Jerry Jones insists he didn't have to talk himself into keeping Mike McCarthy

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sounded as if he was undecided about Mike McCarthy's future immediately after the team's loss to the Packers' in the wild-card round. The Cowboys announced three days later that McCarthy was returning for a fifth season.

In his first interview with beat reporters since his decision to keep McCarthy, Jones said he didn't see a need to "disrupt" the offseason to get a better result in 2024.

That despite Bill Belichick, Jim Harbaugh and Mike Vrabel among the veteran coaches on the market.

Jones he met with McCarthy for more than three hours following the Cowboys' quick exit from the playoffs, and that was long enough to decide McCarthy deserved another year after three consecutive 12-win regular seasons.

"This is not a 'talk yourself into it,'" Jones said at the Senior Bowl, via Nick Harris of the team website. "It obviously gives you a lot of things to consider and think about. Everybody has options. This is one I'm very comfortable with. I felt good during the year with the job that Mike was doing. The team was responding well. We were all disappointed that we didn't win that Green Bay game. We had visions of a lot better than that; we all did. But there are things there that we can take forward."

The Cowboys did not want to give Dak Prescott three play callers in three seasons after a career year. Prescott is among the five finalists for league MVP and receiver CeeDee Lamb a finalist for offensive player of the year.

"We're right at a key spot with Dak," Jones said. "Dak has improved since Mike has been here, and I think we can look forward to that improvement. There's more there to get in terms of Dak's improvement with Mike. The evidence points to that. With more to get there, more pluses on Dak, that impacts a lot of other things that we're doing right now with the decisions we're making so it all makes sense to have [McCarthy] back."

McCarthy will enter 2024 on the hottest of hot seats as the Cowboys will not extend his contract. He instead will coach on the final year of his five-year deal.

It's the same thing the Cowboys twice did with Jason Garrett, who got an extension the first time and was replaced by McCarthy the second time.

"Certainly he is in the final year of his contract, so he is under contract so we didn't really have to do anything at all," Jones said of McCarthy. "The idea of renewing a contract doesn't necessarily happen at all right after the last game. It can happen at any time. That's kind of a wrong signal to send that there's not more future than just this year in the picture."

Belichick and Vrabel might still be in play after this season, with neither having gotten a head coaching job yet. Other veteran coaches will come available next year, too. But Jones hopes that the Cowboys play well enough and go far enough that McCarthy earns a new deal.

McCarthy is 42-25 in four seasons in Dallas but only 1-3 in the postseason, with one-and-done losses at home in 2021 and 2023.