Dallas Cowboys: Great News! Mike McCarthy’s issues are correctable

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Mike McCarthy has come under fire this week. Despite logging the fifth straight win of the season and standing in prime position to challenge for that No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Super Bowl winning coach is drawing the ire of national pundits and Cowboys Nation alike.

Late game decision-making seems to be the job task McCarthy just can’t quite grasp. Questionable clock management has led to needlessly stressful positions.

When the clock wanes, so does McCarthy’s decision making abilities. It’s true at the end of the half (see also: Philly) and it’s true in the final minutes of the fourth (see also: every other close game Dallas has been in).

Good news Dallas Cowboys fans, Mike McCarty’s issues late in games are perfectly fixable.

Great leaders don’t do everything themselves. They aren’t experts of all aspects nor are they balanced in their job knowledge. What makes a great leader a great leader is knowing who the experts are, and using their knowledge to make wise and informed decisions.

McCarthy is doing that with many of the corners of the team already. He’s empowered Dan Quinn to run the Dallas defense. McCarthy has final say on many matters but it’s Quinn who’s driving the bus.

The dynamic between coordinator and coach couldn’t be better and we have McCarthy to thank for it.

Offensively it’s the same thing: Kellen Moore is the architect of the offense. But Moore doesn’t just hunker down like Frank Lloyd Wright and create brilliance. He makes something that fits his client’s needs (McCarthy = client).

McCarthy deserves a tremendous amount of credit and respect for how he selflessly empowers his assistants to do what they do best. The dynamic between coordinator and coach couldn’t be better and we have McCarthy to thank for it. Considering all the love Moore and Quinn have been getting this season, how many other head coaches do you think would so willfully continue to check their ego at the door like Mike?

A very well deserved kudos.

And as I’ve discussed before, McCarthy also deserves credit for his fourth down decision making this season. Forget what the masses say about his aggressiveness, the numbers say he’s one of the top-ranked decision makers on fourth downs this year.

Just looking at  simple probability models we know NFL coaches rarely play the odds appropriately and often make the wrong decision (the conservative choice) for fear of scrutiny. McCarthy looks at his team and embraces that potential scrutiny. That’s how probabilities work – sometimes things work out and other times the results go against the odds. But if you always make calls based on those odds, it will go in your favor more often than not.

His weakness remains timeouts and late game management. And the good news is that weakness is totally solvable.

By employing a fulltime math scientist to run real-time probabilities and giving him/her a direct line of communication to the coach in these critical situations, we can eliminate these poor decisions. We can’t eliminate poor results, mind you, but we can make smart decisions based on the odds of a situation.

Open the mic to Mike and let math calculate the smart play.

McCarthy admitted he uses logic such as this already. When explaining his use of late game time outs earlier in the year he explained they calculate time remaining, down and distance. If the clock ticks past a certain threshold, he lets it click down to the next pivot point. He’s using the same logic I’m proposing, just not consistently or successfully.

The solution is to streamline these late game situations and make these tough decisions almost  automatic according to probabilities. You can build complex probability models that calculate in real time things like score, down, distance, field conditions, offense vs defense success, etc. We live in a day an age where the options are almost limitless and the timing is instant. Open the mic to Mike and let math calculate the smart play.

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Mike McCarthy is the perfect coach for the 2021 Dallas Cowboys in many ways. It’s just this one thing that needs addressing and the solution is clear.