Cowboys Sticking with Embattled Head Coach
In a surprise move, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced that head coach Mike McCarthy will return for the 2024 NFL season, despite another early playoff exit that had many speculating his job was in jeopardy.
McCarthy has compiled a 29-19 regular season record in his first three seasons in Dallas, making the playoffs twice. However, his 0-2 postseason record, including a stunning home loss to the San Francisco 49ers this year, put his future with the storied franchise in doubt.
Terms of McCarthy’s Return
According to sources close to the Cowboys, Jones and McCarthy met for over 3 hours in the days following the playoff defeat. The early focus was dissecting what went wrong versus the 49ers, but the conversation quickly turned to how the coach can get the team over the hump in 2024.
In the end, Jones decided sticking with McCarthy and his staff gives Dallas the best shot at finally reaching, and winning, a Super Bowl during quarterback Dak Prescott’s prime years. McCarthy has one year left on his original 5-year contract, but an extension is likely if next season meets expectations.
|Regular Season Record
Cowboys Players Supportive but Expect Improvements
While frustrated Cowboys fans lit up social media with criticism, players like Prescott endorsed McCarthy’s return and believe the team is close to championship contention.
However, there is pressure on the coaching staff to fix persistent issues in preparation and game management that have hindered the team in big games. McCarthy took responsibility for this season’s playoff loss and vowed to thoroughly evaluate everything from schemes to communication.
What Needs to Change
Here are some key areas Dallas needs to improve if McCarthy wants to solidify his status in 2024:
Get More Production from High-Priced Players
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has been injured lately but is getting paid elite money and needs to impact games more. Wide receiver Amari Cooper had an underwhelming, injury-riddled 2022 and Dallas misses his production as Prescott’s top target. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be tasked with putting their stars in better positions to dominate.
Better Adjustments and Second Half Performances
Far too often under McCarthy, the Cowboys have failed to respond well to opponents’ halftime adjustments and struggles late in games. The loss to the 49ers being the latest example, as Dallas was shutout in the second half. Game management, play calling balance, and conditioning will be critical points of emphasis this offseason.
Continuity vs. Change on Coaching Staff
McCarthy’s staff has seen frequent turnover in his first three seasons, hindering chemistry and execution. He may need to replace underperforming position coaches, but stability with coordinators Moore and Quinn seems likely. The defense took major strides this season under Quinn, while Moore draws head coaching interest yearly.
Pressure Squarely on McCarthy
Make no mistake, despite undying support from Jerry Jones, Mike McCarthy enters 2024 squarely on the hot seat. The reality is Jones has not fired a coach after just one season since taking over the Cowboys. However, patience will run thin quickly if McCarthy cannot guide a loaded Dallas roster deeper into the playoffs.
With several big player contracts expiring soon, the window for contention with this core group is right now. McCarthy helped draw up an analytics-based blueprint for advancement with Jones, but it must translate to the field.
Anything short of at least an NFC Championship Game appearance will have McCarthy right back on lists of coaches on the chopping block next offseason. But for 2024, he survives to lead “America’s Team” in hopes of finally bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Dallas.
What Happens Now
The focus shifts from the sidelines to the personnel department. Dallas has over 20 players set to hit free agency, including emerging tight end Dalton Schultz, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and safety Donovan Wilson. Resolving these key free agents will be priority one.
The Cowboys also currently hold the 26th pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. With glaring needs at wide receiver, interior offensive line, and linebacker, expect Dallas to target those positions either through free agency or the draft.
As for McCarthy, he is diving into film study to determine what went wrong versus the 49ers and build his offseason plan for change. Expect lots of soul searching, adjustments, and motivation to prove his critics wrong.
Love him or hate him, Mike McCarthy is gearing up for another season guiding “America’s Team.” The pressure and expectations have never been higher. But for at least one more year, the Jones family will bet on McCarthy to take the Cowboys where they haven’t been in nearly three decades – back to the Super Bowl summit.
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