Dallas Cowboys: Mike McCarthy has learned never to say never

Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Mike McCarthy once vowed never to give up playcalling duties again, yet he’s done so for the Dallas Cowboys. And that’s due to his growth as a head coach.

When the Dallas Cowboys announced they had hired former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to take the helm of America’s Team at the same position, much was made of his year spent out of the NFL. It was a time of growth for the veteran coach and his first real break from the league in 26 years.

In an interview with NBC Sports’ longtime NFL writer Peter King, McCarthy explained how he spent the 2019 season preparing for his next coaching opportunity. The 56-year old found himself re-examining his own career, diving into football analytics, and meeting with a group of other former NFL coaches in an effort to improve. And it was that dedication to self improvement that placed McCarthy in perfect position when owner Jerry Jones and the Cowboys came a-calling last month.

One of the first moves that McCarthy made in his new position was an attempt to retain the Cowboys’ first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The former backup passer transitioned from player to quarterbacks coach back in 2018 and was promoted to OC a year later to replace the ousted Scott Linehan.

Moore proceeded to field the NFL’s top offense, leading the league with an average of 431.5 yards per game. But with the departure of Jason Garrett as head coach following a disappointing 8-8 season left the young coordinator’s future in Dallas in question.

With a reported offer to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Washington potentially on the table, Moore had options. So why did he come back to Dallas? It’s likely because McCarthy did something he vowed never to do again.

In 2015, McCarthy briefly gave playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Tom Clements. He ended up taking those duties back before the end of the season and proclaimed he’d never give them up again. Yet, McCarthy went against his vow and announced that Moore would remain the playcaller in Dallas for 2020.

When asked about his willingness to give up playcalling duties to Moore despite his previous claims never to do so again, McCarthy explained his change of heart while at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. Here’s what the new Cowboys’ head coach said according to Pro Football Talk.

"“I have a new job, so I get to start over and take all those never again statements back. I think when you just look at the big picture, these decisions that I’m making particularly early in my tenure, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. … I thought it was important to keep the current offense in place because of the success they’ve had in the past.”"

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The old adage is you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That saying must not apply to NFL head coaches. It appears that Mike McCarty learned some new lessons during his time spent out of the league. And it’s that growth that allowed the veteran coach to give up playcalling duties to Kellen Moore … and to never say never.