The Dallas Cowboys season can be compared to a college semester. While it's nice to produce high grades on exams and the mid-term, it ultimately doesn't matter if you flunk the final. Similarly for the Cowboys and head coach Mike McCarthy, the success of the 2023 campaign will be determined by the playoffs.
Fair or not, McCarthy will shoulder most, if not all, of the blame if the Cowboys suffer an early playoff exit. McCarthy is under contract through 2024, and though Jerry Jones has hinted he could receive an extension after this season, the owner hasn't outright confirmed the head coach will be back next year.
That's not to say Jones isn't appreciative of the job McCarthy has done, but he made an eye-opening comment this week when asked about McCarthy's future. Jones said "we'll see how each game goes," seemingly leaving the door open for a change if Dallas underachieves on the big stage.
Jones struck a different cord during his Tuesday appearance on 105.3 The Fan when he reiterated that he "couldn't be more pleased" with McCarthy. We have no doubt that Jones is pleased with his coach, but it's hard to walk back the earlier comment.
Jerry Jones leaves door open for Cowboys to move on from Mike McCarthy
Here's Jones' full quote from Tuesday, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
"I couldn’t be more pleased with what he’s done, and I really mean it. …He’s the big difference this year . . . The last thing that I want to do is spend any time talking with him about these kinds of things, on agreements, extension of agreements, especially when I’ve got one. So, that’s it."
Does Jones realize any McCarthy-related conversation would be tabled if he just confirmed McCarthy will be back in 2024? He's the only one leaving the door open for speculation on McCarthy's future. But enough about Jones' hypocrisy. He knows exactly what he's doing.
At the end of the day, the Cowboys have won 12 games in three straight seasons under McCarthy's tutelage. That hasn't happened since the mid-90s dynasty. Yes, Dallas hasn't advanced past the second round with McCarthy, but the former Super Bowl champ's success goes beyond winning and dominating at home.
McCarthy's experiment taking over play-calling has been a roaring success. Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb -- the two biggest faces of the franchise -- are playing the best football of their careers and are the main reason pundits are picking the Cowboys to reach the NFC Championship Game.
Jones knows this. His refusal to ensure McCarthy's return as head coach could be a PR stunt to keep people talking about the Cowboys. We like to think McCarthy will be back in 2024, but Jones' initial comments indicates the front office will do some real soul-searching if the team doesn't win two playoff games.