As one would expect for a 4-9 football team, speculation about the future of Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has already begun.
McCarthy was hired to replace former head man Jason Garrett, who seemed to have a lifetime contract with the team at one point, with the goal being to bring Super Bowl winning experience back to America's Team.
Well…it hasn't gone great. Largely, but not totally, due to injuries the Cowboys sit at 4-9, currently holding a top five draft pick for next Spring. It hasn't been pretty for McCarthy and company, but he's keeping his focus where it needs to be: on winning some games.
“We have, like all players and coaches do at this time of year, to focus on winning football games…That's really where the mindset is. I'm not really here to talk about speculation and those types of things, because nothing productive comes out of those conversations” – McCarthy told the media this week.
With just three games remaining and a slim chance at sneaking into the postseason, it would be easy for the Cowboys to pack it in and run out the clock to end December.
At times this season, it looked like their defense planned to do just that. Dallas is 23rd in EPA allowed per play and 21st in dropback EPA per play, while ranking even in worse in the more traditional raw statistics.
There's no denying that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has also been dealt a bad hand when it comes to personnel. Against the Bengals, four of the team's presumed top five cornerbacks from the preseason were missing. And each week this team is at a severe talent disadvantage on the interior of the line.
Still the team's poor performance has Nolan on the hot seat, with it seeming like a foregone conclusion that he is heading for a firing in January.
Mike McCarthy, however, should be allowed to stick around a bit. After all he has shown some good signs. The Cowboys have become one of the most aggressive teams in the league on fourth down, for example, playing into both their offensive strength and modern analytical principles.
“I'm just thankful for the opportunity with Jerry Jones and this great organization, and frankly, I'm focused on beating the 49ers” – McCarthy.
Sometimes, things have to get worse before they get better when you are looking to implement a culture change in the NFL. Hopefully for McCarthy and the Cowboys, that turnaround can start in 2021.