clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys' big moves creating a make-or-break scenario for Mike McCarthy

Dallas’ offseason aggression will eventually hit the head coach if the team doesn’t produce.

NFL Combine Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have already attacked the 2023 offseason with more ferocity than in recent years. While it’s a welcome sight for a beleaguered fanbase, and for head coach Mike McCarthy, it might be making him squirm just a little. If the Cowboys don’t have what they’d consider a successful season, McCarthy is going to have a hard time justifying his continued employment.

It began with the decision to dump Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator and turn play-calling duties over to McCarthy. While it was described as a “mutual parting” by the team, the choice to give more offensive control to McCarthy suggests that Moore didn’t really have a choice. This was about McCarthy trying to make sure someone else’s mistakes didn’t cost him a job.

Then we have yesterday’s big decision to release running back Ezekiel Elliott. While it certainly made sense objectively, Jerry Jones isn’t known for being objective when it comes to his favorite players. His glowing comments about Zeke yesterday spoke to just how much Jones loved Elliott and how hard that decision was.

But desperate to see his team finally play beyond mid-January again, Jones pulled the trigger to free up cap space and find better uses for the money. With rumors still swirling about Dallas’ pursuit of a big-name wide receiver, it indicates the Cowboys are trying to give McCarthy what he needs to run his style of offense.

While the fifth-round pick traded for CB Stephon Gilmore wasn’t a huge loss, taking on about a $10 million cap hit was no small thing. It also shows Dallas is willing to admit that neither Kelvin Joseph nor Nahshon Wright, Day 2 draft picks in 2021, aren’t ready to help them win in their third seasons. It’s a major shift from the “we like our guys” mentality that we’ve seen the Cowboys operate under for a while now.

Between these moves, contract restructures for guys like Tyron Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence, the bold decision to re-sign Donovan Wilson, and more, the Cowboys are taking a more “all-in” approach about the 2023 season than we’re used to. That’s good news for those desperate for that sixth Super Bowl, or at least a return to the NFC Championship Game, but it puts the burden of accountability on McCarthy.

He is still trying to prove he was a significant upgrade from Jason Garrett. Winning the NFC East every 2-3 years and early playoff exits? That’s where the Cowboys have been idling for a decade. There’s no clear indication yet that McCarthy has moved past that as the head coach.

The Jones family didn’t dump Garrett, whose relationship with the organization goes back over 30 years, for nothing. They didn’t just cut one of the most beloved players in modern franchise history without some real pain. They’re trusting McCarthy to produce something special with these decisions and will react viscerally if he doesn’t do it soon.

The notion that 2023 is a make-or-break season for Mike McCarthy was already out there, but the Cowboys’ approach to this offseason is now affirming it. While they’re saying all the right things publicly about McCarthy’s job security and their belief in him, the front office won’t be satisfied with another lackluster finish. And now that he’s gotten rid of Kellen Moore, McCarthy is the one left holding the bag if this season ends in disappointment.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys