New Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy: Dak Prescott is Super Bowl-caliber QB

INDIANAPOLIS — Mike McCarthy already has won a Super Bowl.

With the Dallas Cowboys, he hopes to win more.

The longtime Green Bay Packers head coach arrives in Dallas with beliefs on what it takes to win rings. Two key principles drive those beliefs.

“Defenses get you to the championship,” McCarthy explained Wednesday afternoon from the NFL scouting combine. “Quarterbacks win championships.”

He added: “I definitely feel Dak is that quarterback.”

The Cowboys have yet to agree to a long-term extension with Dak Prescott, whose rookie contract is expiring. The team reiterated this week that they will “absolutely not” part ways from the 135th overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft. The team will designate Prescott as their franchise-tag candidate if necessary. Management would prefer to settle on terms of an extension before the March 12 tag date.

McCarthy says he’s staying out of negotiations.

“Dak is in a business situation right now,” McCarthy said. “I’ve gone through this as a head coach with a number of my players in the past. Like anything, it’s just time to be patient and let the business people work out the business matters. That’s really where we are as an organization and that’s where Dak is in a personal fight to get a contract done.”

McCarthy, like owner Jerry Jones and vice president Stephen Jones, confirmed Prescott is the Cowboys’ guy. He’s “definitely” their franchise quarterback, McCarthy said Wednesday. He added that Prescott has impressed him since the Cowboys won at Green Bay, against McCarthy, in Prescott’s 2016 rookie year.

“No. 1 you just look at what he's done in his time in the league,” McCarthy said. “He’s gotten off to a great start, he's built a really good foundation. I'm told he's a tremendous leader.”

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy: “Defenses get you to the championship. Quarterbacks win championships. And I definitely feel Dak is that quarterback.”

Cowboys management met Wednesday in Indianapolis with Prescott’s agent Todd France, a person with knowledge of the meeting confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person was granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of negotiations. Prior to Wednesday, the two sides hadn’t met to negotiate since September. Stephen Jones said Monday he was “surprised” a deal wasn’t done before the 2019 season. Prescott preferred not to engage in contract talks during the season. CBA uncertainty has further complicated the lengthy negotiating process.

The Cowboys went 8-8 in 2019, but Prescott posted his best statistical year. He completely 388 of 596 passes for 4.902 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Cowboys led the league in total yards (431.5 per game) and yards per play (6.46), though Prescott insists garbage time skewed those numbers.

Dak Prescott had career-highs in passing yardage (4,902) and touchdown passes (30) in 2019. (Photo: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports)

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Still, McCarthy retained offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to build on 2019 productivity. He praised what he saw on tape of Prescott’s connection with receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb. McCarthy said the goal is to re-sign both free agents.

Jason Garrett has coached all of Prescott’s professional games until now. But Prescott told USA TODAY Sports in January that he’s excited to learn the principles McCarthy has instilled while coaching quarterbacks like Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

Coach and quarterback are in touch, McCarthy confirmed Wednesday. But Prescott isn’t working out at Cowboys headquarters as frequently as he did last offseason. Until Prescott’s contract situation finds resolution, what’s McCarthy’s best option?

“The best thing we can do is be ready,” McCarthy said. “We are not ready quite yet.”

McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier have combed through recent Cowboys film. They’ve analyzed McCarthy’s Packers film from more than a decade. And they have factored in league trends. Together, the analysis has shaped what McCarthy says is a different approach to the Cowboys' offense, though most terminology will carry over to help the players acclimate. McCarthy hopes to run these ideas by Prescott when they reconnect.

“You want it tight for when the quarterbacks come back,” McCarthy told local reporters over lunch on Wednesday. “The reality of it is — in the past, you always want to go through it once with the quarterbacks because they are going to ask the best questions. There are usually things that come up in that first time through that you are able to tweak before you to the offense so.

“We still may have time to do that.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

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