To say Mike McCarthy's offseason is off to a rocky start would be an understatement. Jerry and Stephen Jones have pulled no punches the last few weeks, and McCarthy seems to be fed up with it. Being the Dallas Cowboys' head coach during the Jones era will always be one of the most challenging jobs in sports.
But with that said, it doesn't help your case when you contradict yourself. Not only did McCarthy seem to walk back a previous statement he made, but he then blamed a nonexistent reason for the Cowboys' lack of success all in one answer.
Mike McCarthy's top two offseason priorities are hypocritical and deflective
What is the Cowboys' most important priority at the moment? While we listed our top three at the start of the offseason, correct answers are abundant after the disappointing ending to 2021.
So what did McCarthy say when he was asked about the teams’ biggest priority? Keeping in line with "coach-speak," he could have responded with answers such as: figure out personnel, make difficult decisions about our free agents, get on the same page with my guys, figure out what went wrong and adjust, or even put 2021 in the past and focus on winning it all next year.
All of those would have been typical answers from an NFL head coach and wouldn't raise any headlines. Instead, Mike McCarthy answered with cleaning-up penalties and getting better at handling adversity.
Mike McCarthy on Cowboys’ top offseason priorities:— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 1, 2022
1. Clean up penalties
2. Being better at handling adversity
No one will argue that penalties were a problem last year. The 7.8 penalties per game Dallas committed was the worst in the league, as were the 66.2 penalty yards per game. The Cowboys absolutely need to improve in this department, and it needs to be fixed now.
But listing it as your number one priority?
Just sitting in there, before I came in here, ‘Why does that happen to your team’? Those are things that you’re always focused on, but maybe I’ve overcoached the penalties this week because we had so many. We all know where our numbers are. But we just weren’t the more physical team today. I thought it showed up and I give them a lot of credit.
So which one is it? According to McCarthy in November, focusing on penalties leads to a less physical team. But now, that is the number one priority: clean up penalties so the team can improve.
This is not an attempt to play the "gotcha" game with McCarthy, nor is it a debate that Dallas shouldn't focus on cleaning up penalties. The Cowboys were unlucky in a few of their biggest 2021 games, resulting in an ugly ending to the season. Penalties are an issue.
But it is increasingly evident that McCarthy likes to deflect as he sees fit. It is not a web of lies that he has spun, but rather it is hopping back and forth from one side of a chasm to another based on what suits him best.
When the Cowboys don't commit a lot of penalties in a game yet still lose: We focused on penalties too much this week, so we will prioritize physicality over penalties.
We discussed this subject among many others on the latest BTB Roundtable. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
When the Cowboys' season ends partially due to penalties: That has to be our number one priority moving forward and will be the main thing we work on.
This is the easiest way for McCarthy to take accountability for what happened in 2021. In fact, it barely passes for accountability. He is simply blaming penalties because it is the most obvious scapegoat. Forget the inconsistency of the offense, the offensive line playing like a shell of themselves in weeks nine through eighteen, the rushing game disappearing, the kicker that you continually let burn you, and thirty other things that went wrong. Forget all of that; penalties are the easiest thing to criticize because fans will always blame the referees to some degree.
This is not accountability from McCarthy; this is deflecting the end-of-year struggles to the referees and hoping that no one notices. Who knows which side of the coin McCarthy believes in; penalties lead to a lack of physicality, or penalties need to be focused on. But it doesn't matter which one he actually believes because he will continue to flip that coin based on what suits him best.
And this constant scapegoating is turning the players into people who do the same. Dak Prescott, who has historically been great with the media, received a $25,000 fine due to what he said after the playoff loss. Micah Parsons, a bright-eyed rookie, is already starting to buy into this McCarthy habit after one year:
So, what happened in the playoffs?
Parsons: “Bruh, like, it was the penalties. I don’t like to blame it on defining moments because there were so many defining moments. Third-down penalties. Not handing the ball to the ref.
McCarthy using penalties as a constant source of deflection has worked its way into the personnel of the Cowboys.
And Cowboys fans shouldn't dismiss the number two priority: overcoming adversity. What adversity McCarthy? You were arguably the healthiest team in the NFL, walked into the playoffs with close to the same 22 men that were starting week one, and had nearly everything go right for you.
What adversity did Dallas struggle to overcome? 2020 was a year full of adversity; no one will argue with that. But 2021 was nearly free of long-term personnel issues, and practically everything went right for you. So, if we're pulling apart this quote, adversity is just an intangible factor McCarthy uses to deflect once again.
McCarthy has had it rough this offseason, and it only seems to worsen every time Jerry or Stephen Jones open their mouths. But the comments from McCarthy are doing him no favors. He has proven to be more willing to dish out excuses than take accountability for anything.
This needs to change soon. Because it affects the players, and with young talent like Parsons, who knows what it will turn into.