7 KEY QUESTIONS THAT WILL DETERMINE THE OUTCOME OF THE 2020-21 SEASON PART 5
BY ADAM GREENE
When Mike McCarthy’s tenure has head coach of the Green Bay Packers came to an inglorious end in 2018 and that should have been the last we would see of him in the NFL. His inept play design, play calling and head coaching had cost the Packers countless championships and squandered the best years of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career.
McCarthy was definably bad, mocked by his quarterback, who once said he held the lowest football IQ of any human for which he’d ever played.
McCarthy, rightly, was passed over for every open job in the NFL in 2019 and it should have stayed that way, with him sitting on his couch, planning his next trip to the Golden Corral and strategizing exactly how terribly he would destroy the men’s room there after his fourth strip steak dipped in the chocolate fountain.
Alas, Jerry Jones stepped in and saved the buffet style restaurant chain’s cleaning budget a few thousand bucks by hiring McCarthy, perhaps the only coach he interviewed that would not be an upgrade over the departed Jason Garrett.
McCarthy has now been handed the most talented roster across the board he’s ever coached. While you might take Aaron Rodgers in his prime over Dak Prescott, certainly no other offensive starter on those elite Packers teams that McCarthy always led to a grinding halt in the playoffs would come close to the rest of Dallas’ offensive roster.
At worst, the best Packers defense under McCarthy would be a push in comparison to the unit the Cowboys will put on the field in 2020.
Still, this was a team that underperformed in 2019, which is why Garrett was tossed down the Pit of Despair. He would eventually land as the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants. Or, you know, the Pit of Even More Despair.
The Cowboys finished 8-8, in spite of an elite season from Prescott, where he completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 picks. He is now in his prime, playing the best football of his life (when he was already playing at a pretty high level from Day One) and, like Rodgers before him, been handed to one of the worst playcallers and play designers in the sport.
How bad was McCarthy at playcalling? So bad that many times Rodgers would overrule his call in the huddle and literally draw up plays in the dirt.
What happened with the Packers after they fired McCarthy? With virtually the same roster McCarthy had in 2018 that finished 6-9-1, new head coach Matt LaFleaur went 13-3 and made it all the way to the NFC Championship. It was, mathematically, a 6.5 win improvement just by replacing McCarthy with a competent coach.
So, Dallas now has to answer the question…
5. Can Mike McCarthy push the Dallas Cowboys over the hump?
It depends on the hump of which you speak. Can the Cowboys do better than 8-8? With their roster and schedule, facing the AFC North, that answer is “probably.” A 9-7 record could make the playoffs. A 10-6 record is all but sure to qualify with each conference adding a seventh playoff seed. Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper are three of the best players at their positions in football and they could, individually, take over any game at any time and lead the team to victory.
Is the hump a playoff berth? Then, yes, as he did with the Packers and Rodgers, he can ride the talent of his squad to the bare minimum of regular season victories to secure a postseason spot.
Is the hump the Super Bowl? It’s possible, but would only happen in spite of McCarthy. It would take an otherworldly performance from Prescott, all while his head coach drags him down from the sidelines with his ineptitude, much like Rodgers was able to do in 2011. I wouldn’t count on it.
Currently the Cowboys are at +750 to win the NFC and +1600 to win the Super Bowl. McCarthy himself is at +1400 to win AP Coach of the Year.