December 9, 2021

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Is it playoffs or bust for Mike McCarthy?

3 min read
Is it playoffs or bust for Mike McCarthy?


For nearly a decade, the Dallas Cowboys toiled in mediocrity under head coach Jason Garrett. Since taking over the head coaching role in 2010 from Wade Phillips and ending his lengthy tenure following the 2019 regular season, the Cowboys went to the playoffs just three times, winning a total of two postseason games.

Last offseason, the Cowboys hired former Super Bowl winner Mike McCarthy to replace Garrett as the head coach of America’s Team. And Dallas proceeded to post a disappointing 6-10 record in McCarthy’s first season. During Garrett’s run, the Cowboys posted a worse record than 6-10 only once (4-12 in 2015).

Losing his starting quarterback, Dak Prescott, in Week Five to a season-ending ankle injury plus struggling through a virtual offseason training program due to a worldwide pandemic combined with historically poor defensive play, McCarthy got a free pass for his team’s horrible performance in 2020.

With a healthy Prescott under center, a normal offseason including a full preseason slate of games to play, and the hiring of a new defensive coordinator, the excuses seem to have run out for McCarthy. Here’s how ESPN’s Jordan Raanan responded to the question of whose seat in the NFC East he believes starts out the hottest when the NFL regular season kicks off.

“There is just no way [Mike] McCarthy can survive anything but making the playoffs this season with Prescott healthy and the talent on that roster. [Daniel] Jones can make strides and be a middle-of-the-road quarterback in a losing season and get another season. McCarthy doesn’t have that luxury. It’s now or never with the Cowboys coach being exposed.”

Obviously, the Cowboys expect more out of McCarthy than what they got from Garrett, who ultimately ended his run in Dallas posting a combined regular-season record of 85-67, a winning percentage of 55.92%. Yet, there were plenty of excuses to choose from last season as to why the Cowboys underperformed.

If McCarthy is unable to show progress in his second season in Dallas, could he potentially be fired? That might depend on the team’s other options. Both the offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, and the team’s new defensive coordinator in Quinn could be viable candidates to replace McCarthy as head coach.

Several high-profile candidates interviewed for head coaching jobs in the NFL this year. Names like Kansas Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, and Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. They’ll certainly be hot names to watch after this season. The Cowboys could also look to the college coaching ranks to replace McCarthy as someone like Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley might be an intriguing option.

The Dallas Cowboys hired Mike McCarthy in large part due to the fact he was a proven winner during his time with the Green Bay Packers and has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as an NFL head coach before. That kind of experience is hard to find. So unless the Cowboys believe they have a better option to turn to, expect McCarthy’s run in Dallas to continue.

Dallas Cowboys: Is it playoffs or bust for Mike McCarthy?