Will Mike McCarthy’s post-NFL work pay off for the Dallas Cowboys?

Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Could newly-hired head coach Mike McCarthy bring a Lombardy Trophy to the Dallas Cowboys? His post-NFL work suggest he’s deadly serious about it.

When Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hired former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy a few weeks ago, I, like many observers, went through a series of emotions. At first, I was disappointed Jones didn’t swing for the fences, write an enormous check and hire Bill Belichick away from the New England Patriots as I suggested in a previous column.

I guess I was also a little disappointed the Cowboys didn’t try to hire someone, I don’t know, a little more exciting. It’s hard to get all that excited about McCarthy. He’s a good coach. But he’s not super charismatic, and he doesn’t project genius.

But then, I took a closer look at McCarthy. The first thing you see is the Super Bowl ring. That’s definitely encouraging. Not just any coach can win a Lombardy Trophy.

But after doing a little more research, the thing that really jumped out at me was that after getting fired from Green Bay, he hired a staff, and spent a year looking at tape of his own and other teams, and strategizing. It’s clear, he was trying to learn from his mistakes at Green Bay, and bring his coaching up-to-date.

Yeah, that sounds good. It’s easy to say that. But think about it. He hired his own staff… for a year. Could you do that? Would you? This must have cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, if he hired quality people. And it looks like he did.

McCarthy hired his own staff … It’s amazing if you think about it. This is a guy who is obviously dead serious about coaching, and improving as a coach.

There’s only two coaches, this reminds me of. The now-revered Bill Belichick himself got his first head coaching job in Cleveland in 1991. He led the Browns for five years, but was fired in 1995. He’d only had one winning season.

Belichick then spent four seasons as an assistant coach, mostly with the New York Jets, before getting his shot at the top job with the New England Patriots in 2000. This was a man with something to prove.

But if anyone in professional football has proven himself more than Belichick, I’d like to know his name. Not only has Belichick won more Super Bowls than any coach ever. He’s also only missed the playoffs three times since being hired to lead the Pats in 2000.

Andy Reid, current coach of the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs, was previously head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, from 1999-2012. In those 14 years, his teams only posted losing records three times, and went to the playoffs nine times.

They were very good and reached the NFC championship game many times. But they could never seem to win the big game. Though the Eagles went to the Super Bowl in 2004, they lost to Belichick’s Patriots that year.

Then, in 2012, the Eagles went 4-12, the worst record of Reid’s head-coaching tenure. Expecting to be fired, Reid took the Chiefs’ job in Kansas City. Did Reid have something to prove in 2013? You tell me. In his six seasons there, they’ve only missed the playoffs once, and finally won the Super Bowl a few weeks ago.

My point is not to say that McCarthy is going to be the next Belichick or Reid. First of all, there’s not going to be another Belichick, at least for a while. The man has six Super Bowl rings. Come on.

My point is that Belichick and Reid both looked like they had a chip on their shoulder after leaving their first head coaching jobs, like they had something to prove. Each looked dead serious about using their second chances to build the best teams in the league. To be the best. It’s a powerful motivator.

McCarthy looks just as serious to me. I know he won a Super Bowl in Green Bay. But that was in 2010, ten years ago. That’s a long time ago in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. Especially when your quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, who most observers think is destined for the Hall of Fame.

But if you’re looking to see the chip on McCarthy’s shoulder, look no further than his last two seasons in Green Bay. After eight straight trips to the playoffs, the Packers posted back-to-back losing seasons in 2017-2018.

A lot of people blamed McCarthy for that. They said his coaching got stale, old-fashioned. How would an assessment like that sit with Belichick or with Reid? Not too well, is my thinking.

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Does any of this speculation guarantee Mike McCarthy will bring a Lombardy Trophy to Dallas? Of course not. But he sure looks serious to me. The man looks like he’s going to do everything in his power to get to that big game and win it.

And that looks good to me. I like it. I like his attitude. I like the assistant coaches he’s hired. But I love that he hired his own staff for a year. The man hired his own staff… for a year. How do you not love that?