Jay Glazer brought us the biggest scoop of the 2020 offseason thus far when he reported the Dallas Cowboys would hire Mike McCarthy as their new head coach after (finally) officially letting go of Jason Garrett. To say the Cowboys needed a change would probably be a bit of an understatement after Garrett's decade at the helm was mostly mediocre. But was McCarthy the right hire?
The short answer is no. The former Packers leader does have a championship resume and posted only three losing seasons in 12 years in Green Bay. No head coach has more playoff wins since 2006 other than Bill Belichick. Unlike Garrett, he not only knows what it takes to go deep into January, he also has experience winning those games. While nobody outside of the Lambeau facilities can say for sure how much, he does deserve a modicum of credit for helping develop Aaron Rodgers into the world-destroying machine he was for much of this decade. He's proven to at least be a capable offensive mind who gets his best weapons involved in the gameplan.
But McCarthy went a combined 11-16-1 in his last two seasons with Rodgers as his quarterback. He has several notable, borderline inexplicable playoff failures since the 2010 Super Bowl win (losing to the 9-7 Giants, at home, as a 15-1 team in 2011 comes to mind). His conservative play-calling cost the Packers at crucial times, including the infamous 2014 NFC Conference Championship against the Seahawks, where he continually ran the ball and kicked field goals several times on fourth-and-goal.
The narrative will be that McCarthy is coming to Dallas to get the most out of a talented offense. But it's not like Garrett wasn't doing anything with the tools he was given; the Cowboys ranked first in total yards per game, second in passing yards, and fifth in rushing yards in 2019. They averaged 27.1 points per game. They didn't come up big when it mattered most against good teams, but from a pure production standpoint, that isn't really the issue. McCarthy is coming in to ensure the team doesn't fold when they go up against coaches smart enough to make things difficult for them. Given McCarthy's recent history, it's reasonable to question if he can do that any better than Garrett.
Much of the Garrett criticism stemmed from his inability to get the most out of a talented roster and below-average in-game management. McCarthy may yet be able to do what Garrett couldn't in regards to the former, but he isn't any sort of upgrade when it comes to the latter. How good of a leader McCarthy will be is also worth questioning, considering how he departed Green Bay in the bad graces of his starting quarterback.
Simply put, it will be difficult for the Cowboys' offense to be substantially better than they were last season. McCarthy's impact will come during the biggest games, when the lights are brightest and the pressure is on. McCarthy's Super Bowl ring proves he has done it, but the ensuing six-and-a-half seasons provided a rather substantial amount of evidence that he can't be relied upon to do it consistently. Fresh blood at head coach was needed, but this move feels like a step sideways instead of a step forward.