OXNARD, Calif. — Jerry Jones didn’t wait for the question.
The Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager knew speculation had circulated about his head coach’s job security. Is Mike McCarthy on the hot seat after two seasons without a playoff win?
Jones’ own tepid endorsements last winter fueled speculation.
Tuesday in the team’s opening press conference to training camp, he explained.
“I want to be real clear: He wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think he was the man to lead this team to a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “He would not be. And I have choices (that) were there for my use had I wanted them.
“No, the guy to my right is who I’m convicted about and have been.”
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The Cowboys hired McCarthy to take them where predecessor Jason Garrett didn’t: deep in the playoffs. Dallas has contended perennially for NFC East dominance, but the team’s last 11 postseason berths have dissipated without a conference championship appearance, much less a Super Bowl trophy.
Dallas last advanced past the divisional round en route to the title following the 1995 season. Franchise quarterback Dak Prescott was 2 years old then. Defensive star Micah Parsons was born more than three years after that game. Jones feel urgency to win as he approaches his 80th birthday.
In McCarthy’s 13 years as Packers head coach, Green Bay’s nine playoff berths included a Super Bowl championship and three additional conference championship contests. That postseason resume appealed to a Cowboys team in drought. Then a rash of injuries ravaged McCarthy’s first season in Dallas, Prescott among key players lost early into the season. The Cowboys finished 12-5 in 2021 before becoming the NFL’s only team last season to lose a wild-card game at home.
Last winter, Jones was even coy about whether defensive coordinator Dan Quinn might succeed McCarthy. He said Tuesday that he wanted teams across the league to suspect that.
“I had very much early wanted the NFL to wonder if Dan Quinn would be my head coach,” Jones explained in an off-podium conversation on the tennis courts of the team’s training camp facility. “I wanted to deter somebody else from getting him because I wanted him to be our coordinator.
“I was playing poker.”
Jones dismissed reporter indications that such activity fueled a narrative Jones now says he’s “uncomfortable with.” The owner insists he helped his Cowboys by retaining Quinn to guide the defense for a second year—Quinn’s first year featured league-leading takeaways and a drastic improvement in scoring defense—imploring fans “trust me” that he led potential Quinn employers to “think they might be up against a tougher negotiation.”
Nonetheless, Jones said moving on from McCarthy this offseason is not and never was an “active” decision. McCarthy’s contract was not extended this offseason, but Jones said the coach is not entering the final season of his deal. He declined to confirm how many remained, quipping with a grin that “when you got your ass out there a little bit…” pressure can motivate.
“We certainly had things we’ve addressed,” Jones said. “The way we addressed them in the offseason, I think we’ve successfully put together a staff that really from this vantage point gives us absolutely the best chance with our makeup and our team to get to the ultimate success.”
McCarthy, for his part, said he is focusing more on game-planning than rumor-dispelling and Jones’ endorsement falls “in line with our conversations.”
“I obviously have the opportunity to meet with Jerry in the GM/head coach realm for conversations about partnership, direction, vision,” McCarthy said. “But also I do have the opportunity to speak to Jerry as the owner to the head coach, and that’s really a vast education of so many different things of how the things that we can do better from a big realm to make us better.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to win a championship.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.