Yes, Dallas Cowboys fans, Sean Payton is better than Mike McCarthy

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The rumors are flowing through Cowboys Nation these days. With all three top coaching positions in flux and the possibility of a rare “coach trade” on the table, the Dallas Cowboys are still the talk of town – despite being ousted from the playoffs nearly two weeks ago.

Sean Payton is said to be contemplating his future with the Saints. He could come back for his 16th season in New Orleans or he could retire. But it’s a third option which has captivated the metroplex – the option of replacing Mike McCarthy as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Technically, Option No. 3 is really no option at all since Sean Payton is under contract with the Saints. New Orleans would have to approve a trade between the two franchises for anything to legally happen, and Dallas would have to be willing to give them what they want in return.

As we discussed yesterday, such a transaction has taken place in the past before (both times the team who added the coach won the Super Bowl) so it’s not preposterous to think it could happen again. After all, New Orleans is somewhat rebuilding and Dallas is ready to go right now.

One thing needs to be clear to Dallas Cowboys fans, Sean Payton is a much better coach than Mike McCarthy.

Looking at the numbers on paper, Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy have similar looking resumes. Both coached Hall of Fame QBs and both walked away with a Super Bowl. Payton is a respectable 152-89 (.631 win percentage) while Mike McCarthy is a respectable 143-92 (.608 win percentage).

Both have been head coaches for 15 years and both grew from some pretty darn impressive coaching trees. They are both offensive minded and they are both 58-year-old. The similarities on paper are staggering. “On paper” being the operative words.

Mike McCarthy is fooling you

Mike McCarthy’s unceremonious dismissal in Green Bay was well documented. McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers were no longer getting along and McCarthy was said to be coasting on the work of his assistants and delegating tasks like no other coach in the league.

an absentee coach like Mike McCarthy may be fine with directives from the Joneses, but Sean Payton would take front office advice with a grain of salt

McCarthy hasn’t done much to change his somewhat lazy reputation in Dallas. He’s been leaning on his assistants, Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn, and often defers to them when questioned about their respective sides of the ball. One of his few known game day duties, late-game clock management, has been a train-wreck this season leading many to question what value he even brings to this franchise.

McCarthy embellished his offseason studies before coming to Dallas and admitted as much when in his early press conferences. He’s seemingly been resting on his laurels for the better part of a decade and cashing paychecks along the way.

Sean Payton is good for you

Sean Payton, on the other hand, has been a innovator and micromanager. Instead of over-delegating tasks, Payton has remained the chief architect in the post-Drew Brees era. He’s been building game plans to fit the skillsets (I use the word “skillset” loosely) of Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book. All in a single season.

And Payton had his team on the cusp of the playoffs right until the end. Think about how much McCarthy has struggled over the years just going to his QB2, let alone digging deep for his QB4.

While Mike McCarthy seems to give the Dallas Cowboys very little identity, Sean Payton redefines the identity based on his team. He tailors his offense to fit the skills of his playmakers. Best of all, he’s had playmakers like Dallas’ before and knew exactly how to use them to their peak efficiency.

Let’s look back at the 2018 Saints. The 2018 Saints featured a two-headed monster at RB in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. They had a All-Pro WR in Michael Thomas and an aged Ben Watson at TE. They had Drew Brees, of course, but let’s keep in mind he had a very limited arm at this point in his career.

Other than that, it was a committee approach on offense. No other WR or TE caught more than 45 balls in 2018, yet the Saints had one of the most efficient and deadly offenses in the NFL. They went went 13-3 that year and lost to that controversial “no-call” to LA in the Conference Championship (yeah, that one).

Despite Brees’ noodle arm, the Saints were beastly. Payton found ways to feed his star receiver (Thomas had 125 receptions) and used his explosive running back Alvin Kamara in ways that utilized his speed in space.

Anyone interested in getting the ball to Amari Cooper and Tony Pollard more?

Something Sport DFW writer Dan Ruppert spoke of this morning is the Dallas Cowboys infatuation with “The Cowboy Way”. Stephen and Jerry Jones don’t like creative. They want the 2020s Cowboys to be a reincarnation of the 1990s Cowboys. They want to win but they want to win THEIR WAY.

That means a transparent and grinding ground game that sprinkles in a play-action pass here and there. Never mind the fact the Dallas running game hasn’t been an asset in five years and the passing game has been more fruitful (success rate and EPA) for roughly the past two decades.

It’s been said they put a thumb on the creativity of the Cowboys offense this past season – hence the sudden change midseason. While an absentee coach like McCarthy may be fine with directives from the Joneses – Sean Payton would take front office advice with a grain of salt.

Sean Payton would have the most power we’ve seen in a coach since the Bill Parcells years.

No Comparison

While it’s true, Payton only has one Super Bowl on his resume, he was also on the losing end of two of the most controversial calls (or non-calls) in NFL playoff history. Let’s keep the context here.

Let’s also keep in mind since 2014, Mike McCarthy only has one season with over 10-wins while Sean Payton had >10-win seasons in four out of the last five seasons. They have been on very different career trajectories.

Sean Payton has a history of giving bigger workloads to younger more deserving players and doesn’t let reputation or money make decisions for him. He effectively gets the ball to his star players even if defenses know it. He even maintained an explosive attack when it was clear his QB no longer had the arm strength to rifle downfield. There’s simply no comparison between McCarthy and Payton.

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I still maintain getting Sean Payton is a longshot. He’s under contract and too many things have to happen before this idea would work. But it’s not impossible and if both side want it – it will get done. Just don’t let people tell you it doesn’t matter, because these two coaches couldn’t be more different.