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Why New Cowboys Coach Mike McCarthy Makes Sense in Dallas

The former Packers coach wore out his welcome in Green Bay, but he’ll inherit one of the best rosters in football and is saying all the right things

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At long last, the Cowboys have moved on from Jason Garrett and landed on their head coach of the future. Jerry Jones has hired Mike McCarthy, according to Fox’s Jay Glazer. The former Packers head coach and Super Bowl XLV champion brings exactly what Dallas was reportedly looking for: extensive pro experience and a longtime record of success.

McCarthy’s hiring will raise eyebrows. The Packers went 11-16-1 in his final two seasons as head coach, and ascended to a 13-3 record and no. 2 seed this season by embracing a makeover under new head coach Matt LaFleur. For his last few years in Green Bay, McCarthy was seen as wasting Aaron Rodgers. But once Jones decided he had his man, he wouldn’t take no for an answer:

McCarthy overstayed his welcome after 13 seasons in Green Bay, but he is set up for immediate success in Dallas, which has one of the best rosters in football. The move is reminiscent of the Chiefs’ decision to hire former Eagles head coach Andy Reid in 2013. Reid had grown stale in Philadelphia, but his track record was excellent, and he turned Kansas City into a winner in his first season at the helm. Jones surely hopes McCarthy can do the same for Dallas.

McCarthy isn’t the innovator that Reid is, but he sounds ready to remake himself. In a series of interviews with NBC’s Peter King in December, McCarthy said he’d want to go all in on analytics for his next gig. He reportedly wants a “14-person Football Technology Department, including a six-person video unit and an eight-person analytics team,” according to King. He also talked extensively about how he wants to run a fast, modern offense with plenty of play-action, run-pass options, pre-snap motion, and other modern wrinkles. It’s exactly what McCarthy didn’t do enough of in Green Bay—and exactly what a head-coaching candidate should be talking about these days.

“We got away from motion and shifts and multiple personnel groups that we used in the past,” McCarthy told King. “So you look at the why … and quite frankly you apply it to the next opportunity.”

McCarthy’s first big decision, though, will be what to do with the coaches already on the Cowboys staff. Before McCarthy was hired, Yahoo reporter Charles Robinson said that he thought McCarthy would be open to keeping some of the existing staff. The biggest name in that bunch is offensive coordinator and play-caller Kellen Moore. Moore, the youngest play-caller in the league, helped scheme Dallas to the second-best offense in the league by DVOA and made quarterback Dak Prescott a midseason MVP candidate. When McCarthy picked out a play to show King an example of what he wanted to do in his next coaching stint, he chose a Cowboys play. “The beauty of it,” he said. McCarthy called the plays for the majority of his tenure in Green Bay, but there’s a good chance Moore sticks around in Dallas.

And McCarthy’s offensive track record isn’t nearly as bad as you may remember. While he took heat for his team’s underperformance the past few seasons, the Packers actually ranked seventh in offensive DVOA in 2018. This year, with Sean McVay disciple LaFleur pulling the strings, the team has dropped to eighth. With Prescott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Ezekiel Elliott, and the most expensive offensive line in football, the Cowboys have the personnel to be an offensive juggernaut again in 2020.

It’s still a bit shocking that the Cowboys ended up with McCarthy. They could have had just about anyone they wanted, and rumored candidates included Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and even former Florida and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. Any of those guys would have made a much larger splash than McCarthy (or former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, whom the Cowboys also reportedly interviewed)—but at 77 years old, Jerry Jones is looking to add a Super Bowl ring to his collection as soon as possible. That may explain why he prioritized a candidate with previous experience.

The pressure on McCarthy and the Cowboys will be immense. Dallas was the no. 6 team in overall DVOA—yet it finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs, as big of an underperformance as any team in recent memory. The expectation will be for the Cowboys to compete for a Super Bowl immediately. One thing’s for sure: McCarthy won’t get a decade to putz around like Jason Garrett did.