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'Very, very frustrated': Cowboys owner Jerry Jones declines to endorse Mike McCarthy’s job security

·6 min read
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In the heat of the Cowboys’ wild-card loss Sunday, Jerry Jones declined to discuss Mike McCarthy's coaching future.

Five days later, the Cowboys owner and general manager was no more comfortable endorsing McCarthy.

“I’m not going to get into any conversations that I’ve had with anybody relative to anything to do with the staff,” Jones said Friday on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan in response to a question about McCarthy’s job security. “So I’ve got a lot to think about regarding these coaches. I’ve got a lot to think about regarding these scouts. I’ve got a lot to think about regarding various aspects of this organization.

“It’s just not in our best interest to talk about where we are with the staff right now.”

The tone diverged strongly from a Monday interview given by his son and Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones. Stephen Jones said “absolutely” he was confident McCarthy would lead the team in 2022. Jerry Jones emphasized the need for serious change.

“If I thought changing out men at any level would improve us, I would change it out,” Jerry Jones said Friday. “I’ve seen a lot of great names at various duties in the NFL come and go over the last 30 years. I haven’t seen but a couple of them that I thought might have a straight shot into what’s up above. That’s Belichick up there in New England, his record has been unbelievable, but aside from that I’ll be very candid with you: I see human beings, human frailties, human work ethic and human excelling coming up with a way to go.

“Bottom line is yes I’m very, very frustrated and upset that…we have used up some very talented players of the last couple years.”

In several ways, the Cowboys 2021 season fortune seemed favorable. The team was unusually healthy in December and January. Their coaching staff was stacked, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn since the target of several head coach vacancy interviews this week. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was at last under contract. Even defensive free agency went strikingly well.

The Cowboys led the league in offensive yards, points per game and takeaways. They won the NFC East with a 12-5 record buoyed by a 6-1 start.

More: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones won’t add shades to stadium windows to combat glare, saying that's '10,000 on my list of things to worry about'

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And yet: They were the only team to lose at home in the wild-card round. Dallas never even led in a 23-17 loss to the 49ers.

“The team and their functions got us in a position, healthy, in a position to win a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “So I’m very guarded about throwing all of that down the drain because we didn’t win one of the steps of the playoffs getting to the Super Bowl.

“I thought we did a really, really good job of getting to the playoffs. Still, I can’t get over what we did in the playoffs.”

An emotional Jones spoke passionately about several topics in his end-of-season conversation with Dallas station listeners Friday. Here are a few more highlights.

Penalties

The Cowboys hurt themselves significantly in the wild-card loss, drawing 14 penalties for a loss of 89 total yards. This was nothing new: Dallas was the most penalized team in the NFL through the regular season, costing themselves an average of 66.2 yards per contest with 7.8 penalties per game. Coaches have been criticized for the undisciplined style that didn’t improve.

“I saw Roy Williams have his career altered by a penalty. The horse collar,” Jones said Friday. “You’ve got to either adjust or you don’t have a job.”

Mega contracts

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and receiver Amari Cooper are each scheduled to cost the Cowboys more than $20 million in 2022. Cooper compiled 68 catches, 865 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games, scoring the Cowboys’ lone receiving touchdown in the playoffs. But Jones expects more than 57.7 yards per game from his top receiver. He expects more consistency than Cooper’s 65.4 percent catch percentage.

“The way we were playing early when he did make something happen, I thought Cooper had a big part of it. And I’m not being trite,” Jones said. “But how he fits in, he should take half the field with him when he runs a route. Half is an exaggeration of course, but a whole bunch of that defense should have to honor Cooper. And he ought to be able to catch it in the middle of when they’re going with him. Others do. You throw to people that are covered all the time in the NFL, you have to. Most people don’t have the numbers of receivers we have in the NFL.”

Dak Prescott

In contrast to Jones’ deflection when asked about coaches’ future, the Cowboys owner and general manager strongly endorsed quarterback Dak Prescott. Dallas awarded Prescott a four-year, $160 million extension last March. He completed 68.8 percent of passes for 4,449 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season. Jones believes he’s capable of winning a Super Bowl.

“Ben Franklin had a rule when he was down and low down and had to have setbacks, he took all the positives on the left side of the page and listed them and all the negatives on the right,” Jones said. “If the left side was longer than the right, he walked out with a spark in his step and a smile. If the right side was longer, then he drank all day, let’s say. My point is, and I’m not trying to be any sort of way, I start right there with a big circle and a big plus. Future: Dak Prescott.

“He has shown every time he’s ever gotten in a position, he’s shown he’s a winner in football. He has shown that every time he’s ever had a chance to. As you well know, especially at that point, it’s hard to pinpoint ‘the’ skill that makes it happen. It’s hard to pinpoint that. But Dak Prescott has the skill to make it happen. We’ve got skilled players. Elliott has the skills to make it happen. We’ve got the offensive line talent to make it happen.

“We’ve just got to get it right and going in the same direction.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter: @JoriEpstein

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Owner Jerry Jones declines to endorse Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys future