Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner wrote on Twitter that he had “NO idea what [the Cowboys] are doing in this game” and wondered about their “coaching mistakes.” Former NFL offensive lineman Damien Woody was even more succinct, writing: “Mike McCarthy is just awful.”
McCarthy defended the coaching maneuvers, calling the fake punt “a solid call” and labeling the fourth-and-one pass “a good play call” against one-on-one defensive coverage.
“You obviously understand on fourth-down calls what your options are,” McCarthy said. “You either convert or you don’t convert. ... There’s flow of the game. All those things are factored into the decision. I’m very confident in our players, put them in position to make big plays.”
Few seemed to agree.
“As I have been saying all year. Dallas fired a weak coaching staff and actually got much worse,” former Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns executive Joe Banner wrote on Twitter.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hired McCarthy, the former Super Bowl-winning coach for the Green Bay Packers, after firing Jason Garrett following last season. The Cowboys dropped to 3-8 with Thursday’s defeat, and there already has been some speculation that McCarthy could be one-and-done in Dallas.
Injuries to quarterback Dak Prescott and others have contributed heavily to the Cowboys’ woes. The offensive line became further depleted during Thursday’s game with injuries to starting tackles Zack Martin and Cameron Erving. The Cowboys played with heavy hearts after the death Wednesday of Markus Paul, the team’s strength and conditioning coordinator.
But McCarthy’s coaching missteps Thursday were a reminder that next to nothing that he has tried in his first season in Dallas has worked.
“Obviously the result wasn’t what we were looking for,” he said during his postgame video news conference of the failed fourth-down pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. “I think everyone [saw] what happened on the play. Those are plays that you look to create opportunities. It was a good play call. We had one on one on the outside. We just didn’t convert.”
McCarthy similarly stood his ground on the fake punt.
“As those things go, obviously it’s ultimately my responsibility, particularly when a play like that doesn’t work,” he said. “But we were trying to generate a big play at that point in the game. The information that you look for going into it, it was a solid call.”
To McCarthy, it was a nothing-ventured, nothing-gained proposition.
“You won’t get anywhere if you’re thinking about negatives all the time,” McCarthy said. “Obviously it was a solid play call. It’s a good play design. Their gunner made a good play, came off of it. ... You can never convert them, obviously, if you don’t call them, if you don’t believe in them. So I clearly understood the situation when it was called.”