Dallas Cowboys: Mike McCarthy is becoming a problem

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys are riding high heading into the bye. Fresh off the win against New England, in New England, Dallas looks like a team without any major weaknesses. That is, except for one obvious weakness at the top of the org chart…

Mike McCarthy is officially the elephant in the room. At a time when we should all be on cloud nine dreaming semi-erotic Super Bowl dreams, we find ourselves tempered and a little worried.

Mike McCarthy’s clock management and late game decision-making is becoming a problem for the Dallas Cowboys.

It happened again. More questionable 4th down calls. More questionable clock management. More confusion on the downs. More counter-productive field goal attempts.

To be fair, Mike McCarthy’s aggressive nature on 4th downs is something to be praised. Citing analytics, McCarthy is happy to go for it in many high leverage situations. That is, until he suddenly isn’t.


It’s the occasional abandonment of odds and probabilities that make this team extremely unpredictable in critical situations. For a delegating coach like McCarthy, late game management isn’t just his primary job responsibility, but it’s kinda his only responsibility.

The Dallas Cowboys are generally aided by Mike McCarthy’s hands-off approach. Under the leadership of two elite coordinators, the Cowboys are thriving, and McCarthy’s to be praised for his ego-free way of managing.

For as talented as this team is, it’s not seen as a desirable location for a lot of veteran coaches. Will McClay and the Joneses shop for the groceries. Kellen Moore calls the plays. Dan Quinn calls the defense. There’s really nothing left to do for the head coach except take attendance, throw the challenge flag, and manage the clock.

So it’s troubling to see McCarthy struggle to execute one of the very few responsibilities he’s tasked with.

Mike McCarthy’s aggressive nature is certainly to be praised. He’s one of the more aggressive head coaches there is on 4th downs and ranks high on most probability charts. But all bets are off when the time wanes and things get tense. And it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

In Sunday’s win over the Patriots, Tony Romo repeatedly spoke of Kellen Moore’s growing status around the league and the likelihood for departure this offseason. This combined with McCarthy’s inability to properly manage a game late should make for an eventful winter in North Texas.

If the Dallas Cowboys are forced to choose between Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy, the decision should be a no-brainer. Just like most of Mike’s late game decisions. I say this regardless of how this season unfolds. Whether the Cowboys win the Super Bowl or flame out in the Wild Card round, Moore is clearly the more valuable asset and should be retained at all costs.

If Mike McCarthy hasn’t figured out the late-game portion of the game yet, he probably never will. And even if he does pull through a time or two this season, there’s no reason to think it’s sustainable or trustworthy. There’s just so much evidence to the contrary.

Kellen Moore has never been a head coach so we have zero data to point to regarding how he’ll do with the first-time elevation. But you’d certainly think he’d be better than what we’ve been getting with McCarthy and at the very least, show the ability to learn and improve (we haven’t seen either from McCarthy).

This is not the time to fire McCarthy. The team is in great shape and there’s no sense rocking the boat with a coaching change as big as this. But this offseason something’s gotta give and it’s clear Moore is the more valuable asset.

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