The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Mike McCarthy hire makes sense for the Cowboys. But it’s not quite a home run.

Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy is taking over the Cowboys. (Ben Margot/AP)

The Dallas Cowboys wanted a coach capable of getting them back to the Super Bowl. Mike McCarthy’s résumé includes a Super Bowl win with the Green Bay Packers. So the pairing made sense, and things came together Monday when McCarthy agreed to a deal to become the Cowboys’ next coach.

The agreement came the day after the Cowboys finally announced they weren’t retaining Jason Garrett as their coach, one week after their bitterly disappointing season ended with a meaningless victory at home over the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys went 8-8 this season and missed the playoffs. Owner Jerry Jones and the team’s fans expected so much more in a season that began with Jones handing out a lucrative contract extension to running back Ezekiel Elliott to end Elliott’s holdout and get him on the field without further delay.

The McCarthy hiring certainly is sensible for Jones and the Cowboys. But it isn’t quite a home run. McCarthy was criticized for winning only one Super Bowl title in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. He was fired by the Packers late in the 2018 season amid speculation that his relationship with Rodgers wasn’t all that it could have been and with characterizations that his coaching methods had become stale and his offensive system had become outdated.

Whether any of that was true, and whether McCarthy agreed with any of it, he spent this season out of the league studying what he did, preparing for his next coaching chance and trying to make certain that his ways are keeping pace with today’s NFL. The Cowboys could be getting an updated version of McCarthy.

Even by this season’s Cowboys standards, Jerry Jones’s long farewell to Jason Garrett was odd

He will inherit a talent-laden roster capable of reaching the Super Bowl. Jones presumably will sign quarterback Dak Prescott to a handsome new contract. He could re-sign wide receiver Amari Cooper.

McCarthy, after coaching the NFL’s only publicly owned franchise in Green Bay, now works for a famously involved owner in Jones. He spent the weekend with Jones. He probably believes he has an idea what he is getting into, but there will be a learning curve for him in that respect.

The NFC East, so pitiable this season, should be improved in 2020. The Redskins hired Ron Rivera as their coach, and he should be a steadying influence in Washington. The New York Giants might be focused on landing Baylor’s Matt Rhule to replace their fired coach, Pat Shurmur. The Philadelphia Eagles won the division and dropped a close playoff game Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks despite losing starting quarterback Carson Wentz to a head injury in the first quarter. They’re a couple of seasons removed from a Super Bowl title under Coach Doug Pederson.

McCarthy is being given a lot in terms of talent. If everything comes together, the Cowboys are capable of being a top NFC contender next season. But much will be expected. The team hasn’t reached the Super Bowl since the 1995 season, and Jones seems increasingly fixated on getting back. The Cowboys never even reached the NFC title game in nine full seasons with Garrett as their coach. McCarthy has had plenty of NFL success, leading the Packers to eight straight playoff appearances at one point.

It might work. It might not. One thing is certain: It will be fascinating to watch.

Read more:

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From December: Jerry Jones found patience and made the Cowboys relevant again. But time’s running out.

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