A new era of Dallas Cowboys football has officially begun. Cowboys fans, the arch nemesis Jason Garrett has finally been relieved from his duties. Now that Garrett is no longer holding the reins to the success of this football team, owner Jerry Jones has allowed the newly-hired and former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to begin assembling his coaching staff.
Expect a franchise where the ownership does not interfere with how this team is run. Gone are the days where the head coach was Jones’ puppet. Gone are the days where the Dallas Cowboys’ team lacked accountability and discipline.
Gone are the days when, as star pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence once said, “Talent without direction are meaningless”. Without further ado, this is how well the Cowboys’ hires look on paper.
Hires: Good or Bad?
Mike McCarthy, at worst, is an upgrade compared to Jason Garrett. Similar to new Redskins head coach Ron Rivera, he had a very solid stint as the head coach for a winning team, the Green Bay Packers. The initial reaction to McCarthy’s hire has mainly been displeasure, especially when social media remembers his last two seasons in Green Bay.
Green Bay had a combined record of 13-18-1 under McCarthy’s final 2 seasons as Packers Head Coach. While this makes his hire seem very poor at first, only taking McCarthy’s last two seasons into account as a way to evaluate his resume is very misleading. In 2017, McCarthy’s 2nd to last season, a hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr caused star quarterback Aaron Rodgers to go on IR with a broken collarbone, and a then-5-1 Packers team fell to 7-9.
However, the following season wasn’t much better for Green Bay, as McCarthy and Rodgers led the Packers to a 6-9-1 record. The best explanation is that Green Bay collapsed from the inside, with McCarthy’s refusal to run the ball and the Packers having a terrible defense with the exception of then-rookie corner Jaire Alexander.
With all that context out of the way, Cowboys fans need to be open-minded about this hire. McCarthy also looks to keep 2019 offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, and the grizzled veteran can help Moore overcome his biggest weaknesses: adjustments and situational playcalling. Assuming Moore stays on this staff, he will grow alongside Dallas’s young offensive studs (Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper), and McCarthy is one of the best minds to facilitate that growth.
All is not lost with the Cowboys’ run game either. While McCarthy refused to run the ball in Green Bay, Aaron Jones, with all due respect, isn’t Ezekiel Elliott. Jones is a top-10 runner, but Elliott is unanimously considered one of the 5 best running backs in the league and a 2-time rushing champion. He’s also the highest paid RB in NFL history, so he will be the engine of the 2020 Dallas Cowboys.
All in all, Mike McCarthy was a good hire. Expect the former Packers head coach to bring a much tougher locker room culture as well as an established sense of accountability and discipline. He’s the perfect candidate to transform this team from inside out.
Defense Is The Name Of The Game
McCarthy is expected to add 2019 Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator for 2020. The two have been acquainted in the past, with McCarthy being an assistant for Nolan during his time in San Francisco from 2005-2008. While the roles are reversed now, there is no question that their former relationship will help restore a sense of authority and attitude that the Cowboys have lacked for a while.
Furthermore, Nolan is a perfect hire for what this defense wants to do. He groomed Demario Davis into an All-Pro linebacker in just 2 seasons, and under his tutelage, the Cowboys defense can maybe even eclipse its 2018 dominance. The reason Nolan was hired is because Jerry Jones has recognized the strengths of this Dallas defense, and thus what their entire defense should be playing through: their linebackers.
All-Pro Leighton Vander Esch missed almost half the season with a neck injury, which hopefully won’t persist in the near future. Rising star Jaylon Smith was also not his 2018 self, but Dallas’s defensive line did not do a great job of occupying blockers in order for the best linebacker duo in the league to wreck games, which they did very well in 2018.
Nolan can improve this team’s linebacker play without a doubt. He’s working with about the same level of talent as he did in 2019 with the Saints, and if Dallas retains passing game coordinator Kris Richard, Dallas’s defense, led by Smith and Vander Esch, could be the difference-maker during some very important games in 2020.
All in all, these hires will be fantastic for the Cowboys in 2020. While they may not be ready to contend for a Super Bowl as many thought they would in 2019, at least there is a chance that this team makes the playoffs. At the very least, that should be the expectation for 2020, and if the Cowboys do a great job in offseason managing cap space, only two words must be said: look out.