The Dallas Cowboys 2021 coaching staff is taking shape

Head coach Mike McCarthy ,Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Head coach Mike McCarthy ,Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys‘ 2021 coaching staff is taking shape. As he prepares for his second year in Dallas, head coach Mike McCarthy has shown some definite trends in regards to the types of coaches he likes to bring in.

McCarthy has heavily favored former head coaches and people he’s worked with before. Now he’s bringing back another former staff member who checks both of those boxes, and this time it’s a name that Cowboys fans might remember.

The Dallas Cowboys recently announced that they are hiring Ben McAdoo to work as a consultant with the team. McCarthy and McAdoo have a long history dating back to their stint together with the New Orleans Saints. In 2004 McCarthy was in his final season as Saints’ offensive coordinator, while McAdoo took his first job in the NFL as an offensive assistant/quality control coach.

They each left New Orleans that offseason to coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 2005 before McCarthy went on to become the head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 2006. McCarthy brought McAdoo on as his tight ends coach right away before elevating him to quarterbacks coach ahead of the Packers’ 2012 season.

Cowboys fans will best remember McAdoo for his time with the NFC East rival New York Giants. McAdoo was their offensive coordinator from 2014-2015 before being promoted to head coach prior to the 2016 season. The Giants ranked top 10 in yards both seasons that McAdoo served as their offensive coordinator. In 2015 they also ranked sixth in the league in points scored.

After going 11-5 during his first season as Giants’ head coach, they went 2-10 in 2017 before the team relieved McAdoo of his duties. Their offense had sharply declined in both seasons that McAdoo helmed the team and his tenure is probably best remembered for when he benched quarterback Eli Manning. 

The move ultimately broke Manning’s consecutive games played streak and lost any goodwill he had left with the team. McAdoo most recently spent the 2020 season as the quarterback’s coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Don’t expect to see McAdoo patrolling the sideline with a clipboard in hand anytime soon though. For now, he’s being hired as a consultant. What that ultimately means though is still pretty unclear. However, given his familiarity with McCarthy, expect him to be a trusted advisor.

Ben McAdoo isn’t the first former staff member Mike McCarthy has brought to the Dallas Cowboys

Mike McCarthy loves his guys. Whether it was hiring Mike Nolan as a defensive coordinator last season or bringing in coaches like Joe Whitt Jr. and McAdoo this offseason, McCarthy has shown devout loyalty to his former staff members time and time again.

They say that an unwritten rule of job hunting is that oftentimes it just comes down to who you know. Are we sure that McCarthy doesn’t have this inscribed in a stone tablet somewhere at The Star in Frisco?

Right now, the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff is chock full of their head coaches’ former players and assistants. Offensive line coach Joe Philbin, defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr., linebackers coach Scott McCurley, defensive backs coach Al Harris, assistant head coach Rob Davis and coaching assistant Scott Tolzien all have either coached under or suited up for McCarthy as players.

Another trend? McCarthy loves having former head coaches and coordinators fill out his staff.  Philbin, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, special teams coordinator John Fassel, and now McAdoo have all spent time as a head coach at the NFL level. Senior defensive assistant George Edwards also brings experience as a former defensive coordinator.

Additionally, last season he employed Mike Nolan as the team’s defensive coordinator and Jim Tomsula as defensive line coach. Both Nolan and Tomsula had previous experience as head coaches. In Nolan’s case, McCarthy even worked for him as an offensive coordinator in San Francisco prior to taking over in Green Bay.

Are these trends a good thing? Well, it remains to be seen. On the one hand, having smart, experienced football minds who understand the pressures of the job and can help advise McCarthy is a real asset.

They can bring new ideas, new processes, and challenge the team to rise to a new standard. However, for that to ultimately happen it’s important McCarthy doesn’t just surround himself with familiar “yes” men who subscribe to the same way of thinking.

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When teams are winning, it doesn’t tend to matter too much who they hire. However, when they’re losing, hiring someone like McAdoo who had such a public and unceremonious exit from a high-profile job, can be easy to criticize. Especially when it feels like McCarthy could already be on the hot seat if the Dallas Cowboys don’t start the season well.