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Mike McCarthy press conference: Focus is going to be on defense, Tyrone Crawford is retiring

The head coach spoke for the first time in a while on Thursday.

San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys held a press conference not too long ago to announce the contract that quarterback Dak Prescott was signing. We got a chance to hear from Dak himself, Jerry Jones, and Stephen Jones for the first time in a long while.

Mike McCarthy was absent from that particular press conference so we haven’t heard from him... until now. The Dallas Cowboys head coach spoke on Thursday and addressed a variety of things and we have curated his responses here for you.

A reminder that all answers are paraphrases and not direct quotes.


First press conference in over a year

Mike McCarthy started by saying that he was very excited to be speaking and noted that it has been over a year since he had a press conference in person (the last one was at last year’s NFL Combine). He added that he is hopeful for the team in terms of their plans for 2021.

The draft class is important

Asked about where the team is at in free agency Mike McCarthy reiterated that the NFL Draft is where the bulk of rosters are built. He said that in looking at rosters the best environment that you can create is to have a competitive 90-man roster. He said that the team is still looking at things and talking and that the laps that they are taking through the draft process are all things that are yielding information.

Emphasis on defense

Stephen Jones noted during the Dak Prescott press conference that the Cowboys want to have a larger emphasis on defense. In looking back at last season Mike McCarthy said that the largest change from last year to this year is clearly on defense. He said that he felt that this was needed and that what happened last year is not his vision of a football team.

McCarthy noted he understands the excitement and optimism surrounding every team at the beginning of the year but that the most important thing is to have consistency. He added that the direction that he believes the team needs to go is going to come under the leadership of Dan Quinn.

The head coach added that team-building is never quite over but added that his primary focus is in fact the defense.

Dan Quinn’s past

Asked about the defenses that Dan Quinn ran with the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons the head coach noted that a lot gets made about 3-4 and 4-3, but that it is really about the players.

He said that if you have a system of offense, defense, or special teams that can’t accommodate the talents of a specific player that you might want to reevaluate things.

Reaction to the Dak Prescott deal

McCarthy said that he was in Florida when the deal with Dak Prescott came to pass and joked that it is easier to do cartwheels in the sand.

He noted that he is excited about Dak’s future with the team and that he is hopeful that an entire offseason will be beneficial for everyone involved, assuming that it does happen.

Value of 10 extra roster spots

Asked about the difference between an 80-man roster and a 90-man roster Mike McCarthy noted that there is obviously more competition but that it is a better training environment. He talked about how every rep is measured and that the difference in roster size makes a big difference when you get down to the deep ends of it. He added that there is more stress at certain positions and that you need this in your training environment, specifically in the early years if a new program.

Thoughts on a quarterback changing what might come naturally

Dak Prescott said in his own press conference that he might have to change the way that he plays in order to be smarter and to avoid something like the injury that he sustained. Mike McCarthy noted that this is a quarterback’s game but that perhaps Dak could be more mindful of it all. He said that he never wants to make a statement to a player that might make him hesitate as hesitation can make you a full step slower and put you in a worse position overall.

How things feel

Asked how things feel right now compared to last year Mike McCarthy noted that he obviously has a level of appreciation. He talked about how much work people behind the scenes have done and what everyone has sacrificed for them to have gone through the season. Overall he noted that being able to connect with people is a lot different.

One thing to do differently

Mike McCarthy was asked what the one thing he would have done differently is. He said that he believes in filters and that self-evaluation is critical to growth. He said that changes that the Cowboys have made are obvious and that there will be some adjustments that may not even be seen.

The Cowboys added too much volume on defense last year

Asked about the discussions of teaching principles being absent among defensive coaches last year Mike McCarthy noted that the team went into it with too much volume, but that there was definitely some misses on what fit and what didn’t fit. He said that the projection was obviously off in some areas and that the way of coaching operations even right now are not where his own standard would want them to be, but he noted that part of the challenge here is due to the impact of Covid-19. He said that everyone needs to be better.

Situation at tackles

Mike McCarthy said that Tyron Smith and La’el Collins both look good. He added that La’el looks like he’s “close to being ready to go.”

Thoughts on Jaylon Smith

McCarthy said that he likes how hard Jaylon practices and studies and that he thought the linebacker had a very productive year. He said that at times there were things that weren’t quite clear and that the timing was not quite where they want it to be, but that is part of what comes with the process of a new staff and scheme. He said that he felt coming out of the Minnesota game and the Pittsburgh game that there was more consistency in their time clock, their fits, and that the communication was where it needed to be. He reiterated that generating turnovers are a priority for the defense as a whole.

Moving on from Aldon Smith

Mike McCarthy said that the Aldon Smith situation is still “fluid” and that he personally hasn’t moved on. He noted he even had a conversation on Wednesday about Aldon.

He noted that they like Aldon’s flexibility and that he wants to make sure the team has more position flexibility in their defensive front.

Keanu Neal will start off with the linebackers

Asked who Keanu Neal’s position coach will be McCarthy noted that the defender will start with the linebackers but obviously has flexibility to safety. He said he views him as an impact player.

Discussions with Sean Lee and Tyrone Crawford

McCarthy noted that Tyrone Crawford is going to retire. All the best to him.

He said that the team is still in discussions with Sean Lee.

Going to Oxnard

McCarthy noted that while he has never been to Oxnard that he believes it is best for the team as a whole. He said that obviously the training of the team is taken care of and that the competitive environment is established that that is what matters.

He said that he plans on heading out to Oxnard prior to training camp like he intended to last year before the pandemic hit.

Offensive line

Asked about the state of the offensive line McCarthy noted that stability heightens your opportunity for success. He talked about trying to put the team in a position where this is possible and that is obviously the hope.

Thoughts on the backup quarterback position

Andy Dalton is the new starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears and Mike McCarthy noted that the team wants to have as much competition as they can behind Dak Prescott. He said there are veterans that they have spoken to, for what it’s worth. Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci remain the two options as of now.