ARLINGTON, Texas — Jerry Jones walked to the locker room Sunday night in a state of shock. The Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager didn’t think what he just watched was possible. It’s one thing to lose a playoff game you’re supposed to win, it’s another to get embarrassed at home while riding a 16-game home winning streak.
Jones summed up Dallas’ 48-32 wild-card loss to the Green Bay Packers as one of the most surprising outcomes since he’s been involved in sports, saying multiple times that he was “floored” and adding that the result was “beyond my comprehension.”
“I don’t have any comments or questions or answers for how and why we didn’t do what we wanted tonight,” Jones said. “I say this to our fans, how much you deserve us not to have this ending.
“This seems like the most painful (loss) because we all had such great expectations and we had hope for this team.”
Jones isn’t going anywhere. He’ll remain owner and GM. But some kind of changes have to be considered after that type of season-ending defeat. Securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs set Dallas up for what looked like a rematch with the No. 1 seed San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, a round that hasn’t been reached by the Cowboys since the 1995 season. Losing to the seventh-seeded Packers was highly unlikely. To be completely dominated makes it one of the worst losses in franchise history.
Jones declined to get into specifics about coach Mike McCarthy’s future. McCarthy has one year remaining on his contract. Following last week’s season finale win at Washington, Jones spoke highly of what McCarthy had done in his fourth year as the team’s head coach and first year as the offensive play caller. But Jones also added, “We’ll see how each game goes,” in regard to McCarthy’s job security.
McCarthy usually meets with reporters at a podium roughly 15 minutes after each game. On Sunday, over 30 minutes passed before he walked to the podium. He then answered six questions for about 3 1/2 minutes.
“No. 1, we’re very disappointed, to a man,” he said. “I don’t think anybody saw this coming. … We didn’t get it done in any of the phases. We’re hurting, we’re disappointed, every man.”
He was then asked specifically about his job status.
“I think the biggest thing is, we’re disappointed,” he responded. “I got a whole team in the locker room that’s hurting. I haven’t thought past the outcome of this game.”
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy: “I don’t think anyone saw this coming. We didn’t get it done in any of the phases.”
When asked about his future: “I think the biggest thing is we’re disappointed. … I haven’t thought past the outcome of this game.” pic.twitter.com/qMeRBTI8YE
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 15, 2024
There’s no question McCarthy has put Dallas in position the last three seasons to make deep playoff runs. It has won the NFC East twice during that time and won 12 games each season. He has delivered regular-season success that hasn’t been seen since their dynasty run in the 1990s, when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four seasons. But the playoff success has been missing, and that’s the biggest reason he was hired to replace Jason Garrett. Reaching the playoffs and winning a playoff game wasn’t enough. This was a group that viewed the Super Bowl as a legitimate possibility.
McCarthy believes he has been building things the right way. He can point to winning the Super Bowl in Year 5 while he was head coach of the Packers. But Jones might not be willing to give him a fifth season after sitting through the beatdown Sunday, one that included Dallas trailing 27-0 late in the second quarter and 48-16 early in the fourth quarter.
“This is a hurtful loss,” McCarthy said. “We put ourselves in position to play a home playoff game. We had a great opportunity. Felt really good about the week of preparation. We thought we matched up well. But we clearly picked the wrong day to have a bad day.”
Jones insisted several times Sunday night while standing outside of the locker room that he had not given much thought to McCarthy’s future. It was somewhat difficult to believe considering how quickly the game got out of hand. He said there was nothing set on when he will meet with McCarthy next.
“What I had planned to do was be with him tomorrow going over how we played today and getting ready for the coming week,” Jones said. “That’s what was on the agenda. Tomorrow, my agenda will be to dismiss the team.”
Jones was later asked about other teams already interviewing head-coaching candidates and the potential outcome that could have on the Cowboys, if he ultimately wanted to move in a different direction.
“That’s no issue,” Jones said. “At all. The fact that coaches have interviewed, not interviewed, there’s 30-some coaches (in the NFL) on 32 teams, so there’s a thousand coaches out there that are some way or the other, and that’s just the ones in the league. There are a lot of coaches.
“I know how to do that and handle all of those. Those aren’t high-pressure situations, coaches. … We certainly have a background in what happens after you lose a playoff game. We got too much experience with that.”
Entering Sunday, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was a popular name mentioned when talking about future Cowboys coaches. He’s one of the favorites to become the Seattle Seahawks’ next head coach. Dallas’ defense was as much to blame for the loss Sunday as any part of the team. Six-time Super Bowl champion coach Bill Belichick is obviously a popular name. But the former New England Patriots head coach might not be a great fit with Jones. According to online sportsbook BetOnline.ag, Belichick would be the favorite to be the Cowboys’ next head coach if Jones were to part ways with McCarthy.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott said he is “shocked” by today’s wild card loss to the Packers.
“Obviously I didn’t play well.”
How do the Cowboys get past this and finally have playoff success?
“I wish I had that answer for you.” pic.twitter.com/G56wnC9SoG
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 15, 2024
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott certainly didn’t play anything like the second-team All-Pro and MVP candidate he showed during the regular season. Much like last season’s playoff loss at San Francisco in the divisional round, Dallas’ franchise QB played one of the worst games of his career. He threw for only 87 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the first half. His rapport with first-team All-Pro wide receiver CeeDee Lamb might have been the worst it’s been all season through the first two quarters.
Prescott was asked after the game about the speculation of McCarthy’s coaching future in Dallas.
“He’s been amazing,” Prescott said. “I don’t know how there can be, but I understand the business. In that case, it should be about me as well, honestly. I’ve had the season that I’ve had because of him. This team has had the success that they’ve had because of him. I understand it’s about winning the Super Bowl. That’s the standard of this league and damn sure the standard of this place, so I get it, but add me to the list in that case.”
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(Photo of Mike McCarthy and Dak Prescott: Matthew Pearce / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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