Cowboys may be forced into awkward ultimatum if offensive struggles persist

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers
Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys were bullied on both sides of the ball against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5. While the defense needs to clean it up, the prevailing storyline in Dallas right now is the struggles of the offense, which have lingered all season.

Almost all of the contention is directed toward Mike McCarthy, and rightfully so. The head coach admitted after the 42-10 loss that his play-calling was nowhere near good enough. It lacks creativity and explosion and Sunday's game plan played right into what the 49ers do best defensively.

That's not to say Dak Prescott is blameless for the loss. The QB turned in arguably the worst performance of his seven-year career. He missed multiple deep shots to Brandin Cooks and all three interceptions were the result of poor decisions.

Through five games, Prescott is on pace for his worst-ever statistical season. He looks unsure in McCarthy's offense and if the group continues to look out of sync, Dallas might have to choose between its scheme or quarterback.

Just look at some of these stats.

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott doesn't look comfortable in Mike McCarthy's offense

If it's a choice between McCarthy and Prescott, the latter (should) win 10 times out of 10. We've seen Prescott flourish under different play-callers, namely former Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who was let go after last season.

The only sign of improvement you can point to in Prescott's play is his completion percentage, which is currently sitting at a career-high 69.4%. Even then, it's not far off from his previous high of 68.8% two years ago in 2021, and McCarthy's quick-hitting offense was designed for quarterbacks to complete easy throws.

Beyond that, Prescott has four picks in five games after his three-INT game vs the 49ers. So it's not like McCarthy has helped buck that trend. Additionally, Dak is averaging a lowly 6.6 yards per attempt this season. Yes, that's a career low and a far cry from his 7.6 career average.

It's only five games, so there's plenty of room for improvement from McCarthy and Prescott. At the same time, though, there's little evidence to suggest improvements will be made -- or at least a big enough improvement that would allow this coupling to return in 2024.

The NFL is a copycat league and yet McCarthy hasn't been bothered to incorporate pre-snap motions or shifts into his offense. When he does, it's often just a disguise.

The Dolphins use pre-snap motion more than any team in the league and their offense is first in yards per game, EPA per play, success rate, first downs per game and a number of other prominent metrics. There obviously is no comparing McCarthy and Mike McDaniel as play-callers, but the lack of multiplicity in the Cowboys offense is shocking.

Again, we've seen Prescott produce like a top-flight QB before ... in multiple seasons. Right now, however, he looks like a quarterback who doesn't have a ton of conviction in what he's seeing and his play is suffering the consequences.

Dak's contract makes this an interesting conversation, but McCarthy knew what he signed up for when he replaced Moore as play-caller. He was going to sink or swim with the ship. Most fans would say the ship is half-full, not half-empty.

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