FRISCO, Texas — A year and two days ago, Mike McCarthy was introduced as the eighth coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He sat next to Jerry and Stephen Jones in the Ford Center on a beautiful January day without a cloud in the sky.
At the press conference, Jerry Jones told a popular story about how he came to the conclusion that McCarthy was the right choice.
My sister once explained to my father why she wanted a divorce, Jones said. Daddy loved her husband and said: What’s the matter with you? And she said: I don’t hear any bells. He said: Clocks? Clocks? I haven’t heard a bell in 30 years. Eventually, the father tries to put his daughter on the right track.
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But the fact is, I heard the bells.
For some Cowboy lovers, those bells can become an awakening. The Cowboys won 6-10 in McCarthy’s first season and only the poor condition of the NFC East keeps Dallas in the playoffs until week 17.
There are many reasons why the Cowboys have established Jones’ fourth record as a franchisor in 31 years:
-Injuries. The 2020 season marked a turning point when the Cowboys lost the quarterback Roof Prescott to an open fracture and a sprained right ankle in week 5. The Cowboys lost six of their next seven games after the fall of Prescott.
— Lack of off-season. Whatever McCarthy wanted to achieve in his first spring and summer, he was unable to do so because of the coronavirus pandemic. Trainers implement virtual programs and techniques. At that moment they felt they had the situation under control. At the beginning of the season, it was clear that the Cowboys would fall behind, especially in defense.
— … …changing patterns of defense. Jones thought the Cowboys’ defense was too easy to read, and he appreciated McCarthy’s change in selecting Mike Nolan as defense coordinator for the hybrid project. But on several occasions Mr. Jones has said that he regretted the big changes because of a lack of practice time.
— The tragic loss of Marcus Paul. The power and conditioning coordinator took a break on the 24th. November collapsed in his office and was pronounced dead the next day, less than 24 hours before the Cowboys played Washington’s soccer team on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys were very touched and went with them for the rest of the season.
McCarthy called this season a unique challenge.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys finished 6-10 this season as first coach of Dallas and third in the NFC East. Elsa/Getty Images
You have simply never fully integrated the changing environment of your workplace. I think like all of us, especially in this industry, you really invest your time and energy and bite into the things you can control. Mr McCarthy said that one of the most important elements that will help you on your way to success is a moving target that none of us have ever experienced.
I don’t like the word overwhelming because it puts you in a state you thought you couldn’t handle. I think we’ve more than succeeded. Above all, I admire and respect our players, but also our staff for everything they have done to get to this point this season. It’s about winning. Don’t get me wrong. I understand our journey and all that. But there’s a lot we didn’t see coming.
What attracted the Joneses to McCarthy was his CV: He made the playoffs in nine of his 13 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He played four times in the NFC Championship. He won the Super Bowl at the AT&T Stadium.
But in the last three seasons, McCarthy has a 17-26-1 record on the sidelines.
In their first year at Green Bay, the Packers finished 8-8 after a 4-8 start. He believes the four-winning streak helped catapult the 2007 team to a record 13-3, even though the competition wasn’t the strongest. The Cowboys won 14-16 weeks in a row before losing their last game to the New York Giants, but none of the three wins came against a winning team.
McCarthy acknowledged that the Cowboys need a fresh start in 2021.
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Every year is different. Every team is different, McCarthy said Monday. To get the chance to meet our veterans, four years and older, the positive energy and feeling they have for who we are and how we do it. For the man, they’re looking forward to the next challenge. But we have to go back and start on page 1. I always have. If you take things for granted, you make yourself look like a failure.
We have a lot of work to do.
That work – the future of Prescott, improving the defense, upgrading the staff, choosing the number 10 in the NFL Draft 2021 – has already begun, but McCarthy said the goal is to win a championship.
I don’t know why you’re in this business if you can’t win a championship, McCarthy. That’s how I’ve always approached it. That’s how I learned it from Marty Schottenheimer in 1993.
The Cowboys Super Bowl drought is now 25 years old. Since then, they’ve won four play-off games. McCarthy is from Green Bay, who last won a Super Bowl in 1996 before his arrival, and he is fully aware of the expectations of the organization and the fans.
I can assure you we’re doing everything right. We’re trying to be a championship team. And I’m frustrated. Clearly none of us expected the results we’ve had this season, McCarthy said. But I think we have to admit – and these are just facts – that this season has been very difficult and that hopefully we will never see anything like it again.
And in 2021, McCarthy has to find a way to make Jerry Jones hear those bells again.
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