The Dallas Cowboys have decided to hang on to head coach Mike McCarthy for at least another year. It’s a tricky situation as the team has done well during the regular season in recent years, but when they get to the postseason, the Cowboys are still singing that same ol’ disappointing tune.
We all have our own opinions about McCarthy. We know he has a Lombardi Trophy sitting somewhere in his den. Nobody can ever take that away from him. But Cowboys fans don’t care about that. It’s that second trophy we are interested in as he’s brought his championship pedigree to Dallas. But when will that happen? McCarthy’s latest playoff debacle has us wondering if it’s ever truly coming. And when you start to look at what he’s done in the playoffs since his Super Bowl win, it isn’t all that great. Today, we’ll examine a few factors that could paint an unflattering picture for the Cowboys head coach.
PAST SUCCESS DOESN’T EQUAL FUTURE SUCCESS
Winning a Super Bowl is great. Once you achieve this feat as a head coach, you’re immediately propelled into legendary status. And even when that luster starts to wear off, a head coach is still viewed as a hot commodity.
Such is the case with McCarthy. His success in Green Bay culminating in a Super Bowl victory in AT&T Stadium back in 2010 was all Jerry Jones needed to make him his guy. But as we’ve seen before, success with one team doesn’t translate to success with another.
Bill Parcells won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants before retiring. After a two-year hiatus, Parcells returned to the NFL and gave it another go with three different teams, the New England Patriots (Super Bowl), the New York Jets (AFC Championship), and even the Cowboys (Wild Card). He led all three of those teams to the playoffs, but never again would he win another Super Bowl.
Other coaches have given it a go as well. Mike Dikta led the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl win in 1985, and then later coached the New Orleans Saints to three straight losing seasons. Kyle’s dad, Mike Shanahan, won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, only to be fired by Dan Snyder after a 3-13 season with that dumpster-fire Washington team. Even Jimmy Johnson spent four seasons with the Miami Dolphins, taking them to the playoffs three times, but never could he repeat the remarkable success he had in Dallas.
Every situation is different. This is not to say McCarthy can’t be that guy, but just remember, many before have tried to be that guy, and weren’t.
PACKERS WERE RIGHT IN GETTING RID OF MCCARTHY
Since every situation is different, it’s hard to know if firing a head coach was the right choice until there is more evidence available. For the Cowboys, they are coming off of three straight 12-5 seasons. Twice they won the division, the other time they got into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Before McCarthy arrived in Dallas, the Cowboys were on an every-other-year playoff schedule, so this seems like an obvious upgrade over their previous coach Jason Garrett.
Under Garrett’s reign, the Cowboys were always a good team, but never good enough. McCarthy was brought in to be a difference-maker in the postseason. Oddly enough, that postseason success hasn’t shown up.
- Last six years under Garrett, three playoff appearances, three Divisional Round losses
- Last four years under McCarthy, three playoff appearances, one Divisional Round loss, and two Wild Card losses
When it comes to performing in the postseason, McCarthy’s Cowboys are actually worse.
Adding insult to injury is the success of McCarthy’s successor in Green Bay, Matt LaFleur. Since taking over in 2019, he started with three straight 13-3 seasons and has taken the Packers to the playoffs in four of his five seasons.
- Last five years under LaFleur, four playoff appearances, two Conference Championship losses, and two Divisional Round losses
LaFleur’s Packers just recently destroyed the Cowboys so we don’t need to be reminded of how well he’s done with them. Whether McCarthy is right for Dallas remains to be determined, but the jury has spoken in Green Bay, and moving from McCarthy to LaFleur was the right choice.
A LOST OPPORTUNITY WITH AARON RODGERS
McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have been the center of conversations as to which one played the biggest role in Green Bay’s success. The same debate occurred with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady before Brady won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay while the Patriots franchise slowly started to sink. As it turns out, quarterbacks are pretty important.
Like Brady, Rodgers is a future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback. But unlike Brady, Rodgers only has one championship to his name. McCarthy and Rodgers were together in Green Bay for 11 seasons, but all they could muster up was one Super Bowl victory. That seems a little underachieving if McCarthy is truly a great coach. To be fair, neither has made it back to the big stage without the other, so this one is not as cut and dry as the Brady/Belichick dilemma. Regardless, it seems like a wasted opportunity for McCarthy and it doesn’t inspire confidence that McCarthy’s Cowboys faltered in the playoffs after Dak Prescott put together an All-Pro season.
MCCARTHY UNDERWHELMS IN THE POSTSEASON
We all know that McCarthy won a Super Bowl with the Packers, but that was 13 years ago. There’s a lot of football that has been played between now and then and when you sit down and start looking at what McCarthy has done since, it’s a little puzzling.
There’s no question he’s been a regular-season beast, but so have the Cowboys if we think about it. Both teams are one of the more successful regular-season teams over the past two decades. If you were to look at the 13 seasons from 2006 to 2018 when McCarthy coached the Packers, you might be surprised to find how close the Cowboys and Packers are.
- Packers = 125 regular season wins
- Cowboys = 120 regular season wins
So, the real separator has to be the playoffs, right? But if you look at what’s happened since their Super Bowl win in 2010, it has been a little underwhelming. Yes, they have made it to the Conference Championship twice where the Cowboys haven’t, but coincidentally it came after beating our Cowboys in heartbreaking losses. Outside of those big wins, Green Bay has had its fair share of playoff disappointments as well.
Remember what happened after beating the Cowboys in 2016 on a last-second field goal?
With the right to go to the Super Bowl on the line, Mike McCarthy's Packers come out flat and fall behind 31-0 to Dan Quinn's Falcons. They were donezo by halftime.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) January 21, 2024
This was Mike McCarthy's last playoff game as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. pic.twitter.com/jSBrfV7al5
Or what about after beating Dallas in 2014 after that whole Dez no-catch fiasco?
Mike McCarthy's Packers were up 16-0 late in the 3rd quarter.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) January 21, 2024
Dan Quinn's Seahawks defense held Green Bay's top-scoring offense to one TD and 5 Mason Crosby FGs to give them a fighting chance to stay in the game.
The winner goes to the Super Bowl.
The Packers lost this game. pic.twitter.com/6AYCWnISyk
The year after winning the Super Bowl in 2011, the Packers finished 15-1 and had the top seed in the NFC, only to get bounced right away when they got smoked 37-20 by the New York Giants.
When you think about it, McCarthy’s last eight seasons in Green Bay look very similar to his first four seasons in Dallas.
- Makes playoffs 75% of the time (6/8 in Green Bay, 3/4 in Dallas)
- Comes out flat, falls into deep holes, and gets embarrassed
- In close games, they find a way to squander it
The only thing McCarthy has done well over his last eight seasons with the Packers is beat the Cowboys. And now that he’s with the Cowboys, it’s like he’s brought that same playoff purgatory to Dallas. McCarthy hasn’t changed our playoff luck, he’s sustained it.