As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their second primetime start in as many seasons for Cooper Rush, they’ve found a new confidence in 2022 after Rush beat the Bengals to avoid an 0-2 start in week two.
The Cowboys 20-17 win against the Bengals was a bounce-back game for Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore, who both immediately felt the pressure they’re under this season after being held without a touchdown against the Buccaneers. Moore was able to keep the structure of his offense in place under a veteran backup like Rush, so much so that McCarthy had to answer questions about a fake QB controversy stirred up by Jerry Jones.
For a coach that was hired to take a team that was believed to be in contention farther in the playoffs, its easy to lose sight of just how much McCarthy has been through in three years with the Cowboys. McCarthy’s predecessor Jason Garrett had a ten-year run without taking the Cowboys to a NFC Championship game, and rarely had the success with backup QBs that McCarthy has already found. Even still, McCarthy’s job security has come into question at every turn while the Cowboys spent much of this offseason depleting a roster that went 12-5 the year prior.
With a potential head coaching candidate in Dan Quinn calling his defense, and Kellen Moore having nearly full control of the offense, the importance of McCarthy’s role has been debated just like it was for Garrett. By not allowing the Jones’ media distractions to affect his football team, keeping them on focus after a humiliating week one loss, and finding ways to win without a franchise QB, McCarthy has quietly answered this question.
The Cowboys still have a long way to go to stay in contention before Prescott returns, which will only ramp up the pressure for this team to separate from the currently 2-0 Giants and Eagles. McCarthy has gone 14-4 against the NFC East with Dallas, including a perfect 6-0 sweep last season. In a division with no repeat winners since 2004 though, the Cowboys will find out how they stack up against the Giants and new head coach Brian Daboll on Monday night. It will be up to the Cowboys defense to force Daniel Jones into mistakes, playing without the stark QB advantage they expected to have in these divisional games with Prescott. The same will be true for the Cowboys against Carson Wentz and the Commanders the following week, before Prescott potentially makes his return against the Rams or Jalen Hurts’ Eagles.
There are certain roles in the NFL that come under more scrutiny than others, and head coach of the Dallas Cowboys is firmly near the top of this list. How much of this is self-inflicted by the Cowboys front office addressing the media as often as they do, and how they handle cap space relative to giving their coaches the best players to work with, is not something that will change this season. What can change over time is Cowboys fans perception of Mike McCarthy, with plenty of reasons the best is yet to come for his team not only welcoming back Prescott but Michael Gallup, James Washington, and Jayron Kearse.