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NFL Draft

How Big Of A Problem Is Mike McCarthy?

  • The Draft Network
  • October 26, 2020
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At 2-5, the Dallas Cowboys have a lot of problems.

Their franchise quarterback (notice how I used that adjective on purpose) is out for the year. Their engine of a running back can’t stop fumbling the ball. And for as many points as their passing weapons can put on the board, their defense is giving up even more on the scoreboard opposite them.

Some of these problems bleed into one another; some are individual. But they all might have a common root: head coach Mike McCarthy.

After firing long-time head coach Jason Garrett this past offseason, we figured Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ head coaching search would leave no stone unturned. They hadn’t been in a position to make a splash this big in a long time. And yet, not only were they not thorough in their process, they seemed downright lazy. With all of the potential head coaches that could have been considered—Eric Bieniemy, Matt Rhule, Lincoln Riley, Greg Roman, Dan Mullen, Robert Saleh, Josh McDaniels, Marvin Lewis, and Jim Caldwell, just to name a few—the only people the Cowboys ended up interviewing were Lewis and McCarthy.

After a reported 12-hour interview, McCarthy ended up being the guy the organization landed on, but it didn’t take long for people to think it was a questionable decision. During the interview process, we were told that McCarthy said he told Jones he watched every play from the 2019 season. Jones and company must have believed him, and yet at his introductory press conference, McCarthy said, “Well, I need to confess. I told Jerry that I watched every play of the 2019 season, but I wanted the job. I haven’t watched every play of the season, but you do what you gotta do, right?”

He did what he had to do to get the hat with the star and the headset over top of it. But it sure doesn’t seem like he’s put in the work (or the right work) to prove he earned it.

After losing by 28 to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6, McCarthy said that he thought his team had the best preparation they had all year in the week leading up. That’s not something you should say out loud, even if it’s true. One of their only wins on the season came from a miracle collapse by the Atlanta Falcons. The rest of the good on the year seemed to come straight off the arm of Prescott, who was truly earning an MVP label overcoming the rest of the team’s blunders. 

Recently, McCarthy has talked of a lack of ideal attitude from his team. The most recent example of that was against the Washington Football Team when his backup quarterback Andy Dalton was lying motionless on the field after a vicious, dirty, late hit by linebacker Jon Bostic and none of the Cowboys players retaliated in defense of their quarterback. All to which McCarthy said after the game, "We speak all the time about playing for one another, protecting one another. It definitely was not the response you would expect."

What’s the phrase from Remember the Titans? Attitude reflects leadership?

After the Cowboys’ 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Jane Slater of NFL Network reported that players have been saying the coaching staff is “totally unprepared. They don’t teach. They don’t have any sense of adjusting on the fly.” Another statement from Slate from someone on the inside said, “they just aren’t good at their jobs.”

I don’t know exactly what went into the entire head coaching search from the Cowboys, but only interviewing two potential head coaches and being fooled from the get-go by the one you eventually hired makes it feel like your process and/or your brain trust can’t be trusted.

The Cowboys are now 2-5. Thankfully for them, the rest of their division is terrible, so their schedule doesn’t look that tough outside of two or three games. But will the wins they get even matter? Certainly not if they don’t look a lot better than they have the past few weeks. The Cowboys have been dealing with some significant injuries, and that’s tough for any coach. But the results we’re seeing on the field from the Cowboys appear to be a reflection of the flawed process that is creating them. Though talent can trump a lot of things, even with Dallas’ best players, McCarthy might still be a root of potential shortcomings.

You don’t want to be too hard on a first-year head coach, even if it is a coach who has been previously under the headset. And you especially don’t want to be quick to harsh judgment on a coach who has a Super Bowl ring. But where the best head coaches in the NFL can often elevate, no matter the circumstances, McCarthy is having trouble just keeping things status quo with the talent they have. And their 1-3 record when Prescott went down (including the game he was injured in) looked even worse. That, among other things, is not a good sign. Let’s also not forget that McCarthy interviewed with the New York Jets in 2019 and the Jets chose Adam Gase over McCarthy. Not great.

McCarthy signed a five-year deal with Dallas, so he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. But these poor results and pointing of fingers aren’t going anywhere either unless McCarthy can figure it out.

For as much as injuries and some defensive deficiencies are parts of the problem in Dallas, right now McCarthy appears to be one, too. 

You just hope he isn’t the main one.

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