It has been said many times that Mike McCarthy is on a hot seat in 2023. This is not a popular thing to say out loud, but on the surface this assertion is really quite silly. McCarthy’s Dallas Cowboys have improved each season under his leadership and guidance, the first season of 2020 was obviously thwarted by the Dak Prescott injury, and in the process he has done a lot of things that the franchise had not done for about a quarter century.
We noted that the Cowboys were a playoff team in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006-2007 and that they won double-digit games in back-to-back campaigns for the first time since 1995-1996. Needless to say, McCarthy knocked the cobwebs off of a lot of participation trophies.
The subject of McCarthy and the upcoming 2023 season was a big focus of the latest episode of The Ocho on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. You can listen to the episode right above here or on the BTB podcast network as a whole where you can get access to all of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Back to the subject, the pressure surrounding McCarthy is ultimately understandable. While it is unfair to hold him responsible for all of the sins of the past, he is the head coach in the here and now. It is his job to take this organization where it has not been since Marvin Harrison (the elder) was in college.
If he does not then history in the Jerry Jones era suggests change could be coming.
It is not common for head coaches to reach a fifth year in the Jerry Jones era
There are a lot of misconceptions about who Jerry Jones is as a general manager or who the Dallas Cowboys are present day with him holding that title. National narratives often believe that Jerry is still the free-wheeling wildcat who will spend all sorts of money on every free agent to improve the roster. Anybody who believes this has not been paying any real attention for a decade and change now.
A lot of the “McCarthy is on the hot seat” buzz is drawn from this same well, though. People believe that Jerry will make a change because Jerry Jones and the Cowboys and whatever other else the hype machine spits out.
If we are honest though, Mike McCarthy is indeed entering a precarious year with the Cowboys despite his recent success with the team. Do you know how many coaches have reached a fifth year with the Cowboys in the Jerry Jones era (1989)? The list is not long.
Before I tell you the answer we should offer a disclaimer and note that the first coach of the era did reach five years and that it was obviously Jimmy Johnson; however, winning two Super Bowls immediately makes the situation a bit unique and (oh I don’t know) deserving of high accolades like (just making this up here) Ring of Honor membership. A different day.
If we acknowledge Johnson as an outlier of sorts, the list is obviously even shorter so I will ask the question again: Do you know how many non-Jimmy Johnson head coaches have reached a fifth season with the Dallas Cowboys? The answer is one and it was Jason Garrett.
Length of each head coach’s tenure with the Dallas Cowboys in the Jerry Jones era
- Jimmy Johnson, 1989-1993, 5 total years (our admitted exception)
- Barry Switzer, 1994-1997, 4 total years
- Chan Gailey, 1998-1999, 2 total years
- Dave Campo, 2000-2002, 3 total years
- Bill Parcells, 2003-2006, 4 total years
- Wade Phillips, 2007-2010, 3 years and change before getting fired
- Jason Garrett, 2011-2019, 9 total years
Parcells is a bit of an exception as well if we are honest given that he walked away before what would have been a fifth year. Like McCarthy, he too joined the Cowboys as a head coach with experience winning the Super Bowl elsewhere. But as you can see it is sort of a rare thing for a head coach to reach a fifth year with this team with Jerry Jones in charge unless they are a chosen son of the organization in the way that Jason Garrett was. And even then Garrett’s fourth season of 2014 was a massive success that sort of justified the belief over the first three years,. It coincidentally ended at the hands of McCarthy.
It should certainly be said that the Cowboys were mostly mediocre between Johnson and Parcells so the frequency of change sort of explains itself. The closest comparison for McCarthy here though may actually be Wade Phillips in terms of success with the team. Phillips’ Cowboys were coming off of a Wild Card Round win in 2009 before he was fired midway through the 2010 season, again after a loss to Mike McCarthy of all people.
Many believed in a conspiracy theory sort of way that this was because the Cowboys ultimately wanted to usher in the Garrett era. History felt like it was on the verge of repeating itself there recently with Kellen Moore serving in the place of a modern day Garrett, but with him now in Los Angeles the poetry will not be fully realized. There is no real precedent for this situation, especially given the benchmarks that McCarthy has cleared as of late, as low as they might be for this specific franchise.
So what does this all really mean? Nothing. Or everything. Or something in between. History tells us that if you are a Dallas Cowboys head coach with Jerry Jones running the team that you are really unlikely to see a fifth year with the club.
But history has not really mattered all too much to Mike McCarthy during his time here.
Hopefully it doesn’t in this particular way either.