Mike McCarthy's tenure with the Dallas Cowboys didn't start smoothly at all. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing major restrictions across the NFL in 2020, McCarthy didn't get to see the team in person until August, as everything was done virtually. A season-ending ankle injury to quarterback Dak Prescott didn't help either as the Cowboys finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Once the 2021 campaign rolled around, McCarthy got another shot to show the prowess he exhibited during his days with the Green Bay Packers, where he won a Super Bowl in 2010. The Cowboys won the NFC East by compiling a 12-5 record. During that season McCarthy was able to come up with a game plan to make up for Prescott missing a game against the Minnesota Vikings which they won with backup quarterback Cooper Rush. Unfortunately, the Cowboys didn't win a playoff game as they were knocked out at home in the first round against the San Francisco 49ers.
Perhaps McCarthy’s best coaching job in Dallas came in 2022. Prescott suffered a fractured thumb during the Cowboys' season-opening loss to the Tampa Buccaneers. However, McCarthy kept the team together during his five-game absence as they went 4-1 during that span with Rush. It shouldn’t be overlooked how difficult it is to win that much without your starting signal-caller, and left tackle Tyron Smith only playing in four regular-season games didn't make things any easier. Dallas went 12-5 again and ended Tom Brady's career on the road in the playoffs, only to fall to the 49ers again a week later.
The Cowboys had high hopes for rookie linebacker DeMarvion Overshown this season, but he tore his ACL during the preseason. Also, All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs suffered the same fate before the Cowboys Week 3 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. Despite these major blows, the Cowboys are currently 10-4 and sit atop the NFC East and have an outside shot at the conference's top seed, although it's highly unlikely. Dallas has clinched a playoff spot for the third straight year, making it the first time they've had a streak that long since they went six consecutive seasons from 1991 to 1996.
McCarthy also put his reputation as a play-caller on the line this season after former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who was the architect of multiple top-ranked offenses during his time with the Cowboys, went to the Los Angeles Chargers. Despite some early offensive struggles, McCarthy has the Cowboys ranked sixth in total offense and second in points per game (30.8) under his command. He's been known for being great with quarterbacks, and Prescott is playing the best football of his career and is right in the thick of the NFL MVP race. Safe to say, the man just knows how to coach.
Of course, making the Cowboys contenders in the NFC every season is great because the bottom line is to give yourself a chance by making the postseason. However, McCarthy has to take the next step and get the Cowboys past the second round of the playoffs, something they haven't done since their last Super Bowl campaign in 1995. So, there's still work to be done on McCarthy's part because it's about winning titles in Dallas, but the job he's done so far should be respected, especially with some of the obstacles he's been dealt with.