It’s going to be hard for Mike McCarthy to ignore the elephant in the room.
Once the season starts, McCarthy will be looking over his shoulder the entire time. Every loss will be dissected through the Payton prism. Dak Prescott’s development will be evaluated through the Payton prism. Everything in 2022 will be WWSPD: What would Sean Payton do?
Before Payton arrived in New Orleans, the Saints had a .403 winning percentage, five 10-win seasons and one playoff win from 1967 to 2005. From 2006 to 2021, the Saints had a .617 winning percentage, nine 10-win seasons and nine playoff victories. Payton is just 58 years old. He admitted to being exhausted following a season in which his team relocated to Fort Worth for a stretch because of a hurricane, saw Brees’ replacement Jameis Winston get hurt and withstood a number of injuries and COVID-19 absences.
The Saints had a chance to make the playoffs until the final week of the season and fell short. The affinity between Jones and Payton is well known.
If Jerry Jones wants to hire Sean Payton, there’s no point in the Cowboys dragging it out - Kevin Sherrington, Dallas Morning News
More on a potential Cowboys/Payton reunion.
Hiring Payton would not only be popular with fans, it’d be the best football move, too. Because let’s face it, Payton is a better head coach than McCarthy. Put aside for a moment Payton’s year-long suspension for condoning a bounty system imposed by his defensive coordinator. On the football side, Payton’s reputation as a certified offensive genius is well-documented, and his defenses have ranked among the league’s best.
No one’s ever questioned his football smarts, anyway, which is more than we can say for McCarthy. After the end in Green Bay, a long, multi-sourced story for Bleacher Report in the spring of 2019 included this quote from a person close to Aaron Rodgers: “Mike has a low football IQ, and that used to always bother Aaron. He’d say Mike has one of the lowest IQs, if not the lowest IQ, of any coach he’s ever had.”
Now, you could take that comment for what it’s worth, because, as the Bleacher Report story goes on to note, Rodgers holds a grudge dating back to the day he was drafted. McCarthy, then the 49ers’ offensive coordinator and someone who apparently had a say in the draft, voiced his preference for Alex Smith, and Rodgers never got over it. Frankly, I wouldn’t bring it up now if some of the issues cited in that 2019 story — a “fake tough guy” who never sent messages to players who’d screwed up; a laissez-faire coaching style that produced a soft culture — are sins you’ve witnessed the last two seasons and heard in rumblings from the Star.
Some upcoming free agents the Cowboys could have interest in retaining.
Dalton Schultz picked the right time to have a career season. The tight end caught 78 balls for 808 yards and eight touchdowns in the final year of his contract. Schultz's success proved how much he can contribute in the passing game and how reliable he is in the eyes of Dak Prescott.
Dallas should realize how important the quarterback-tight end connection is and prioritize the re-signing of Schultz. The Cowboys have shown no reluctance in splashing out money on key offensive pieces in previous seasons, as Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper all received massive contracts.
Dallas needs to work around its salary-cap deficit to provide Schultz with a reasonable offer. The Cowboys enter the offseason $21 million above the cap line, per Over the Cap. If Dallas wants to bring back Schultz that bad, it will find a way to manage the cap to have as many offensive weapons in place to help Prescott lead the franchise to the NFC East title again.
Taking a look at which opponents preformed best against the Cowboys this season.
QB – Derek Carr, Raiders - There weren't a lot of options here, aside from maybe Teddy Bridgewater and Tom Brady. But Carr not only led the Raiders to a comeback win, but seemed to adapt well to the Thanksgiving Day penalty-fest and got a few late flags to go their way. RB – Javonte Williams, Broncos – The rookie looked like Jim Brown in the game against the Cowboys, refusing to get tackled at times.
RB – Deebo Samuel, 49ers - He isn't listed as a running back, but hurt the Cowboys the most as a runner in the playoff game, with a back-breaking touchdown run in the third quarter. WR – Antoine Wesley, Cardinals – Caught two touchdowns in Arizona's win over the Cowboys, including a deep ball against Trevon Diggs.
Here is how the Dallas Cowboys can help OC Kellen Moore get better - David Howman, Blogging The Boys
With Kellen Moore coming back, what can the Cowboys do to help him get better?
Not only is Moore young for a coach, but he’s very green for an offensive coordinator. It generally takes some time for coaches to really refine their craft as a play-caller. Two examples of this are Mike McCarthy and the suddenly available/retired Sean Payton.
McCarthy spent four seasons as the Saints offensive coordinator under Jim Haslett, and had mixed results from year to year. That’s why New Orleans allowed him to make a lateral move to San Francisco under Mike Nolan. Even then, McCarthy’s offense finished dead last in DVOA, but the Packers named him their head coach. After a mediocre first year, the Packers offense took off under McCarthy’s play-calling as they finished in the top ten in DVOA for eight straight seasons despite having a change at quarterback from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers during that time.
Payton had a slightly different track. After a year as the quarterbacks coach for the Giants in 1999, head coach Jim Fassel promoted Payton to offensive coordinator. He wasn’t an overnight success, though, and Fassel actually took over play-calling during the 2002 season when Payton’s offense failed to score 10 or more points in four of their first seven games. That led to Payton’s departure to Dallas, and the rest is history. Calling plays at the NFL level is hard, and doing it at the highest level is even harder. Moore has shown evident promise, especially in terms of play design, but is still figuring out how to effectively game plan, adapt on the fly, and find solutions to problems during the year. The Cowboys need to help him reach the next level; after all, coach development is arguably just as important as player development.
ICYMI: Cowboys coordinator interview tracker: Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore - RJ Ochoa, Blogging The Boys
It looks like Dan Quinn is as good as gone.
The Dallas Cowboys have had a lot of success this season and fans are hopeful that it continues on throughout the playoffs. As they are America’s Team, when they are good a lot of people tend to notice. This makes other teams pursue a standard strategy around the NFL, wanting to pursue winning coordinators. Often in the NFL when Team X wants what Team Y has, they simply go out and take it as long as it is an upward move for coaches.
The season is over for most of the teams in the NFL which means they are focused on 2022. At the moment, there are eight head coaching vacancies and plenty of them have their eyes on Dallas Cowboys coordinators Dan Quinn and/or Kellen Moore.
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