On paper, the Cowboys made the most logical decision in the history of Jerry Jones coaching hires Monday. But remove the paper and turn on the microscope and question marks hover just beyond one's focus.
I will give the club credit for hiring Mike McCarthy as the franchise's ninth head football coach. He's a man who became accustomed to taking teams to the playoffs (eight straight seasons, nine out of 13), while in Green Bay and he already knows what it's like to not only hoist a Lombardi Trophy but to do it in AT&T Stadium.
The two big college names that have been kicked around here as potential replacements for Jason Garrett - Urban Meyer and Lincoln Riley - were complete unknowns in the NFL world. That might be a lot less of a factor today than it was 20 years ago as the two games have grown in similarity, but the Cowboys chose not to go that route or perhaps were informed once again that Riley is doing just fine living in Norman, Okla.
If you were going to seek someone with actual NFL experience, the available coach who has most recently won a Super Bowl was McCarthy. That's assuming you don't consider 73-year-old Tom Coughlin as available. McCarthy is 56, won the Super Bowl right here against Pittsburgh nine seasons ago, and that's where we see both the reason for hiring him and the beginning of so many questions about him.
That Packers team was hailed for being the most injured team ever to win a Super Bowl. They had 16 players on injured reserve at season's end. Mostly they had a rifle-armed 27-year-old quarterback named Aaron Rodgers, and so it seemed a healthier future would be full of cheeseheads at Super Bowls.
It hasn't happened since. Yes, the club made the playoffs on a regular basis but reached the NFC Championship Game just twice in McCarthy's last eight years. They got blown out by Atlanta in the 2016 season and lost in overtime in Seattle in 2014, the week after the "Dez Catch" play eliminated the Cowboys in Green Bay. That particular championship game is not viewed as one of McCarthy's great days, kicking field goals twice from the 1-yard line, letting his team give up the ball to give Seattle a final chance to push the game into overtime.
It could have been the beginning of the fractured relationship between Rodgers and McCarthy although some believe that it went back much further. Without a doubt, McCarthy was viewed as a successful coach, but not one to push the envelope or to bring imagination to his game plans.
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If you want to say he was Jason Garrett with a better quarterback, be my guest.
After missing the playoffs the last two years and then being fired, McCarthy at least realized how his deficiencies were viewed. In an interview with NBC's Peter King this season, he made it clear he was developing his own analytics department to bring new data to the game. Perhaps that was one of the things that impressed the Joneses, who just rid themselves of a coach who never spoke highly of analytics or the more modern viewpoint of how to manage a football game.
People can change. People can learn. If that's what's happening here, then maybe the Cowboys have just made the hire to push their team back in front of Philadelphia to the top of the NFC East.
To think it's more than that is to place head coaches far too high on the credit/blame game in the NFL. It's a surprising hire to me just because of the conventional nature of it. It doesn't feel like a home run, something to make the fan base go "wow" and I thought this was the time that Jones would be desperate to make such a move.
How much did the Cowboys explore the rift between Rodgers and McCarthy? It could not have been much at all. Given that it was passive-aggressive by nature, very little in the form of unkind words being spoken publicly by either party, it would have taken considerable time to figure out what that was all about, whether that represented a real coaching flaw or just two guys' frustration over the failure to follow up the Packers' Super Bowl success.
As conventional and boring as it might be, I should add that the last time I was surprised by a local owner making such a predictable hire, it was Mark Cuban bringing Rick Carlisle to town.
Given that he's still here a dozen years later and the only man to bring a championship to Dallas in that time, let's not assume McCarthy can't eventually help deliver what the Cowboys have missed for nearly a quarter of a century.
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