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Dallas Cowboys Stay Steady

The Dallas Cowboys have decided to retain head coach Mike McCarthy in his final year under contract and all signs point to running it back in Big D in 2024.

Following a 12-5 regular season where the Cowboys won their second NFC East crown in three years, Dallas was the first 2-seed to be upset by the 7-seed since the NFL playoffs expanded in 2020. Everyone on social media and talk shows called for Mike McCarthy’s head.

Perhaps upset at being embarrassed by the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round at home,  Jerry Jones took time to reflect on the season and is bringing Mike McCarthy back to the team.

You can make the argument Dallas should have moved on. With all the hype and expectations, the Cowboys really should’ve made it past the Wild Card round and potentially be playing in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Instead, it’s the 49ers (who blew the Cowboys out this year) and the Lions (who Dallas beat thanks to Dan Campbell being insistent on going for 2).

While it might not be the trendy answer, keeping Mike McCarthy for at least one more season is the best call for the Cowboys from a business and logical standpoint.

REGULAR SEASON JUGGERNAUTS

Undisputed, the Dallas Cowboys have had success in the regular season. The Cowboys have three consecutive 12-win seasons with McCarthy as head coach. No other team in the NFL has had that consistency over the last three years.

As a matter of fact, only 13 of the 32 organizations have experienced a 12-win season in the last 3 years. The Chiefs and 49ers are the only ones to do it twice, and the Cowboys three times.

The internet can claim “they haven’t played anybody” which simply isn’t true. Looking at their schedule for the last three years, here are the number of teams that went on to compete in the postseason that year:

2021 – 6 (7 if you include playing the Eagles twice)

2022 – 7 (10 if you include playing your division rivals twice)

2023 – 6 (7 if you include playing the Eagles twice)

Dallas went a combined 12-12 in those regular-season games against that year’s playoff teams. Some would flash back to the Jason Garrett days of .500, but that was Garrett’s record against any team – good, bad, or indifferent. And if you look at teams Dallas beat that didn’t quite make the playoffs, they were one game away like the Seattle Seahawks this year, who Dallas beat 41-35.

If you were around for the Wade Phillips days, you remember the pain of firing your coach mid-year. If you were around for the Jason Garrett days, you remember the pain of falling short in Week 17 to miss the playoffs altogether.

The Cowboys don’t have to worry about those scenarios with Mike McCarthy at the helm. And honestly, 19 other teams would dismiss their head coach if they saw McCarthy was on the market tomorrow to win 12 games in a season.

CLAIMING YOUR DIVISION

Then you have the most critical games on your schedule, the divisional games. These six games can make or break your postseason aspirations. In the last three seasons, McCarthy here is how the division head-to-head matchups stand out:

Dallas Cowboys :: 15-3

Philadephia Eagles :: 11-7

New York Giants :: 5-12-1

Washington Commanders :: 4-13-1

Dallas has an impressive 83.3% winning percentage against their division rivals. We can’t look at this division as the NFC Least anymore. All four teams went to the playoffs in 2022 and the Eagles reached the Super Bowl. These are quality wins against teams that know you the best.

HOME-FIELD DOMINATION

One of the most critical factors to asserting your dominance in the NFL is having teams scared to play you at home. For years Dallas didn’t have a home-field advantage. Eli Manning’s signature is forever on the walls of AT&T Stadium after winning the first game there. Those home misfortunes have changed since McCarthy’s tenure.

Before their loss at home to the Packers in the Wild Card round, the Cowboys most recent home loss dates back to September 2022 in Week 1 against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those 15 games were the longest home winning streak in the NFL to date. Not to mention, they happened to avenge the Buccaneers loss later by going to Tampa Bay and retiring Tom Brady in the playoffs… You’re welcome, America.

DAK PRESCOTT’S PROGRESSION

Your team cannot sustain a winning culture without a top-tier quarterback and head coach combo as their foundational piece. There were questions coming into the year with Dak’s interception count totaling 15. The Cowboys let young offensive coordinator Kellen Moore go and let McCarthy take over the play-calling duties. It was obvious; McCarthy had one shot to fix Dak Prescott.

Last season with McCarthy, Dak Prescott had the best year of his career with highs in completions (410), completion percentage (69.5%), passing touchdowns (36), and passer rating (105.9). All these numbers come with Prescott sitting on the sidelines a few times in the 4th quarter during blowout victories.

Many expected Prescott to regress further with Kellen Moore gone. Instead, the opposite happened. Prescott flourished under Mike McCarthy and the duo proved to be a deadly tag team moving forward.

If the Cowboys moved off McCarthy, Dak Prescott would be under a brand new system and coaching tree. Prescott would have to learn a new offense, earn the trust of his new coach, and ultimately be a setback in his progression. You ultimately could do more harm than good to your franchise quarterback.

Instead, Prescott knows the offense and knows Mike McCarthy. Prescott is comfortable with McCarthy as the head coach and offensive play-caller. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

PROVE IT YEAR

Ultimately, 2024 will be a prove-it year for Mike McCarthy. He’ll enter his fifth year as the Dallas Cowboys head coach.

It’s a lot of pressure to coach America’s Team in general. It’s practically a crushing weight on your shoulders to be in your final year under contract for the Cowboys.

Jerry Jones says he won’t renew Mike McCarthy’s contract just yet and people have to wonder if it will take postseason success to renew McCarthy’s contract. That’s the expectation in Dallas moving forward. And after the Detroit Lions made the NFC Championship Game this year, the Cowboys are not content with having the second-longest drought to the title game with fellow rival, the Washington Commanders.

Financially speaking, this makes sense. You don’t want to pay McCarthy for sitting at home. Let him coach the final year of his contract and see if you can get this team over the hump before blowing the team up and resetting with a new head coach and system. Let McCarthy prove himself.

RUN IT BACK

Mike McCarthy comes back. Dak Prescott comes back. You retain much of your offense, defense, and coaching staff. If Dan Quinn isn’t hired anywhere, he’ll be back.

At the end of the day, you’re in the playoffs with McCarthy. The only way to win the Powerball or Mega-Millions is to purchase a lottery ticket. McCarthy has had three lottery tickets. The only way the Cowboys will ever win the Super Bowl is to make the playoffs. McCarthy has a proven track record of getting them to the postseason. And from there, anything can happen.

This sounds cliche. It really could be “our year” for the Dallas Cowboys. If not, then we could see changes. But until then, they’re running it back.

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