Cowboys Making The Same Mistake With Mike McCarthy They Did With Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders
Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders / Kara Durrette/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys have defied conventional wisdom and are bringing back Mike McCarthy as the team's head coach. When the news came across the wire Wednesday night, I audibly gasped. For some reason, despite a loaded list of potential replacements, Jerry Jones has embraced the mediocrity of McCarthy's tenure. He's making the same mistake he made with Jason Garrett.

In his four seasons as the Cowboys' head coach, McCarthy is 42-25 in the regular season. He has posted three straight 12-5 seasons, and has two NFC East titles in that time. But he's 1-2 in the postseason, and is coming off a 48-32 home loss to a Green Bay Packers team that wasn't even expected to be in the playoffs. McCarthy is using the same script he had for most of his tenure as the head coach in Green Bay: do great in the regular season, flame out in the playoffs.

McCarthy was the head guy in Green Bay for 13 seasons. He made the playoffs nine times and had a run of making it nine times in 10 years from 2007 through the 2016 season. He won more than one game in the postseason twice -- in 2010 when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, and in 2016 when they were drubbed by the Atlanta Falcons 44-21 in the NFC title game. Despite having Aaron Rodgers in his prime surrounded by largely loaded rosters, McCarthy's teams regularly flopped in the playoffs.

Sound familiar?

We know who Mike McCarthy is. He's been the same guy for more than a decade. He won a Super Bowl in February of 2011 and never lived up to the billing in the postseason again.

Jones allows himself to get too attached to head coaches. In 2010 he hired former Cowboys backup quarterback and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett as his head coach. Garrett took over as interim head coach midway through the 2010 season. In his first three full seasons from 2011 through 2013, the Cowboys went 24-24. Jones kept him around, and was rewarded when Dallas went 12-4 in 2014 and won the NFC East. Unfortunately, they bombed out of the postseason, losing in the Divisional Round to the Packers ... who were coached by (checks notes...) Mike McCarthy.

Garrett went 4-12 in 2015 and should have been fired. Jones kept him. In 2016, the Cowboys went 13-3, won the NFC East and had the top seed in the NFC. Then in their opening playoff game they lost to the Packers who were coached by (checks notes...) Mike McCarthy. In 2017, Dallas went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. In 2018 they went 10-6, won the NFC East and lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round. Garrett had them back to 8-8 in 2019 and was finally fired.

Jones knew who Garrett was by 2015. He was a mediocre coach who was never going to have a high level of success in the postseason. But he kept bringing him back expecting a different result. He's doing the same thing with McCarthy.

The Cowboys have a loaded roster, and there are a number of outstanding head coaching candidates available. Jim Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel are all there, plus a guy like Ben Johnson who looks like the next great coordinator-to-head coach hire. There are others too. If the Dallas job opened up, it would almost certainly be the most desirable NFL gig available. Instead, Jones looked at that landscape, then looked at his bumbling current head coach and said, "Nah, I'm good." It's crazy.

What's going on in Dallas is no longer a Mike McCarthy problem. It's a Jerry Jones problem.