Once the Cowboys season ended and everybody was relatively sure the team would move on from Jason Garrett, the same refrain went bouncing around from sports pundit to sports pundit. Would anybody of note want to take the Cowboys job because they would have to share power with Jerry Jones? The meddling of the Cowboys owner was seen as a deterrent to an “established” coach who wouldn’t welcome that kind of interference. Much ink (in the digital sense) was spilled over the idea that Jerry Jones should just coach the team himself. It made for good copy, but it’s accuracy was wide of the mark.
Mike McCarthy is coming into a situation in Dallas where it appears as if he will have more power and control than he did in Green Bay. When he was a Packer, he had general manager Ted Thompson to deal with, and it doesn’t seem like that relationship was exactly smooth.
The first problem for McCarthy back then was that the Packers rarely brought in free agents, thus limiting the ability to augment the team from year-to-year. That wasn’t exactly something he could push if he wanted to as Thompson ran the show when it came to personnel. Thompson was replaced last offseason and the Packers immediately dipped into the free agent market.
After what could be categorized as the most action-packed 48 hours in team history as it relates to free agency, Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst stepped to the podium last March to explain what just happened.
With a few strikes of the pen, the Packers had added as many unrestricted free agents (four) as they had signed in the last five years combined.
For those wondering why the Packers are so much better this year than at the end of the McCarthy era, one element could be the defense, especially the “Smith Brothers” who have made a world of difference on the defensive side of the ball. It took a while for the defense to gel, but recently it has been very good.
McCarthy will have no issue with asking for specific free agents and getting into the mix on who they ultimately sign. In Dallas, he will get players because Jerry Jones isn’t afraid to add free agents. That’s more power than McCarthy had in Green Bay.
McCarthy will also be in the mix during the draft, just like Jason Garrett was during his tenure. McCarthy, Jerry and Stephen Jones, and Will McClay will all have their input in the draft, and McCarthy’s input will likely be greater than what he exercised in Green Bay. It has been said that one thing that really bothered McCarthy in Green Bay was that while Thompson did most of the personnel work, McCarthy was left to answer for it to the press as Thompson rarely engaged with the media.
In Green Bay, McCarthy did not have a large say in personnel with Ted Thompson as general manager. Thompson rarely used free agency as a tool and what reportedly upset McCarthy was being left to answer for what the Packers did or did not do with personnel decisions.
So this is likely going to be a step up in power for McCarthy. Stephen Jones commented:
“Just like Bill Parcells or any other head coach, he’ll be very involved,” Stephen Jones said. “Matter of fact, I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he said something like, ‘Looks like I’m going to have a bigger voice than I had in Green Bay in terms of how we go about building consensus.’”
Even McCarthy says he will have more input than ever, and that the situation is Dallas is not so different than what he’s worked in before.
“The job that’s been done to this point, the personnel, is very impressive. That was a big attraction for me,” McCarthy said. “I’m excited as a head coach to probably have more input than I’ve had in the past. But the way it’s structured, very similar to the way it was done in Green Bay and New Orleans and Kansas City and other places I’ve worked in. You know, the ‘we decisions’ was stated over and over again in personnel. So, I think that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
So much for the theory that the Cowboys wouldn’t be able to attract an experienced and successful coach because of Jerry Jones (a subject we previously touched on). This isn’t to say that Jones’ presence can’t be a problem, it certainly can. The way he allows players to go around the chain of command for issues will always undercut the coach's ultimate power. There are also the constant press interview where he can contradict or box-in his coach on specific issues.
But all the hand-wringing about drawing coach with stature to Dallas was quietly done away with by the hiring of McCarthy. He may not have been every Cowboys fans first choice, and that’s legitimate, everybody has their own criteria for what they want in a coach. But as we’ve already discussed, McCarthy is among the top coaches of this generation; besides Bill Belichick, he’s right there in a group that has had the most success. For the argument that he just road a Hall of Fame quarterback to success, his numbers stack up with Sean Payton and Mike Tomlin. They also had Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Payton had one of the best ever in Drew Brees like Aaron Rodgers, and McCarthy’s numbers are actually a bit better in the post-season.
So there is no doubt the Cowboys hired a coach with a lot of success and a lot of stature among NFL coaches. And it turns out he will have more power than he ever did, even with Jerry Jones.