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Gauging who is under the most pressure for the Cowboys heading into 2023

Who faces the most heat if the Cowboys fall short in 2023?

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL draft is in a few weeks, minicamps are around the corner, and before long, the start of a new season. The most optimistic time of the year is soon upon us. However, apologies if the way last year’s campaign ended hasn’t been forgotten and buried quite yet.

The fans are clamoring for, at the bare minimum, a trip to the NFC title game. A spot in that game has eluded the Dallas Cowboys for so long that it has become a joke in sports media and meme material. The team has made some changes and displayed a sense of urgency this offseason, but a bottom-line mindset demands the team delivers an NFC title game appearance at the least. Let’s assess by percentages who is under the most pressure to assure the team reaches that benchmark.

Jerry Jones 10%

If the owner and general manager weren’t one in the same, Jerry Jones admittedly said he would have fired himself years ago. The most valuable franchise in the world of sports prides itself on being the best show in town, but the last 26 years of mediocrity are more akin to Barnum and Bailey for the team’s pundits and a modern-day Greek tragedy for the most ardent of fans.

The Cowboys have had good enough teams on paper with enough components to compete over the last 15 years or so, but have continually fallen short. The fan’s despair reached its crescendo at the conclusion of another playoff disappointment in San Francisco.

It would also be difficult to dismiss the external pressure of the Philadelphia Eagles success last season. The Eagles were thought to be in cap hell a few years ago and seemingly were expected to be undertaking a rebuilding project. They nearly won another Super Bowl right under the turned-up noses of Jerry Jones and Cowboys brass, citing Philadelphia as having gone “all in”. Adding the sudden emergence of the New York Giants, the NFC East has become an arms race and Jones needs to do more.

Jones has seemingly restored a slender fellowship with the fans after trading for two established veterans last month in Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks. Yet, Jones needs to see that the time is now. He won’t fire myself. We know that, but Jones is 80 years old, and he has to feel the obligation to deliver something to the fans. We’re watching and waiting Mr. Jones.

Mike McCarthy 40%

Head coach Mike McCarthy should be used to critiques and sports columns discussing his job stability, entering his fourth season with the Cowboys. There’s been rumors of other coaches having an interest in the team. Not too long ago, Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton was rumored to be a favorite to replace Mike McCarthy, before agreeing to join Denver.

Plus, McCarthy no longer has Kellen Moore to take the burden for the failures of the offense when he was not retained by the team this offseason. McCarthy is expected to do more with a roster that has a quarterback entering his prime, a budding star at wide receiver while having to replace a popular locker room personality like Ezekiel Elliott and an offensive line we pray continues to develop and stay healthy.

Last season was the most turmoil the NFC conference has been in recent memory and the team could not cash in. McCarthy also has a contract set to soon expire and thrusting the offense back on his shoulders to manage increases the pressure. Admittedly, McCarthy has made a difference in his short time with the club as they have won a playoff game, made the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in since 2006-2007, winning 24 games in that span.

That latter of which is what may buy McCarthy more time if the team doesn’t make it to the NFC title game this year. Nevertheless, he’s got a formidable roster and has the distinction of being a Super Bowl-winning coach. Plus, you have to factor the mounting pressure of retaining a coaching staff with one of the best special teams’ coordinators in the league and the highly-coveted Dan Quinn. The embers under McCarthy’s seat are turning white for sure.

Dak Prescott 50%

Quarterback Dak Prescott is undeniably under more pressure than anyone associated with this franchise. Caught in between an ownership group that hasn’t extended a new contract and a rabid fanbase that wants results right now, Prescott is under the microscope more than he ever has been. The fans are starving for success and Prescott is who they are counting on to deliver it.

Everyone understands it’s a team sport and teams win championships, not individuals. Yet, unfair as it seems, heavy is the head the wears the crown in Dallas, but Prescott is thought by some to be unworthy of wielding the scepter. The advanced analytics, which are in his favor, won’t suffice for the growing legion of his detractors.

Of course, he deserves credit for beating the Buccaneers and effectively sending Brady into a rocking chair, but that’s not enough to satiate a fanbase longing for something beyond the divisional round. A turnover plagued year was brushed aside until his two interceptions against the 49ers in the postseason.

Granted the team was lacking playmaking help at wide receiver; the team has addressed that issue and acquired Brandin Cooks for minimal draft capital. You can argue that Dak now has enough weapons to perhaps play his best football yet. Say what you will about diminishing returns from the recently released Ezekiel Elliott, but with him no longer there the Cowboys are truly buying into a new identity with Prescott firmly at the helm. It’s Prescott’s time to be the head chef of this offense with the new ingredients he’s been given to work with, but the heat coming his way is scorching if the team can’t yield different results.

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