The photo was caught by photographer Josie Lepe and showed McCarthy sticking his arm out and pushing a cameraman who — he felt — got a little too close during an emotional moment.
The cameraman was Noah Bullard of NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, who tweeted out an update after the game, saying he spoke with McCarthy privately about the incident.
“Thank you to everyone that has reached out regarding the Mike McCarthy incident,” Bullard tweeted on Sunday night. “I can see how the photo appeared like he pushed me but it was more of a hand to the lens. I did meet with coach McCarthy privately in his office and he did apologize.”
Bullard seemed to take the encounter in stride but McCarthy still caught some heat for his actions, with USA Today calling him out as “classless.”
The disappointment of a season-ending loss is never easy to deal with and McCarthy acknowledged after the game that emotions were running high.
“It’s very tough,” McCarthy said. “In those moments, you just have to be real and genuine. … It’s raw in the locker room right now.”
McCarthy’s Job Safe Despite Coming Up Short of Super Bowl
The Cowboys were very clear that they felt this team had Super Bowl potential and anything short of that would be a disappointment.
“We knew it was going to be a slug-fest,” McCarthy said. “We just didn’t quite do enough. You can go through the statistics, the decisions. I thought defensively, we did a really good job for the most part. Would we have liked to have a couple more stops? Yes. Did we need more third-down conversions on offense? Yes. We could have used that, too, red zone production.
“Obviously just extremely disappointed. This has been an incredible journey, with this group of men, and we just came up short tonight to a very good football team.”
The Cowboys competed against the 49ers but ultimately came up a bit short — with a goofy final play adding a layer of embarrassment to the loss.
“I really don’t want to get into detail on it, but that obviously wasn’t the plan,” McCarthy said. “It’s obviously a gadget play or whatever to end it. It’s the last-play-situation call we practice.”
McCarthy has led the Cowboys to back-to-back 12-win seasons but their playoff disappointments the last two seasons sting. Despite that, owner Jerry Jones was very clear that the loss will not affect McCarthy’s future with the franchise.
“No, no, not at all,” Jones said. “But this is very sickening.”
DC Dan Quinn Drawing Significant Interest as Head Coach
While McCarthy will be sticking around, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn might have coached his last game with the Cowboys on Sunday. He’s expected to draw significant interest as a head coaching candidate after a couple of stellar years leading Dallas’ stout defense.
“The system recognizes and rewards excellent coordinators and excellent coaches,” Jones said. “So you can’t think that your life’s over when you look ahead and think that you’re not going to have the same people as coordinators or even coaches. If you look at my years in the NFL, they do come and go.”
Quinn’s unit was able to hold the 49ers to just one touchdown and made life tough for San Francisco stars Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey. The Cowboys will return many key pieces on the defensive side of the ball next season but filing Quinn’s shoes will be a tough task.