Can McCarthy’s track record of success finally get Dallas over the hump
Written by: Greg Lehr
After an uncomfortably long, drawn-out goodbye between the Dallas Cowboys and Jason Garrett, Jerry and Stephen Jones wasted little time finding their next head coach. According to Jay Glazer, Mike McCarthy is set to become the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. McCarthy interviewed at length over Wild Card weekend, despite the fact that Garrett news did not become official until late Sunday afternoon (during the Eagles loss, no less). McCarthy even began reaching out to potential coaches to fill out his staff as early as Sunday night or Monday morning, signaling a quick decision by the Jones family. A formal announcement is expected later this week.
Many anticipated Jerry dipping into the college ranks for his next coach, following the Super Bowl recipe from the 90's (a la Jimmy Johnson). Popular names regarding this speculation included Lincoln Riley, Urban Meyer, Matt Rhule, and Dan Mullen (among others). However, soon after the Garrett news became official, reports surfaced that Jerry and Stephen Jones, who were the sole decision-makers in this coaching search according to Charles Robinson, primarily focused on a head coach with proven NFL success. McCarthy certainly has a track record from his 13 years at the helm in Green Bay. He owns a 125-77-2 career record (regular season) and is 10-8 in the playoffs (in nine playoff appearances). This includes his one Super Bowl win in 2011, which ironically took place at AT&T Stadium, McCarthy’s new home.
The decision to go with a proven NFL coach like McCarthy is certainly understandable. Even in the seamless transition from Tony Romo to Dak Prescott as Dallas’ franchise quarterback, the Cowboys' roster has been widely viewed as talented enough to contend for a Super Bowl. However, the lack of playoff success has become increasingly frustrating, with Dallas failing to reach even a conference title game in 23(!!) years. Jerry Jones has grown tired of hearing (and talking) about how talented his football teams are over the course of the last several years with very little to show for it.
McCarthy will take over a team with many pieces already in place at key positions, as well as a few promising assistants leftover from Garrett's staff. Kellen Moore is likely to be one of these assistants after the Dallas offense led the league in total offense (top five in passing and rushing) in his first season as offensive coordinator. Dak Prescott is expected to sign an extension this offseason that will keep him as the franchise quarterback for years to come. Zeke is already locked up for the next several years. Dallas is hopeful that Amari Cooper (UFA) will return as the team's top receiver, joined by an ascending talent opposite him in Michael Gallup. Randall Cobb (UFA) may be worth bringing back if the numbers work out for both sides, as Cobb enjoyed his most productive years under McCarthy in Green Bay. Offensive line, meanwhile, remains the unquestioned strength of the team.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line continues to be led by Demarcus Lawrence, while linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch will look to rebound next year after an up-and-down 2019 season, though they still helped anchor a unit that surrendered the 11th-fewest points per game and finished ninth overall in total defense. The big question will be the secondary, barring the pending free agency of Byron Jones.
As with any new head coach, or NFL offseason in general, there will be a lot of change in Dallas. In fact, the Cowboys have over twenty free agents from their 2019 roster.
However, the core pieces should be in place for McCarthy to have immediate success. Fair or unfair, these are the clear expectations beginning in 2020. Jerry and Stephen Jones are hiring for playoff success and to be legitimate contenders in the coming years. It is up to Mike McCarthy to deliver.