FRISCO, Texas – With a 5-1 record, the Dallas Cowboys have many reasons for success.
Quarterback Dak Prescott’s injury comeback and MVP-level play
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s stellar game plans
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s ability to reshape a unit that was beaten and bruised in 2020
Running back Ezekiel Elliott returns to form as one of the best running backs in the NFL
Offensive line play, behind Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith and Zack Martin
Another world start for cornerback Trevon Diggs with seven interceptions
Rookie linebacker / defensive end Micah Parsons makes play across the court
The drafting of the front office and the economic signatures of free agents
It seems that the credit goes to almost everyone except coach Mike McCarthy.
“It’s a lack of understanding of how teams work,” said owner and general manager Jerry Jones. “These guys aren’t here, but at Mike’s request. I can assure you that he was there with (Moore and Quinn) hard and with commitment. So that should tell you that Mike’s coaching them is a great asset.
“At the end of the day you hear about offensive and defensive complementarity and it’s also the job of the head coach, to bring together, to complement, besides being the main person to set the tone of the team. versus body language, versus the kinds of things you try to say to the players as a team, he’s your leader and he does an amazing job.
After a disastrous 6-10 season in 2020 that can be explained by so many things – the pandemic, Prescott’s ankle injury that cost him 11 games, the defensive collapse (contributed 29.6 points per game, ranked 28th), the death of strength and conditioning trainer Markus Paul – McCarthy entered 2021 with questions.
Since he doesn’t call for coins and doesn’t have a defensive background, some wonder what McCarthy is actually doing.
It’s the same thing former coach Jason Garrett had to deal with after dropping out of the playcall in 2013. Garrett didn’t get credit for the Cowboys’ 12-4 season in 2014 – which was given to the quarterback Tony Romo, running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. He didn’t either in 2016 (13-3), it was Elliott and Linehan cleverly employing a rookie Prescott with an opportunistic defense, although Garrett was named coach of the year. Same thing in 2018 (10-6) – with the exchange against receiver Amari Cooper.
Ultimately, Garrett was credited for his consistency of approach. As repetitive as it sounds publicly, the players bought even though he couldn’t achieve any playoff success.
McCarthy’s stability has been a calming influence for a team that is constantly in the spotlight.
“It’s definitely needed in a leadership position,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s like all of us, you learn things not only about the game, the preparation part, the performance part, but you definitely have to learn more about yourself. I am a big believer in listening to your own language. I think you are training a different generation today than when I came into the league in the early 90s. I think that is part of the learning process. Again, if you want consistency, you have to have the consistency of leadership. “
In physically preparing his team, McCarthy takes an almost scientific approach. He meets strength and conditioning trainer Harold Nash and rehabilitation director Britt Brown every day, studying after practice the GPS numbers that track each player’s activity.
Instead of a traditional practice on Fridays, the Cowboys go through a regeneration day designed to be at their peak mentally and physically at kickoff. After Monday night’s victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, McCarthy did not coach the players in the pads the following week.
“We are all the product of our own experiences,” Cooper said. “I remember he once said that he had already led a team on the pitch. He said that, then he’ll tell you. And I guess that wasn’t a good thing and he learned from that experience. So yes, now he’s approaching things a little differently. He’s really aware of what we might be feeling throughout the week after a Sunday game. “
McCarthy leaves the freedom to his assistants. Moore is the biggest beneficiary. Upon arriving in Dallas, McCarthy surprisingly said he would keep Moore as a playmaker. While with the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy briefly left the playcall in 2015 before returning to that role and saying he would never abandon them again.
Moore currently leads the No. 1 offense in yards per game (460.8) and points per game (34.2).
“[McCarthy] is a great resource for me as I browse through each week just to talk about conversations, “Hey, how do you feel about this situation? What do you think if we were maybe doing X, Y and Z? ‘ Moore said. “And we are able to bounce these ideas together. And I think as that goes into our second year together, I think we’re so well aligned in terms of our approach and our system and the routine that we take each week, that we’re in a very, very good place. “
Quinn said that one of McCarthy’s “superpowers is that he’s a really consistent person.”
“He doesn’t ride the wave so I think he can see [where]others are and say, ‘Hey man, let’s keep this thing right in the middle.’ But he has a good connection with the players. He is direct in his communication. I think as a baseball player and as a coach that’s what you want. Give us directly what we need and how we are going to win. “
Winning is what matters most. Winning is the reason Jones hired McCarthy. He made the playoffs in nine of his 13 years with the Packers and was 125-77-2 (.618). He’s gone to four NFC Championship games. He won a Super Bowl.
“We’re so well aligned in terms of our approach, our system, and the routine we take each week, that we’re in a very, very good place.”
offensive coordinator Kellen Moore on Mike McCarthy
After the season opener loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McCarthy was 17-27-1 since his last playoff season with the Packers in 2016. By comparison, Matt Patricia was 13- 29-1 in 43 games as the 2018-20 Detroit Lions coach.
The Cowboys haven’t lost since, but some believe the Cowboys are winning despite McCarthy, not because of him, highlighting fourth-down decisions and running the clock.
In the Week 2 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, McCarthy was criticized for settling for a 56-yard field goal, claiming the clock he was watching inside SoFi Stadium was was off. In Week 3’s win over the Eagles, he announced a time-out at the end of half-time, drawing the wrath of Peyton Manning on Monday Night Football.
In last Sunday’s win over the New England Patriots, he made some frowning decisions with a replay challenge and go – or not – on a few games in fourth place. In the game’s first set, he chose to go to the Dallas 34 and was arrested, resulting in a challenge that was denied.
“Obviously I have great confidence in our attack,” said McCarthy, “and rightly so.”
In the fourth quarter, one point ahead with 2:47 left, he opted for a 51-yard field goal attempt by Greg Zuerlein and the left-hung kick.
In tying practice, there was some confusion as to the down after a 24-yard completion to receiver CeeDee Lamb after two penalties on guard Connor Williams. The broadcast stream had it as second and 25; the markers down on the field had it as a third down.
McCarthy called the time-out with 24 seconds left and sent Zuerlein in for a 49-yard field goal attempt to tie the game, leaving time on the clock for New England.
ESPN’s probability of winning model favored both field goal attempts. On the first, the odds of winning were 51.1% for the kick and 45.5% for going. On the second, it was 34.2% kick, 23.7% round trip.
While there were doubts about those decisions, the Cowboys won and continued to win. They have a 97.1% chance of qualifying for the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
“The only thing you can’t know is how an individual acts when under pressure, how does the job at hand, and what exactly happens when you’re in the hole,” said Jones. “And he was absolutely outstanding with our disappointing first year and responded in a way that you would want a coach to react in a game or for a period of time in a season or over a season.
“We had to do some early testing and this has happened to me a few times before. Jimmy Johnson and I lost early to an aura of harsh criticism and so I saw how it worked. With Mike he deserves all the The bottom.