dwell on the fact that we have had some of the best personnel in the National Football League. Dwell on the fact that you have Dak [Prescott]. I like that… Focus on that Dak will be better at turnovers. Focus on that and that we have coach that has gotten us the results that we have had. I understand when people say the Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl in 25 years. There’s been many different things done over 25 years, the same way there would have been if you changed out general managers or owners. I have to change in my mirror. I like the incentive that we have to win.”