ARLINGTON, Texas – Little did much for Mike McCarthy in his first year as the Dallas Cowboys head coach.
Some that he had no control over, like handling a virtual offseason program, a shortened training camp, and no preseason games due to the coronavirus pandemic. Throw in the end-of-season injuries sustained by Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, La & # 39; el Collins and other expected main culprits.
Then came the death of strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul less than 24 hours before the Cowboys (3-8) lost to Washington Football Team (41-16) on Thursday.
By talking to former players, coaches and key figures, Peyton Manning pinpoints the history of football and its cultural implications. Watch on ESPN +
Players repeatedly praised McCarthy for being sensitive to their needs during the spring social unrest that followed George Floyd's death. And the players praised McCarthy for helping everyone mourn the loss of Paul.
"Coach McCarthy is a remarkable person," said Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith. "He's the guy who loves and cares. And he knows what he's doing. We have to find out. It's not just up to him. It's a team effort. We play a team sport and winning is the name of the game Everything is good, but nothing matters if you lose. You have to win, especially if you play for the American team. All of these things we're going through are only going to make us stronger. We have no slackers. We have fighters in this organization from top to bottom. "
However, it is the things McCarthy can control that are raising concerns this season.
In the fourth quarter of the 20:17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in week 1, he passed a potential 28-yard field goal.
He was eventually saved by an onside kick in the Week 2 win after opting for a 2-point conversion that lost 9 points to the Atlanta Falcons. And that came after two failed wrong punts. While Analytics may be on his side, McCarthy didn't pick two when he presented the same opportunity against the Seattle Seahawks the following week.
McCarthy's fourth loss in the Washington loss was perhaps even more egregious because the current iteration of Cowboys needs almost anything to really win.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy in his fourth game against Washington on Thursday: "… you can never beat them if you don't call them and don't believe in them." Photo by Tom Pennington / Getty Images
In Thursday's first series, the Cowboys lost the left tackle against Cameron Erving and the right tackle against Zack Martin due to injuries for the remainder of the game.
McCarthy hit an inch from the Dallas 34 in the second quarter and settled on a 10-10 game. Surely it would be turned over to the Cowboys' $ 90 million returned, Ezekiel Elliott, who had finished his first 100-yard game four days earlier. No Instead, he opted for backup quarterback Andy Dalton to throw an incomplete pass to CeeDee Lamb. Even if the game had worked out, the cowboys would have had to stab Dalton Schultz for a personal foul anyway.
It only took Washington 19 yards to score a touchdown by flipping downs and hitting 15 yards.
This is what the postseason bracket looks like at the moment and what scenarios are ahead of us.
• Playoff picture (ESPN +) »
• Playoff machine: see scenarios »
• Ranking list »| Football Power Index »
"It was a clean matchup," said McCarthy. "Honestly we had one on one on the sidelines. Obviously the result wasn't what we were looking for. I think everyone saw what happened on the piece. Those are pieces that you are looking for possibilities on, and that it was too. " A good playcall. We had one on one outside. We just didn't convert. "
The Cowboys were still in the game in the fourth quarter, trailing 20:16 when they faced a fourth and a tenth of their own 24. If ever there was time to jump, it seemed like that, but McCarthy OK I'd be a fake punt called by John Fassel, the special team coordinator.
Punter Hunter Niswander, who has been on the active squad for three games, should be at the end of a pass from Cedrick Wilson. Now Wilson has a touchdown pass this season, hitting Prescott against the New York Giants. But Washington was in a good position to prevent the pass, and Wilson lost a yard.
The next game, Washington's Antonio Gibson ran untouched from 23 yards to score a touchdown and a 27-16 lead.
"Well, you get stuck thinking about the negatives all the time," said McCarthy. "Obviously it was a solid game call. It's a good game design. Your shooter made a good game. He did it and gave us a high / low on Cedrick. It's a game we hit when we meet it. " I sit (well). That is the nature of these pieces. So you can never beat them if you don't call them and don't believe in them. I clearly understood the situation when it was called. "
When asked if he really thought it was a good call, McCarthy doubled over.
"I'm fine with my answer beforehand," he said. "There is obviously a film study that goes into the call when you call him. But yeah, when you call him, you obviously want to convert it. You obviously understand what your options are when calling down. … There are River I'm very confident in our players and we've enabled them to play great games. "
With five games, the cowboys can't be better than 8-8. To get there they have to win, which, given the sad state of the division, would almost certainly guarantee that they win the NFC East even after being swept by Washington.
But does that even seem to be possible from a distance?
For many, including McCarthy, 2021 can't get here fast enough.