DALLAS — The NFL offseason has already been one of change for the Dallas Cowboys, most notably on the coaching staff. Head coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t fully cleaned the house but there has been a fair amount of straightening up, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
After the team mutually parted ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, they hired veteran coach Brian Schottenheimer to the same position. When Moore left, so did former quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, who followed Moore to the Los Angeles Chargers. That left a void for the position coach who will be helping to guide the most important player on the roster, quarterback Dak Prescott.
It took some time, but McCarthy finally found his next quarterbacks coach with the promotion of Scott Tolzien. The former NFL quarterback played for McCarthy in Green Bay during the 2013-2015 seasons, and his most recent job was as a coaching assistant with the Cowboys for the last three years during McCarthy’s tenure in Dallas.
In an important fourth year as the coach in Dallas, McCarthy is certainly willing to sink or swim with the coaches, players, and people that he’s familiar with. With McCarthy stamping his signature on so much of the staff, and taking over play-call duties, this feels like the year where the Cowboys will have a definitive idea of whether or not to stick with McCarthy for the future, or if they go in a different direction after the 2023 season.
This might not be the biggest coaching change for the Cowboys, but it could yield results that alter the fate of a team in search of postseason glory. Tolzien might be from McCarthy’s inner circle, but he isn’t from Prescott’s, who has been around Jason Garrett disciples ever since he entered the league.
That’s a big change for Prescott, who’s mostly heard the same offensive language and played under the same system during his seven years with the Cowboys. There have been variations of scheme for Prescott, but this will be a somewhat new direction for him and the offense.
McCarthy has mentioned that about 20-30% of the offense will be changing, and the hope is that those changes will be enough to push the team in the right direction in the key moments. Part of the team’s failures in the playoffs has fallen on Prescott, who could benefit from a new voice.
Since Prescott entered the league, most of his coaches responsible for his production have been telling him the same thing and coaching him in a similar way. Things have gotten awfully familiar for the one of the best quarterbacks in the league, so some change should benefit Prescott.
The differences in Moore/Nussmeier compared to Schottenheimer/Tolzien have yet to be seen, and this will be Tolzien’s first positional coaching job since leaving the game as a player in 2017. Most of Tolzien’s time around football since retirement has been as an analyst or assistant. McCarthy is taking a leap of faith in naming his former pupil as Prescott’s mentor in such an important season.
Tolzien isn’t a strange face to Prescott since the new quarterbacks coach was with the Cowboys last season, but how well they work together will be a big story heading into the new year. Prescott had an up and down 2022 campaign where he tied for the league lead in interceptions but also led Dallas to the third-highest scoring offense. Tolzien isn’t going to change who Prescott is, but the goal is to work with the quarterback on enhancing his strengths to get the most out of him.
The hope is that a new voice in Prescott’s ear can help him see things he might have missed in the previous seven seasons under center. The Cowboys aren’t trying to change the message, just the messenger.
If Tolzien can deliver and get the most out of Prescott, McCarthy made the right choice. If not, the Cowboys might be looking for a new head coach next season.
Either way, it’s an interesting decision to hire a first-time coach to tutor your most important player. There’s a lot riding on Mike McCarthy, Scott Tolzien and Dak Prescott in 2023 for the Cowboys.
Do you think Tolzien will be a good fit to coach the quarterbacks? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.
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