Sunday night in San Francisco will be remembered for a long time by Dallas Cowboys fans, and not in a good way. That game belongs up there with 44-6, any of the regular-season finales from 2011-2013, the Chaz Green game, you get the picture.
It is rare that one team totally and completely out-classes another in the NFL given that, while some teams are bad, the competition is so high. At the end of the day these are professional organizations battling against one another so it is difficult to eviscerate one and break them beyond what everyone thought possible, yet that is what San Francisco did to Dallas Sunday.
For the purposes of our conversation today, we are going to focus on the poor offensive showing from the team although the defense hardly carried their end of the bargain. Sunday night saw the Texas Coast (insert mandatory Texas Toast joke here) offense fall far behind Kyle Shanahan’s group and not look competent in any way, shape, or form.
The unfortunate part is that Mike McCarthy authored a similar outing in somewhat recent history.
Mike McCarthy has led an offensive showing this poor within the last decade
The trouble with being around the NFL as long as someone like Mike McCarthy has is that you have a lot of data for people to mine through which means you likely have an example to fit every situation (at least a lot of situations). McCarthy’s time with the Green Bay Packers is well-documented and the end is obviously what led to his availability when Dallas brought him in three and a half years ago.
Getting specific here in terms of the most recent Cowboys outing, Dallas didn’t even break 200 yards of total offense against the 49ers. If this sounds grim that’s because it is. Tossing out last season’s regular-season finale against the Washington Commanders (where the circumstances were admittedly not akin to a normal game) it has only happened once in the McCarthy era. Coincidentally the time in question came against Washington, then the Football Team, on Thanksgiving Day in 2020.
Dallas squeezed out 142 total offensive yards on Turkey Day against the Football Teamers (182 against the Commanders in the regular-season finale last year, just so you know) and managed to get all the way up to 197 on Sunday against San Francisco. Obviously that is unacceptable.
What’s more is that the Cowboys coughed the ball up four times on offense, and obviously if you are turning the ball over you are costing yourself opportunities which not only help increase your yardage for the sake of this conversation, but also help you score and therefore win the game.
Dallas turned the ball over only twice in each of the referenced games against Washington so those outings were not as despicable in this particular sense. Just how rare is this situation? I put it through the ‘ol Stathead search and it turns out it has only happened 17 times in the last 20 years and change.
To be clear, these are instances (beginning with the most recent) where a team had no more than 197 total yards of offense and committed at least four turnovers on offense in the same game. You will note that the Cowboys are our most recent offering but that the third-most recent team to do it prior to Sunday was the 2015 Green Bay Packers. I wonder who coached them and called their offense! Hmm.
In case you are wondering, Aaron Rodgers did play quarterback for Green Bay that day, it was just a nightmare of a day for the Packers against a team that would actually go on to end their overall season a month later in the Divisional Round (we know that pain).
The purpose of this conversation isn’t to say that McCarthy is incredibly flawed because this very thing happened to him in recent memory. For what it’s worth, the team that McCarthy’s groups are sandwiching here are the 2017 Cleveland Browns who became the second team in NFL history to go 0-16 on the regular season so even if McCarthy weren’t involved twice it is not stellar company to be in.
McCarthy has a lot of history to support himself as a great play-caller so picking this one tiny example is hardly fair to him, but given that the Cowboys offense has not taken off with him calling the shots this season these sort of things tend to feel a little bit louder than they otherwise would. It is one thing to not be Kyle Shanahan, but right now, McCarthy’s group looks incapable of doing anything functionally and that is highly concerning.