Dallas Cowboys: Is year 3 the lucky charm for Mike McCarthy?

Mike McCarthy is a Super Bowl-winning head coach, and with 143 wins against 92 losses, he’s also a winning head coach. Despite that impressive resume, he’s undeniably on the hot seat with the Dallas Cowboys.

Firing a somewhat successful head coach (from a wins-losses perspective) is nothing new in Dallas. Back in 2019, shortly after another disappointing season under then head coach Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys unceremoniously released Garrett. Coach-Clap-A Lot had been the longest tenured head coach under owner/general manager Jerry Jones, so cutting ties was a task not taken lightly, but it was something that needed to happen.

That’s how expectations work.

Jerry stuck by Garrett for 10 seasons in Dallas. Garrett rewarded him with a 85-67 record (but just two playoff wins). Except for a few seasons, most of those seasons under Garrett were disappointing, despite boasting a highly talented roster.

Instead of going for an upcoming, innovative offensive coordinator like Eric Bieniemy of Kansas City Chiefs, the Cowboys went with the predictable and safe choice of former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.

Because McCarthy was a Super Bowl-winning head coach that had coached one Hall of Famer (Brett Favre) and a future one (Aaron Rodgers), it made sense. Besides, Coach Big Mac had owned the Cowboys while coaching in Green Bay so he had to know something.

Will Mike McCarthy lead the Cowboys beyond the first round of the playoffs?

Year 3 is a make-or-break season for most head coaches. Coach Big Mac is heading into his third year as Dallas’ head coach and despite having a winning record and being incumbent NFC East champs, he’s firmly on the hot seat. That’s how bad it is for Big Mac.

Most coaches with McCarthy’s resume wouldn’t be under such pressure to win, but McCarthy was handed a Super Bowl caliber team. That blessing came with certain expectations.

Man…Jerry and Stephen has the temperature on the hot seat set at “cremate” for McCarthy

The question is – can he do it after losing a talented group of players like wide receiver Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson, and defensive end Randy Gregory. Replacing the production of skill position players like Coop and Wilson is truly the key to Dallas remaining an explosive offense (the possibility is there).

But year three is where the good coaches make all of the necessary roster moves, implement the right schemes, draft the right players, and coach them up to succeed. Dallas has all of the aforementioned elements to be successful, and we all witnessed it during the first half of the season as they played like the best football team in the league.

Then it took a nosedive in the latter part of the season that carried over into the playoffs with a disappointing loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

To avoid another disastrous season, McCarthy has to approach this season from scratch like he did in 2010 when he took an underrated Packers team (10-6) on a historic Super Bowl run where they won three straight playoff games on the road. Ironically, as the underdogs, the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas at AT&T Stadium.

Although Rodgers was a good quarterback that season, he was not the MVP, Hall of Fame- caliber quarterback we know today. The Packers only had one offensive player make the Pro Bowl that year (wide receiver Greg Jennings).

In other words, the scenario is the same for McCarthy: franchise quarterback, one Pro Bowl wide out, question marks on the offensive line, and a good defense that appears to be even better this year. Oh yeah, and not expected to win their own division.

McCarthy has to have a more hands on approach with the offense but allow offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to flourish at the same time. And most of all he needs to grow a backbone. When the front office tells him to play football “the Cowboys way” and simplify the offense, he has to stand up to them.

We cannot have a repeat of last year and revert the offense back to the one that won Jerry a title in the 90’s. It’s different game today. He has to stand up and tell the Joneses that. Please…that offense is more outdated than rotatory phones. 

Like all coaches, McCarthy has his flaws: Clock management, allowing Ezekiel Elliott to play on a partially torn PCL (that’s another topic for another day), adjustments, etc… Overall, Coach Big Mac is a good coach that should have won the NFC East crown in first year but didn’t because of Dak’s season-ending ankle injury.

One of the main reasons I expect Coach Big Mac to turn the corner in year three is because of the rumors that former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will succeed him if he fails. Nothing motivates a competent coach more than proving he’s a Super Bowl-winning coach that knows how to win.

Yes, Payton is the better coach by far, but I want to see what Coach Big Mac has in store for Cowboys Nation in 2022 because they all say “three” is the lucky charm. Let’s hope so.