FRISCO, Texas – With a 5-1 record, there are many reasons for the success of the Dallas Cowboys.
The return of quarterback Dak Prescott from injury and MVP-level play
Stellar game plans from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s ability to reshape a unit that was hit and bruised in 2020
The return of running back Ezekiel Elliott to become one of the best running backs in the NFL
The offensive line play, behind Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith and Zack Martin
The start of another world for cornerback Trevon Diggs with seven interceptions
Rookie linebacker / defensive end Micah Parsons’s play across the field
The Head Office Wording and Free Agent Financial Transfers
It seems that the credit goes to almost everyone except the coach, Mike McCarthy.
“That’s a lack of understanding of how teams work,” said owner and general manager Jerry Jones. “Those guys aren’t there except at Mike’s urging. I can assure you that he was there with both (Moore and Quinn) hard and with commitment. So that should tell you that Mike’s training is a huge bonus.
“At the end of the day you hear that they complement each other in attack and defense and that is also the job of the head coach, to gather, complement, as well as being the lead person in setting the tone of the team in relation to body language, in related to the kinds of things you’re trying to say to the players as a team. He’s their leader and he’s doing an outstanding job. “
Coming off a disastrous 6-10 season in 2020 that can be explained by many things: the pandemic, Prescott’s ankle injury that cost him 11 games, the defensive collapse (he allowed 29.6 points per game, ranking 28th), The death of strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul – McCarthy entered 2021 with questions.
Since he’s not calling plays and has no defensive background, some wonder what McCarthy really does.
It’s the same question former coach Jason Garrett had to grapple with after giving up the plays in 2013. Garrett didn’t get credit for the Cowboys’ 12-4 season in 2014, which was given to quarterback Tony. Romo, running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Neither did he in 2016 (13-3): It was Elliott and Linehan who cleverly employed a rookie Prescott with an opportunistic defense, although Garrett was named Coach of the Year. The same in 2018 (10-6) – with the change by receiver Amari Cooper.
Ultimately, Garrett was credited with his consistency in approach. As repetitive as it seemed publicly, players bought even if they failed to achieve postseason success.
McCarthy’s steadfastness has been a reassuring influence on a team that is constantly in the spotlight.
“It is definitely needed in a leadership position,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s like all of us, you learn things not only about the game, the preparation part, the performance part, but you definitely have to learn about yourself. I am a big believer in hearing your own language. I think you’re training a different generation today than when I entered the league in the early 90’s. I think it’s part of the learning process. Again, if you want consistency, you have to have consistency from the leadership position. “
In physically grooming his team, McCarthy takes an almost scientific approach. He has meetings with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash and rehab director Britt Brown every day, studying after practice the GPS numbers that track each player’s activity.
Instead of a traditional practice on Fridays, the Cowboys go through a regeneration day designed to be at their peak mentally and physically at the start. After Monday night’s win against the Philadelphia Eagles, McCarthy did not coach players with pads the following week.
“We are all a product of our own experiences,” Cooper said. “I remember him saying once that he had already knocked down a team. He said that, so he will tell you. And I guess it wasn’t a good thing and he learned from that experience. So yeah, he does things a little differently now. He is very aware of how we can feel during the week after Sunday’s games. “
McCarthy gives his assistants freedom. Moore is the biggest beneficiary. Upon arriving in Dallas, McCarthy surprisingly said he would keep Moore as the one calling the play. When he was with the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy briefly gave up play in 2015 before resuming those duties and said he would never give up on them again.
Moore currently leads the number one offense in yards per game (460.8) and points per game (34.2).
“[McCarthy] it’s an amazing resource for me as I go through each and every week just to talk through the conversations, ‘Hey, what do you think about this situation? What do you think if maybe we did X, Y and Z? ‘”Moore said. And we can share those ideas together. And I think that since this is our second year together, I think that we are so well aligned in terms of our approach and our system and the routine that we go through each and every week, that we are in a really good place. . “
Quinn said one of McCarthy’s “superpowers is that he’s a very consistent person.”
“He doesn’t ride the wave so I think he can see [where] Others are and say, ‘Hey, let’s keep this in the middle.’ But he has a good connection with the players. He is direct in his communication. I think that as a player and as a coach that is what you want. Tell us directly what we need and how we are going to win. “
Winning is the most important thing. Winning is the reason Jones hired McCarthy. He went to the playoffs in nine of his 13 years with the Packers and was 125-77-2 (.618). He attended four NFC championship games. Won a Super Bowl.
“We are so well aligned in terms of our approach, our system and the routine that we go through every week, that we are in a really good place.”
offensive coordinator Kellen Moore over Mike McCarthy
Following the season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McCarthy was 17-27-1 since his last playoff season with the Packers in 2016. For the sake of comparison, Matt Patricia had a record of 13-29-1 in 43 games as the 2018-20 Detroit Lions coach.
The Cowboys haven’t lost since, but there are those who believe the Cowboys are winning in spite of McCarthy, not because of him, signaling fourth-down decisions and running the clock.
In the Week 2 win against the Los Angeles Chargers, McCarthy was criticized for settling for a 56-yard field goal, saying the clock he was looking at inside SoFi Stadium went off. In the Week 3 win against the Eagles, he stopped calling for a timeout at the end of the half, drawing the ire of Peyton Manning on the Monday Night Football broadcast.
In last Sunday’s win against the New England Patriots, he made some amazing decisions with a replay challenge and go for it, or not, on a few fourth-down plays. In the first series of the game, he opted to go after him at Dallas 34 and was stopped, prompting a challenge that was denied.
“Obviously I have great confidence in our offense,” McCarthy said, “and rightly so.”
In the fourth quarter, trailing by a point with 2:47 left, he opted for a 51-yard field goal attempt by Greg Zuerlein and the kick hooked the left.
In the series that tied the game, there was some downward confusion following a 24-yard complete pass to catcher CeeDee Lamb following two penalties to guard Connor Williams. The broadcast feed had it as a second and 25; the down markers on the field had him as the third down.
McCarthy called a timeout with 24 seconds left and sent Zuerlein for a 49-yard field goal attempt to tie the game, leaving time on the clock for New England.
ESPN’s winning probability model favored both field goal attempts. In the first, the probability of winning was 51.1% to kick and 45.5% to try. In the second, it was a 34.2% kick, 23.7% in favor.
While there have been questions about those decisions, the Cowboys won and have continued to win. They have a 97.1% chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
“The only thing you can’t know is how an individual acts when under pressure, how he performs the task at hand, and what happens when you are in the trench,” Jones said. “And he was absolutely outstanding with our disappointing first year and responded in a way that you would want a coach to respond in a game or for a period of time during a season or during a season.
“We have to have some early testing and that has happened to me a couple of times before. Jimmy Johnson and I lost early under an aura of harsh criticism and I saw how it worked out. With Mike, he deserves all the A’s there.”