The Dallas Cowboys' rousing start to the 2023 season came to screeching halt in Week 3. Even with injuries, the Cowboys had the talent advantage on both sides of the ball against the Arizona Cardinals, yet allowed one of the league's worst teams to hand them an embarrassing 28-16 loss.
Dallas' no-show performance against a lesser squad has, unfortunately, become a disturbing trend over the last few years — and that reflects incredibly poorly on head coach Mike McCarthy.
One game won't cost McCarthy his job, but this should have the Cowboys questioning some things after going all-in this offseason. With that in mind, here are a few head-coaching replacements Jerry Jones could already be eyeing for 2024.
Mike McCarthy Cowboys Replacements 2024
1. Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys DC
Let's start with the most obvious McCarthy successor. Current Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has made a strong case to get another shot as a head coach with his work in Dallas, and Jones would be foolish if he let him get away.
This unit was a disaster in McCarthy's first year at the helm, and then-DC Mike Nolan was rightfully given the boot after the 2020 season. Quinn stepped in and immediately produced results. The defense skyrocketed from No. 28 in scoring to a No. 7 finish, which played a key role in the Cowboys finishing 12-5 after a disastrous 6-10 campaign.
This side of the ball got even better in Quinn's second year. Dallas improved from No. 19 in yards allowed and No. 7 points to No. 12 and No. 5 in those categories, respectively. Quinn's unit also led the league in takeways for the second straight season, carrying the torch from his previous Legion of Boom teams.
Even despite the step back in Week 3, Dallas' defense still ranks top-five in both yards and points allowed, signaling another big year is on the way.
Quinn's performance with the Cowboys has been Herculean considering where they were when he took over. Yes, he's benefited from some serious investments on that side of the ball, but he's also gotten the most out that talent. That's what great coaches do.
It's obvious the Cowboys have played below their potential, especially in big moments, during McCarthy's tenure. Losing their first playoff game in each of the past two seasons certainly shows that.
Maybe Quinn, who's already won a Super Bowl as a DC and took the Atlanta Falcons to the SB as their head coach, is the guy who will ensure this roster's insane amount of talent isn't wasted.
2. Eric Bieniemy, Washington Commanders OC/Associate HC
If the Cowboys do move on from McCarthy, hiring someone who's capable of improving the offense should be one of the team's biggest priorities. Judging by his past success, Eric Bieniemy makes a ton of sense.
Bieniemy enjoyed an incredible five-year run with the Kansas City Chiefs as their offensive coordinator. He helped lead a unit that ranked first in total yards three times, first in points two times, and never finished worse than No. 6 in either category.
Now, having Patrick Mahomes as your quarterback certainly helps. So does Andy Reid being the mastermind of the entire operation. But it speaks to Bieniemy's coaching acumen that both Mahomes and Reid pounded the table for him to get a head-coaching opportunity while in Kansas City.
The former NFL running back has since moved on to become OC and associate head coach of the Washington Commanders. Though he doesn't have nearly as many weapons at his diposal, and Washington is startng an inexperienced QB in Sam Howell, Dallas' NFC East foes are still 2-1 to begin the year.
Some may want to see how Bieniemy performs with the Commanders to properly judge him. However, the Cowboys' talent is much closer to the Chiefs', so we already know what he's capable of when he has several playmakers at his disposal.
The thought of Bieniemy being in charge of an offense with Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard (potentially) at his disposal, plus one of the NFL's best O-lines, is salivating.
We all know Prescott has his limitations in certain areas, but Bieniemy is arguably the most qualified of available coordinators to set the QB up for success. It'd be no surprise if a coaching change helps Prescott reach the next level that fans have been desperate to see him hit.
With two Super Bowl rings to his name over the past five seasons, Bieniemy has the kind of championshup success in this modern NFL that McCarthy simply lacks. The latter hasn't even won a conference championship since the 2010 campaign, so it's worth questioning if he knows what it takes to win in this era of pass-happy attacks.
Bieniemy certainly does have that knowledge, which makes him a prime candidate to consider.
3. Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions OC
Sticking with offensive gurus, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is primed for a leap to the head-coaching ranks, and Dallas would be smart to see what he can do with this team's talent.
Johnson's only got one year of OC experience under his belt so far, but the results are undeniable. He helped lift a lackluster Detroit offense that placed No. 22 in yards and No. 25 in points the year before to No. 4 and No. 5 in those categories, respectively. That Quinn-level turnaround is impressive, and even more so when considering the talent he had to work with.
Johnson helped Jared Goff become a Comeback Player of the Year candidate and Pro Bowl selection as the veteran QB ranked sixth in passing yards -- ahead of Josh Allen, Geno Smith and Trevor Lawrence, among others. Goff's 29 passing TDs also put him in a tie for fifth and were the second-highest mark of his seven-year career.
That's not even to mention how Johnson transformed the Lions' run game. A season after finishing No. 24 in rushing touchdowns, Detroit jumped up to a staggering No. 3 in Johnson's first year. His play-calling helped journeyman Jamaal Williams become the league leader in TDs on the ground (17) while starter D'Andre Swift battled injuries.
Now just think about what Johnson could in Dallas. He's the perfect person to bring in for Prescott as the QB struggles to ascend to top-quarterback status. If Johnson was able to turn Goff into a Pro Bowl QB again, imagine what he could do with a player who's even better than him but still has some potential waiting to be tapped.
Johnson's clear understanding of how to succeed on the ground in today's NFL is a major asset as well, especially with the Cowboys' long-term backfield future in flux. He'd put Pollard, Deuce Vaughn or whoever else in the best position to produce with an incredible offensive line at his disposal.
McCarthy simply doesn't seem like the man to help Dallas' offense reach its full potential. Johnson, who's just scracthing the surface of his coaching talent at only 37 years old, is the kind of new blood that could revitalize the Cowboys.
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