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Could Mike McCarthy be a Hindrance to TE Blake Jarwin’s Breakout?

Many are expecting new starting tight end, Blake Jarwin, to have a breakout season in Dallas’ 2020 offense. But given Mike McCarthy’s history with the TE position in Green Bay, could the Cowboys’ new head coach end up holding Jarwin back?

McCarthy’s Packers typically had great offenses with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Everyone knew who Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and other Green Bay receivers were. If one of them ever got hurt, fantasy players were scrambling to grab their backup off the waiver wire.

But generally speaking, even when Rodgers was putting up big numbers in the passing game, the tight end position wasn’t a big part of that production.

What’s especially concerning is that Green Bay usually didn’t lack for talent at the position. Guys who’ve been to Pro Bowls with other teams like Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, and Jimmy Graham didn’t have the same impact as Packers.

From 2014-2018, McCarthy’s last five years in Green Bay, here were the top performers from the TE position:

  • 2018: Jimmy Graham (55 rec, 636 yds, 2 TDs)
  • 2017: Martellus Bennett (24 rec, 233 yds, 0 TDs in 7 games)
  • 2016: Jared Cook (30 rec, 377 yds, 1 TD in 10 games)
  • 2015: Richard Rodgers (58 rec, 510 yds, 8 TDs)
  • 2014: Andrew Quarless (29 rec, 323 yds, 3 TDs)

Of course, a lot of this has to do with Aaron Rodgers’ personality and playing style at quarterback. He seems more focused on getting to the ball to his wide receivers and treating the tight ends and fallback options.

Rodgers also likes to spread it around a bit. For example, in 2014 the stats between Quarless and Richard Rodgers were almost identical. So the TE position was fairly productive overall but not giving anyone much individual glory.

That’s not what we’re hoping for from Blake Jarwin in 2020. With those Witten-sized shoes to fill, Jarwin is up against big expectations after a few years of being hyped up. Without Jason or even Geoff Swaim now in his way, Blake could even make the Pro Bowl if he puts up the projected stats in Dallas’ offense.

Dak Prescott isn’t Aaron Rodgers, so he may look to his tight ends more often as receiving targets. But he also has Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Ceedee Lamb, Ezekiel Elliott, and Tony Pollard to service, and he now has Rodgers’ old coach as a new influence.

The combination of Prescott, McCarthy, and Kellen Moore could mean very different things for the TE position than what McCarthy and Rodgers were doing in Green Bay. We know how much control Aaron exerted over the offense and that he was doing his relationship with McCarthy deteriorated in those later years.

But still, the stats are a little concerning. There were seasons that the TE in McCarthy’s offense was only the 5th-highest producer among all possible receiving targets. That would be a disappointing outcome for some Blake Jarwin supporters.

One of the interesting things to track with the 2020 Cowboys will be how much Mike McCarthy’s trend from Green Bay actually carry over. How much was really influenced by him as opposed to Aaron Rodgers?

How Blake Jarwin produces this year as Dallas’ starting TE will be one of those telling factors. If McCarthy’s arrival does lead to more focus on the wide receivers, that breakout season we’re all hoping for may not be realistic.

What do you think?


Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!


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  1. Good article and fair question, Jess. I do think people are expecting too much of a breakout for Jarwin. All he really needs to do this year is prove himself (a) dependable, (b) serviceable, (c) a viable receiving option, and (d) reliably present to have a good season. I’ve seen many suggest the Pro Bowl should be in his crosshairs, but I don’t buy that for a minute … Gronk already has one of those slots filled!

    Jarwin doesn’t necessarily need stats to validate his impact. Depending on so many things that we just don’t know yet about how this offense is going to take shape, he can be impactful simply by clearing out space and making the occasional seam reception (or whatever) so that his presence is capable of keeping the defense honest.

    I do believe he has a skill set that could seem him get north of 60 catches and 6 TD’s but I don’t think he has to in order to warrant that contract or impact on this offense. I believe he is still a developing talent.

    It will be interesting to watch develop b/c of all the reasons you spelled out. I will say, that of the GB TE’s you listed having played with Rodgers, Jarwin only closely resembles Cook, and he was pretty effective there (3rd and 30!!!). Bennett and Graham were beyond their primes and didn’t play long with Rodgers at all.

  2. Damn Bill had to remind us of that 3rd and 30 play didn’t u. I still have nightmare about that one. And by the way has a play ever illustrated A Rodgers greatness more then that one. Very few QBs capable of evading the rush and on the run calmly zipping a 30 yd frozen rope into a tiny window
    like that. Unbelievable play on his part.

    • Well those two hail mary’s in the same game against the Cardinals are pretty Rodgers-esgue too. Uniquely, and to your point, I think all of them were while rolling out to his left … freakish!

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