Is Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy right on the hot seat as key injuries continue to mount? – Dallas Cowboys Blog
FRISCO, Texas — This was the 17th question in the press conference, after about 7 minutes and 50 seconds, following the Dallas Cowboys’ 19-3 loss Sunday night to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Before the season, there was a narrative there with you in the hot seat,” a reporter asked coach Mike McCarthy. “After a performance like this, do you feel that pressure wavering?”
“I’m 0-1, we’re 0-1 as a football team,” McCarthy said. “Obviously I have a little more work to do coming out of this game than I would like, but that’s our business.”
Pretty much or not, every week will be a referendum on McCarthy’s immediate and long-term future. It was the biggest storyline of the season after a disappointing end to the 2021 campaign with a home playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in January.
With the defending champion AFC Bengals Cincinnati visiting AT&T on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS), McCarthy will be looking to avoid his first 0-2 start since his freshman year with the Green Bay Packers (2006).
Now he will have to do it without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, who underwent right thumb surgery on Monday. Prescott’s return is uncertain, although owner and general manager Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas earlier this week that the quarterback could return within four weeks. Prior to the operation, sources said Prescott would need six to eight weeks to recover.
If the Cowboys lose to Cincinnati, the McCarthy conversation will only escalate, despite Jones’ statement early in training camp.
“I want to be very clear: he wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think he was the man to lead this team to a Super Bowl,” Jones said in July.
But should McCarthy be in the proverbial hot seat?
On the day he took over in 2020, he thought he would inherit an offensive line that included perennial Pro Bowlers in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick, with a top-notch right tackle in La’el Collins.
They never played a game together under McCarthy, with Frederick retiring before the 2020 season.
McCarthy was also getting Prescott, who was apparently entering his prime. In Game 5 of the 2020 season, Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. Last season he missed a game with a calf injury which plagued him for most of the second half of the season.
And now the fractured thumb.
Sunday’s game against the Bengals will be McCarthy’s 35th in Dallas. Prescott will have missed 13, and he could potentially miss the next three games, if not more.
“It’s football, really,” McCarthy said when asked if he felt like he hadn’t taken a break. “I already lost my starting quarterback. It’s unfortunate. Frankly, my emotion goes to the person because I know how invested these guys are in this. But yeah, that’s all part of the challenge. It makes it even more enjoyable when you get to where you want to go.”
While injuries can derail a season, McCarthy has repeatedly noted that his finest moment — winning Super Bowl XLV — came with the Packers needing 77 players this season. When the Cowboys finalized the roster this year, he noted that 10 rookies played key roles in that Packers Super Bowl win.
It might seem like the Cowboys have had way too many offensive line combinations under McCarthy. Since the start of 2020, the Cowboys have used 43 different five-man units for at least one slam together, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. This ranks 13th in the NFL; the Philadelphia Eagles lead with 61.
Not only is Prescott missing Sunday’s game, but so are safety Jayron Kearse, who sprains his left knee and led the Cowboys in tackles last season, and left guard Connor McGovern. Add to that, the Cowboys lost left tackle Tyron Smith through December with a torn hamstring in one of the final practices of training camp.
“Man, this is the league, man,” tight end Dalton Schultz said. “[McCarthy] is like, ‘Listen, guys that are in this room, you’re going to play. At some point, something will happen. You’re going to get an opportunity and you’re going to be expected to play at a high level.
Jones’ story must be factored into what may or may not happen with McCarthy.
He has made a coaching change mid-season since becoming owner and general manager in 1989.
In 2010, the Cowboys got off to a 1-7 start and Jones replaced Wade Phillips with Jason Garrett. Coincidentally, the last game Phillips managed was a 45-7 debacle against the McCarthy Packers at Lambeau Field in which the efforts of several players were called into question.
Phillips was 10 months away from winning the NFC East and a playoff victory at the time of his dismissal. If this season goes in the same direction, there could be another parallel with 2010. In Game 6 of this season, quarterback Tony Romo suffered what turned out to be a broken collarbone that put end of the season.
None of this story matters to players. None of the outside noises really matter. What matters is winning against Cincinnati.
“Obviously we’re under a microscope, and that’s fine,” Martin said. “I think guys understand that. It’s part of the game. Everyone deals with injuries. Yeah, it’s a shame some guys weren’t there, Dak was hurt a bunch. But we’re not the only team dealing with injuries, and that’s really up to the players. I think we can do a better job of rising to the occasion when some guys are out. It’s not all in the coaches. It’s up to the players to take some responsibility and really take some slack.
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