Mike McCarthy is keeping the same offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore, but the new head coach is bringing new concepts to the Dallas Cowboys after spending a year away from football.
With a commitment to incorporating analytics into the Dallas offense, one play that may cross McCarthy's path is the quarterback sneak.
Ben Linsey from Pro Football Focus took a look at the success rate of a quarterback "just falling forward" on a third or fourth-and-1 over the last five seasons. Non-sneak designed runs are the most frequently run play at 60%, and they have a 68% success rate. Comparatively, pass plays on such plays are called 30% of the time and have a 59% success rate.
However, the data from quarterback sneaks is fascinating. Though the play has an 84% success rate, it has been called just 10% of the time.
Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones would be a fan of using Dak Prescott and his 6-2, 238-pound frame to pick up 36 inches.
"I'm a big advocate of the quarterback sneak," Jones told 105.3 "The Fan" [KRDL-FM] on Oct. 18, 2019. "I don't like taking the ball back two and a half yards to hand it and then try to go get six inches or a foot or a half a yard. I like starting closer to it. So, I like a quarterback sneak. To some degree, it's a higher percentage of scoring with a quarterback sneak. Why doesn't everybody run it?"
One of the reasons teams don't run the quarterback sneak as frequently is because of the implications if the quarterback gets hurt.
The subject of a quarterback sneak came up during Jones' weekly visit on the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network flagship station because the night before Patrick Mahomes had injured his knee in the Kansas City Chiefs' 30-6 win over the Denver Broncos.
Mahomes missed the next two games with the Chiefs, splitting them en route to a Super Bowl win. Some teams aren't as fortunate. If their quarterback misses one game, it could cost them a win, which could have qualified them for the playoffs.
Prescott's durability should be another reason to consider the quarterback sneak. Since starting Week 1 of 2016 as a rookie, the former fourth-round pick from Mississippi State has never missed a game, spanning 64 starts with a 40-24 record.
If McCarthy has spent the 2019 season studying the analytics, then certainly he has seen the same data Pro Football Focus has and that Jones intuits that the quarterback sneak is a successful play.
"There’s some high-quality companies and programs that are very useful," McCarthy told reporters on Jan. 8. "I think what you have to guard against is the application of all that information, because to me that’s the real challenge. The application is really, how much can you really do? How is it really going to help the players? Because the last thing we want to do is give our players too much information and slow them down"
Asking Prescott to sneak won't slow him down. What it could do is get him hurt, and McCarthy and the staff have to discern when to use their franchise quarterback to pick up a key first down with a high percentage play that could risk injury.
Do you think the Cowboys should make use of Dak Prescott’s legs more often? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.