Cowboys fans are of two minds at the start of this offseason. On one hand, there is a great disappointment in failing in the playoffs once again. Dallas was unable to move past the Divisional Round of the playoffs, and looked to have the same issues against a tough San Francisco 49ers team again. The long drought of being unable to reach the Conference Championship game continues on, let alone reaching a Super Bowl.
On the other hand for Cowboys fans, the team is coming off back-to-back 12-win seasons and they actually won a playoff game this time, and that was on the road. The team features a fierce defense that got its leader back, Dan Quinn, after there was serious worry he would leave for a head-coaching gig elsewhere. It’s not like the cupboard is exactly empty in Dallas.
This lead to conflicting takes on the Cowboys. Internally, the take was that offensive coordinator Kellen Moore had to go, and head coach Mike McCarthy needed to take over the play-calling on offense. That basically puts all the eggs in McCarthy’s basket and there will be nowhere for him to hide in 2023. It’s totally his offense now.
McCarthy is heading into what feels like a make-or-break season for him. He technically has two years left on his contract, but no one likes to have a lame duck coach. Jerry Jones will probably need to decide whether to continue on with the McCarthy Experiment after 2023, or cut bait and move in a new direction.
That puts the pressure squarely on McCarthy’s shoulders, and in the new ESPN Power Rankings, that is exactly how they describe it.
2022 record: 12-5
Offseason in three or fewer words: Pressure on McCarthy
This was the case in 2022 as well. But now Mike McCarthy enters a season in which he will call plays and have more say in the offense than he ever has. He will have a retooled offensive staff and potential changes in personnel on that side of the ball. He has won 24 games in the past two seasons and took the Cowboys a step further in the 2022 playoffs, but heading into the second-to-last year of his contract, McCarthy will need to have his best season, and that work starts in the offseason. — Todd Archer
The Cowboys are still thought of as one of the top contenders in the NFL at this point, before we’ve seen what happens in free agency and the draft. Those two events can definitely alter the perception of a team, but as of now the Cowboys are a comfortable #6 in the rankings.
Their divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, are #2 in the rankings, the spot they finished this year after losing in the Super Bowl to the Kansas City Chiefs. The New York Giants are #15, representing the belief that they were not a particularly strong playoff team for the 2022 season even though they pulled off an upset win in the playoffs. The Washington Commanders are in the NFC East rear at #18.
The NFC East having all four teams in the top 18 of the NFL in these power rankings represents a new-found respect for the division after some hard times. Winning the division won’t be easy in 2023, and the pressure is really on Mike McCarthy to get there, or at least to make the playoffs as a wild card. Even that probably won’t be enough as the Cowboys need to see a Conference Championship game or it will feel like treading water, again.