Cowboys' Terrible Free Agency Makes it Clear Why Mike McCarthy Wasn't Fired

Michael Irvin would be proud of Jerry Jones' use of a "fall guy" for 2024.

Jul 26, 2022; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy (left) and owner Jerry Jones at
Jul 26, 2022; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy (left) and owner Jerry Jones at / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, it looks like there's not much going on with the Dallas Cowboys right now. They've signed exactly one free agent that wasn't already a Cowboy in 2023, and they appear ready to simply wait until the draft to try adding any talent.

But there's a whole lot going on under the surface that has created such a disappointing free agency. The most obvious factor is the looming Dak Prescott contract extension. But looking even deeper, it seems like this was always going to be in the cards.

In fact, it's not unreasonable to think that this was not only the franchise's exact offseason plan, but was also the reason Mike McCarthy wasn't fired after the season.

The Cowboys Know Mike McCarthy Will Fail

Last season was supposed to be make-or-break for Mike McCarthy. And there aren't many fans who didn't think it was "break" when Dallas got crushed by the Green Bay Packers on January 14. But Jerry Jones decided McCarthy would still get to coach out the final year of his contract in 2024.

How could Jerry think that it was a good idea to waste another year with McCarthy at the helm? Well, maybe he thought 2024 was going to be a write-off anyway.

The Prescott extension isn't some new thing that popped up this offseason. The Cowboys have been dealing with it for a long time. So this decision to spend as little money as possible in free agency has probably also been in the cards for a while.

This means Dallas has missed out on adding top-end talent, and there's still no certainty around Dak's long-term future in Dallas. That leaves us with two scenarios for 2024:

Either Dak re-signs and Dallas has an underwhelming campaign this year because they missed out on free agency (meaning they'll have to re-load in 2025), or Dak doesn't sign an extension and the Cowboys need a new franchise quarterback.

Both of those situations paint 2025 as a much more pivotal year than 2024 will be.

And if you're hiring a new head coach, you don't want to set them up for failure by immediately forcing them to deal with a totally inactive free agency and a major dose of quarterback drama. You want them to oversee either the addition of talent around Dak or the search for a new QB in 2025.

And with McCarthy conveniently having just one year left on his deal, that means the most convenient option is to just keep him around for this year, knowing that it's likely going to be an ugly one. Let McCarthy take the fall for this so that whoever your new head coach is next year doesn't have to start off on the wrong foot.

The Cowboys are still favorites (+115) to win the NFC East in 2024, but with these loud messages from the organization that they don't necessarily expect to be legitimate contenders this season, it would be no surprise for Dallas to fall short.

This may well be the best long-term move for the franchise, but it's also going to make for a frustrating next 10 months for Cowboys fans.

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