FRISCO, TX — Unbeknownst to his parents at the time, Brandin Cooks inheriting that last name would end up becoming prophetic. It turns out that every NFL defense he goes up against, he cooks, and we’re talking with a full apron over an open fire.
You can bet your prize bull that quarterback Dak Prescott is salivating at the chance to add the former first-round pick to a recipe that is been dubbed the “Texas Coast Offense” – a variation of the West Coast offense, but with tweaks coming from head coach Mike McCarthy and newly installed offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
And after hiring two highly respected analysts in mid-June to help them in their quest, namely Sarah Mallepalle and John Park, the aroma coming from the Dallas kitchen is tantalizingly delicious.
The strange thing about it all, however, is the sudden narrative claiming that Cooks may have lost a step or that he’s “washed up,” but if anything, he looked cleaned up in OTAs and minicamp.
The 60-yard bomb from Prescott to Cooks to end Day 2 of minicamp, on a go route down the left sideline that saw not one, but two, defensive backs gape like the front teeth of Michael Strahan for a touchdown in stride disproves that charge — easily.
“You saw [his speed]” said Prescott. “It’s beautiful.”
“[Dak] can throw any ball,” Cooks said.
It all suggests what is likely to come from chefs in a cowboy uniform. But to know where you’re going, you must first understand where you came from, and the 29-year-old touts one of the most impressive statistical resumes in league history and, as quiet as it may be, also leads all active wideouts in 1,000-yard seasons produced.
He has six in his first nine attempts, and that’s despite traveling (ie having to quickly pick up a new offense and establish chemistry with a new quarterback on short notice).
If he gets just one 1,000-yard season with the Cowboys, he will surpass Brandon Marshall as only player in NFL history to have done it with five different teams.
It’s metahuman behavior, along with the fact that he’s still clearly fast enough to enter the Speed Force to defeat any older version of himself.
Cooks produced 2,311 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in his final two seasons with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (the team that selected him 20th overall in 2014 after trading up to get him) along with Michael Thomas, the latter himself a 1,000-yard receiver during that stretch.
He then passed 1,082 receiving yards and seven touchdowns to Tom Brady along with tight end Rob Gronkowski, the two serving as a one-two punch for the New England Patriots in 2017 after Bill Belicheck traded several picks, including a 2017 first-rounder, to acquire Cooks via trade.
From there, he would suit up with the Los Angeles Rams, who sent a package that included a first-round pick, and I’m sure you’re picking up on a few themes at this point — one being how expensive it was to acquire Cooks every time he was moved.
And those who would point to Brees and Brady as the primary reason for Cooks’ success would have to explain why he was able to produce 1,204 receiving yards and five touchdowns with Jared Goff under center during the 2018 run to the Super Bowl.
That was despite Robert Woods leading the team with 1,219 receiving yards and six touchdowns, or the fact that Cooper Kupp also added six touchdowns to the offense’s bottom line.
Next came the Houston Texans, who, you guessed it, sent away a premium pick (2020 second-round pick) to acquire his services and paired him with Deshaun Watson; Cooks is going for 1,150 receiving yards and six touchdowns with Will Fuller and Randall Cobb as his complements.
In 2021, he produced another 1,037 receiving yards and six touchdowns for the Texans, but with Davis Mills (!!) at quarterback and no other player on the roster had earned more than three touchdowns over 17 games – en route to a 3-13-1 record.
And through it all, Cooks has been on the field for exactly 89.2% of his career (116 out of a possible 130 games), entering the 2023 season as one of the most durable players in the entire league, one who also averaged 13.1 yards per touch for his career and can play all three WR positions.
The Cowboys acquired this player for a … fifth-round pick.
There are a few themes you may have picked up regarding Cooks, the predominant one being his ability to quickly become a factor in any offense with a short run-in time.
“Honestly, it’s something that I don’t think about just because, I mean, if you love football and you love ball, it’s pretty easy to pick up the playbook,” he said this offseason. “I really never thought about it. I just pick up the playbook, learn it and keep pushing.”
Another obvious thread present in all of this is how Cooks, no matter what sandbox you throw him in, tends to play well with others, ie. other recipients.
From Michael Thomas and Rob Gronkowski in their prime to the best version of Robert Woods and an advancing Cooper Kupp, Cooks has demonstrated his mesh with top wideouts, seamlessly, and now he joins a Cowboys offense headlined by CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup — two other former 1,000-yard receivers.
And the last time Prescott had three of those at his disposal, he was in the MVP conversation with 4,449 yards and 37 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions (2021) when Amari Cooper was in the building.
Is it good? Looks good.
“I think his mindset, he brings to the game,” Cooks said of Prescott. “You hear about his approach, his work ethic, the leader he is, his history, his tenacity that he returned throughout his career. I think when you get that mindset at quarterback, it goes a long way. I’m looking forward to having a leader like that.”
And so it begins: a mostly unpredictable “Texas Coast Offense” dominated by speed, versatility and, most importantly, chemistry on full display in a variety of ways, both on and off the field for a unit (including tight ends and running backs) that … on paper … looks like it could combine.
Yes, new word. Just let it happen.
Cooks adds a dimension to the offense that even Cooper couldn’t, one that has literally not been present since the days of the late Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens in 2006. Getting excited is absolutely justified here if you look objectively into the Cowboys’ kitchen this summer.
If you don’t believe me, just follow your nose.