Watch Your Language: Inside McCarthy Changes on Cowboys Offense, Defense and Special Teams

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - "Keep It Simple, Stupid.'' Wise words not always heeded by a new coach who wishes to put his own stamp on his new team. For incoming Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, there will be, in the way his team works and communicates and executes, some "simplicity.'' 

And, it is hoped, not too much "stupidity.''

In our Thursday media session at The Star with the new coach, McCarthy made it clear that much of what the Cowboys did on offense before his hiring to replace Jason Garrett merited retention. But there are going to be changes - in "language'' and more - to the way Dallas does defense and special teams.

To wit:

On Offense: McCarthy is not only keeping offensive coordinator Kellen Moore on-staff, but has reversed what sources indicated to us was his initial course and will give play-calling responsibilities to Moore as well.

“Kellen was someone I was watching from afar, regardless of what opportunity worked out for myself,'' McCarthy said in telling us of his decision to make Moore the play-caller rather than the head coach himself doing something he admittedly "loves.'' "The opportunity to work with Kellen was something I was going to pursue either way.”

The Cowboys will shift, ever-slightly, from a Garrett offense that was largely Don Coryell-based, to what McCarthy calls "West Coast System.'' (Think "Bill Walsh.'') But those differences will be subtle. More noticeable to QB Dak Prescott and the offensive players: McCarthy will not foist upon them the terminology that he'd used in 13 years as the head coach at Green Bay, terminology he brought with him from previous stops as an assistant.

Instead, it'll be the new coach who learns the existing language.

"I wanted to make sure we were able to capitalize on what has been established here," McCarthy said. ‘This is the first language change that I’ve had to go thru (as a head coach). But it’ll be good for me. And frankly, it’s not about me.''

On Defense: The verbiage under McCarthy and new coordinator Mike Nolan will shift a bit from the previous administration.

“The defensive system is going to change, some of the terminology, so there’s gonna be a big change there,'' the coach said.

Really, though, the fundamental stuff is likely to remain in place, and so will the base 4-3 defense. Of course, NFL teams nowadays rarely play in their "base'' defenses and versatility is demanded. But, as McCarthy put it for us:

"We’re a four-man line defense.”

On Special Teams: Again, it doesn't sound like there will be a terminology switch, but Cowboys Nation certainly hopes there is a switch in results under new coordinator John Fassel, swiped away from the Rams and considered among the best in the business.

"The special teams is another change,'' said McCarthy, and we think he's talking about "emphasis'' more than terminology.

During one of Dallas' 2019 special-teams collapses, owner Jerry Jones remarked that special teams is "100-percent coaching.'' McCarthy obviously believes that he's upgraded Dallas in the coaching department ... and that just the right tinkering in the "language'' department is under way as well.