Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones shut down any lingering speculation about Mike McCarthy’s job security, confirming in a mid-season conference call Monday that McCarthy has the confidence of the organization as the head coach for 2021 … and possibly well beyond.
“Absolutely, unequivocally,” Jones emphasized to reporters, via USA Today. “We like stability. That’s why we stayed with Jason (Garrett) for 10 years.”
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The query on McCarthy’s status was raised after Dallas fell to 2-7 on the season with a hard-fought yet ultimately futile 24-19 defeat to the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers at AT&T Stadium on Sunday. The snakebitten team has now lost as many consecutive games as they’ve started quarterbacks this season — reduced from Dak Prescott (ankle) to Andy Dalton (concussion/COVID-19) to Ben DiNucci (rookie; bad) to former AAF star Garrett Gilbert.
The Cowboys boasted, far and away, the NFL’s top passing attack with Prescott under center, although the club was markedly inconsistent from its opening snap in Los Angeles. McCarthy caught particular scrutiny for the historically bad albeit slowly improving defense and, by extension, for hiring longtime pal Mike Nolan as its coordinator.
Nolan’s unit played arguably its best game in Week 9, limiting the Steelers to 46 rushing yards and making Ben Roethlisberger’s life difficult until the final moments. It was an inspired effort that does not show in the box score but anyone with eyes can see. And it may have represented the turning point in a moribund campaign.
“Feel like they’re only going to get better,” Jones said Monday, via The Athletic, believing the players have finally bought into Nolan’s system.
The Cowboys dropped to third place in the NFC East, though remarkably remain in playoff contention due to the state of the hopeless division. Mercifully, after what seems like ions (of injuries), they enter a much-needed bye week during which they will rue whether to start Garrett Gilbert or Andy Dalton and maintain a win-now mindset or flip the page to 2021.
“What Jerry and I want to focus on, and talk about, is the Vikings,” Jones said of Dallas’ Week 11 opponent.
As does McCarthy.
“Today is a reflection of what we’re capable of doing. … I think we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction the last two weeks. … Everybody knows what our record is, we gotta start stacking wins,” he said after the game, via The Athletic.
The Cowboys have never in their rich history fired a head coach after just one year on the job. They aren’t about to start with the man they revere for winning a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers, the new significant other following a split from their longtime ex.
McCarthy knows he’s on scholarship in 2020, and Jones conversely isn’t trying to fool the public otherwise.
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Jones Declares Starting QB Entering Bye Week
When Dallas next takes the field, Nov. 22 at Minnesota, it will be Dalton — not Gilbert — breaking down the offensive huddle. In a Monday radio interview, Jones reaffirmed his commitment to Dalton as the starting quarterback, which remains contingent on the 31-year-old clearing COVID-list protocols following the team’s Week 10 bye.
“Obviously, Andy’s our quarterback now that Dak is out for the year,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “Certainly, if he gets back, which hopefully he’ll pass his (concussion) protocol, and be ready to go as far as the coronavirus is concerned. It’s our bye week and that gives him a chance to get up to speed. We’ll just have to see what the next two weeks bring.”
The brain trust purportedly decided that Dalton would regain his starting job well before the Pittsburgh affair. Before they held a pseudo-competition between Gilbert and Cooper Rush ahead of Week 9. Pining for experience at the sport’s most important position, McCarthy revealed last Tuesday the ex-longtime Bengals QB’s anticipated return to the lineup.
“He’s doing fine. We’ll see how he goes throughout the time he’s on this COVID list, but I think by the end of next week we’ll be able to see him again,” he said.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL