It was widely assumed that Mike McCarthy would lose his job after the Dallas Cowboys were drubbed at home by the Packers in the first round of the playoffs. Given the sheer embarrassment of the loss and the unequaled market of coaching candidates, McCarthy seemed like a dead-man walking.
Miraculously, McCarthy is returning for the 2024 season, but he'll do so in a lame duck capacity after he didn't receive a contract extension.
Now, fans are left wondering where McCarthy has to lead the Cowboys to secure another year as head coach. Anything less than a NFC Championship Game appearance will likely mean bad news for McCarthy. With that in mind, is it really too early to start dreaming of potential replacements?
Despite numerous ideal replacements landing jobs elsewhere, the Cowboys will have a strong selection to choose from. Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel will seemingly be available, but Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is back in the mix after he left the Commanders at the altar on Tuesday.
Johnson should top Jerry Jones' wishlist of McCarthy replacements.
Ben Johnson staying with Lions gives Cowboys a dream Mike McCarthy replacement
Johnson is arguably the best offensive coordinator in the NFL. That obviously excludes head coaches who serve as their team's play-callers, including Andy Reid, Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, Mike McDaniel and Matt LaFleur.
Johnson just wrapped his second year as Lions OC. The results? Top-five finishes in both points and yards per game in both seasons. Perhaps more impressive is that Detroit's offense didn't skip a beat in the playoffs. In three games, they averaged 28.6 points and 389.0 yards of offense. The Rams, Buccaneers and 49ers are no slouches defensively, either.
Johnson is also credited with reviving Jared Goff's career after he was considered a throw-in in the Matthew Stafford trade.
The 37-year-old's running schemes are also considered among the best in the NFL. David Montgomery had a career year in 2023 with 1,017 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs rushed for 945 yards and 10 touchdowns. We all know how mightily the Cowboys running game struggled in 2023.
Johnson was an extremely popular candidate during this year's hiring cycle. He seemed like a lock to leave Detroit, and most insiders predicted him to get the Commanders job, so we didn't even consider him as a possible McCarthy replacement.
Now, though, he should be the Cowboys top priority next offseason, assuming McCarthy doesn't take them to the promised land.