Cowboys proved Mike McCarthy isn’t the man for the job

The 2021 Dallas Cowboys proved that Mike McCarthy isn't the coach to carry them over the hump, despite having an incredibly talented team.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is dispensable, and this is a cutthroat business. The walkaround coach who seemingly built a rock-solid locker room saw his team thoroughly embarrassed at home against the San Francisco 49ers. But this call to action isn’t based on one playoff game. No, this is based on a season’s worth of undisciplined football. That’s not even mentioning the multiple fourth-down decisions he butchered during their playoff game and the fact both coordinators who built the team’s offense and defense are getting head coaching interviews left and right.

Update: Speaking on 105.3 The Fan on Monday, Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones indicated McCarthy will remain in place as the Cowboys head coach. “Absolutely,” said Jones. “Very confident.”

Mike McCarthy holds no value for Cowboys

This isn’t personal. Actually, working in Dallas radio during the 2020 season, I’d grown to enjoy McCarthy’s honesty and his dry sense of humor. But his teams haven’t lived up to their talent level or expectations, and it’s almost exclusively their own doing.

McCarthy isn’t the offensive architect of this team. He doesn’t have a hand in the defense outside of overseeing the operations as a head coach. And when the lights come on and the whistle blows, he’s one of the least inspiring in-game coaches there is.

Discipline has been an 18-game issue

The Dallas Cowboys were the most penalized team in the NFL. In the regular season, they committed 127 penalties, which were three more than the Raiders, who finished second with 124 penalties. The Cowboys finished a yard behind the Raiders in total penalty yards for the season.

It is important to note that Dallas, the league’s most-watched team, also saw their opponents commit 121 penalties, which was second behind the Pittsburgh Steelers’ opponents.

So Cowboys games were highly penalized. Additionally, they ranked in the bottom 10 in penalty yard differential during their disastrous 2020 campaign, but understandably everybody threw that season in the dumpster where it belonged.

In-game coaching has always been poor with McCarthy

This is a man who admitted he lied during his interview with the Cowboys so he could get his job. If only he was as good a coach as he was grifting billionaires out of two whole football seasons well into their 70s.

McCarthy has been widely chastised for his in-game management, whether it be time management or fourth-down decisions. We’ve seen a bit of everything from him this season, which makes us pose a valid question.

What exactly does Mike McCarthy do to make the Cowboys a better football team? It’s not offensive or defensive scheme. It’s obviously not on-field discipline — the Cowboys were the worst in the NFL there.

His fourth-down decision-making wasn’t egregious against San Francisco, but he missed an opportunity on fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line when down 23-7 late in the third quarter.

Yet, the most egregious decision was allowing Dak Prescott to run a QB draw with 14 seconds left with no timeouts left. None of us were on the field, so we don’t know if McCarthy had an ear on what that call was. However, as a coach that does … whatever he does … he is at the head of the table when blame comes knocking.

With second-and-1 and 14 seconds left and no timeouts, what possible excuse is there not to just take two shots at the end zone? The absolute last thing that should happen is a run with the quarterback straight up the middle that guarantees the clock keeps moving. In Ezekiel Elliott’s post-game press conference, he mentioned that there was a long-standing issue with playing undisciplined football. That showed in their 14 penalties for 89 yards.

Is Jerry Jones okay with losing Dan Quinn, Kellen Moore?

I know many Cowboys fans would jump at the opportunity to just let Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn walk to a head coaching opportunity elsewhere, but I’m not sure Jerry Jones is on the same page with Cowboys fans. This would be fitting because he’s still fighting them on closing the curtains so players can see the football during afternoon games.

The defense’s turnaround under Quinn has been undeniable. They finished the regular season third in EPA/play and success rate. Weighted DVOA liked them even more, ranking them their top defense. Just one year ago, they ranked in the 20s defensively. Obviously, Micah Parsons and Randy Gregory made a difference, but they were a far more well-coached unit in 2021.

Almost every NFL opening has requested Quinn for an interview, and he has a relationship with Denver Broncos general manager George Paton.

Is Moore a legitimate candidate?

Kellen Moore is a more interesting situation. He doesn’t seem ready for a head coaching gig, and honestly, he’s still growing as an offensive coordinator. Part of his genius is not having a set scheme that he hangs his hat on. He pieces together things from multiple places.

It makes his game plans difficult to hone in on sometimes, but it also has robbed the Cowboys of a true identity. Dallas receivers and Prescott have struggled at times. Their rushing attack felt disjointed in 2021. But that hasn’t stopped Moore from getting head coaching interviews.

Quinn and Moore might not be the answer to replace McCarthy, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Jerry Jones looks at Moore in a similar light as he did Jason Garrett.

And, the question remains, what tangible value does McCarthy bring to this organization?

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.