When the Dallas Cowboys hired Mike McCarthy in 2020, they did so with spectacularly high expectations. Jerry, Stephen, and even the national media considered the Cowboys a ready-made football team. Jason Garrett was fired because he couldn’t get over the hump. McCarthy was brought in because once upon a time, he was over that hump.
In both 2020 and 2021, the Dallas Cowboys roster was ranked in the top-three in popular preseason talent rankings. Yet despite this, they failed to win a single playoff game and disappointed throughout the ranks.
At last season’s close, the future of the coaching staff was legitimately in flux. From the head coach to the coordinators, no one knew what the future held, and listening to public comments from Stephen and Jerry Jones (that seemed to contradict as the offseason wore on) there was indication they weren’t sure either.
The Dallas Cowboys only brought Mike McCarthy back to coach because they’re bidding time to 2023
As we all know, the Cowboys ultimately decided to bring back the band in 2022. Dan Quinn to run the defense, Kellen Moore to run the offense, and Mike McCarthy to run the show.
This begged the question – is it make or break for Mike McCarthy in 2022?
I argued (and continue to argue), 2021 already was make or break for Mike, and McCarthy unequivocally broke. Jerry and Stephen knew it and Mike knew it. The only question was the timing. If the Cowboys fired McCarthy who would they replace him with?
They like Dan Quinn but to they want to hitch their wagon to a defensive guy for the meat of Dak Prescott’s career? They like Kellen Moore but do they think he’s ready to run the show? Then Sean Payton entered the conversation.
Payton was once an assistant coach in Dallas and he nearly became Head Coach back in 2019 (an agreement was nixed in the eleventh hour). Jerry and Payton have a mutual fondness for one another that cannot be understated.
Would Jerry and Stephen be willing to step back and let a real coach actually coach the team? Of course. They had it all worked out a little over two years ago. The issue is the agreement with the Saints. Payton is under contract and the Dallas Cowboys need to satisfy the Saints desires in order to get him out of that contract. Again, it was nearly done before so it shouldn’t be impossible to agree to compensation again.
Mike McCarthy is in Dallas again this year simply to bide time.
Sean Payton stepped away from coaching this year. He may or may not return in 2023. The Cowboys are keeping their powder dry in case he returns to coaching. If he comes back, they can get to work define the parameters of a deal. If not, they can look to Plan B.
Plan B could be either of the Cowboys current assistants or a new name that hits the market this winter. The point is, Sean Payton is Plan A and waiting until he’s made himself available is why McCarthy is still in Dallas.
Think about it – Dallas didn’t want to hire Dan Quinn as Head Coach in 2022 just to see Payton come calling a year later. Payton is Jerry’s dream coach. He’s not going to get another crack at him. Dallas also likes Dan Quinn, they wouldn’t want to do him dirty and fire him a year after hiring him. By stalling the process they could be up front with Quinn. According to implied statements told by both Quinn and the Cowboys, they likely told him he’s on their short list if the HC job opens up this winter.
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t do McCarthy any favors this offseason. He had a Super Bowl caliber roster last season. He doesn’t this season. The Cowboys cut players and cut costs. They reshuffled the deck for maximum maneuverability in 2023.
Do they want to win in 2022? Sure. But they are clearly focused on building an ideal situation for 2023, first and foremost.
Even if Mike McCarthy makes it to the postseason and win a playoff game, he’s likely out if Sean Payton proclaims his interest in coaching again. Given his year away, his contract status with New Orleans, and his unknown demands, Payton has to clear a lot of hurdles to be the Cowboys HC in 2023, but he’s definitely the top choice.
McCarthy’s fate is already written. He was a dead man walking the day he lost to San Francisco in the playoffs.
As if it wasn’t clear from the start, the Dallas Cowboys are focused on 2023, above all