Cowboys Give Mike McCarthy a Ninth Life

Jan 14, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy before the 2024 NFC
Jan 14, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy before the 2024 NFC / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It was around year 10 in Green Bay when fans started to get fed up with Mike McCarthy. He had led the Packers to a Super Bowl five years earlier and had made the playoffs every year since, but late-game collapses featuring clock mismanagement had cheeseheads across Wisconsin up in arms wondering whether he was the guy who could lead Green Bay to another title -- or did he just get lucky the first time?

Flash forward eight years and Cowboys fans are wondering the same thing -- minus the Lombardi Trophy.

Despite leading Dallas to three straight 12-win seasons, McCarthy was once again on the hot seat this offseason because of his inability to complete the deal in the playoffs. A disastrous 48-32 beatdown at home at the hand of his former Packers last week seemed to be the nail in the coffin for McCarthy. But like a cat falling off a table, McCarthy has landed on his feet again, earning a fifth season and ninth life as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Make no mistake -- this is McCarthy's last. It has to be.

No team in the NFL before McCarthy's Cowboys has won 12 games three years in a row and failed to make their Conference Championship game. That the Cowboys never even really came close to competing in any of those years is indicative of the tenuous nature of McCarthy's position.

Jerry Jones and Co. have put together a roster capable of winning. It was on McCarthy to put it all together when it mattered most. He's failed to do so in all four seasons with the Cowboys. His fifth feels like a make-or-break campaign.

A younger Jones would have likely fired McCarthy in the bowels of AT&T Stadium in the immediate aftermath of the Cowboys humbling loss against Green Bay. But Jones has softened with age. The man gave Jason Garrett 10 years to try and figure it out, after all.

But Jones is 81. He's on the back nine of his career leading the Cowboys, and is likely approaching the final holes if we're being honest. He doesn't have time to wait. Which is why his decision to keep McCarthy, with Bill Belichick, Mike Vrabel, Brian Flores and others available for hire, so puzzling.

McCarthy has proven time and again to be a sub-par coach when it matters most. He still makes puzzling mistakes near the end of the half and end of games. He still can't manage the clock. Worst of all, his team seemed completely flat and the game plan he OK'd was a complete catastrophe against the Packers.

And this is the third year you could say all of those things were true in the Cowboys' final game of the season.

Jones said earlier this season McCarthy's job would be judged by how the Cowboys performed in their final game of the season. Clearly, he was lying. The Cowboys imploded in their final game and McCarthy was the main reason why.

Somehow he's avoided the ax again. Cowboys fans can't be happy. They should, however, take solace in knowing that cats don't get 10 lives. This is the last one for McCarthy too.

Update - 9:00 p.m. ET: Jerry Jones has officially released a lengthy statement on McCarthy's return: