The first year of the Mike McCarthy era certainly has not gone as planned. After heading into the season as a Super Bowl favorite, the Dallas Cowboys entered Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings with a disappointing 2-7 record.
However, McCarthy’s team managed to leave Minnesota with its third win of the year. And as it turns out, the veteran head coach may have saved his job (and the Cowboys’ season) thanks to watermelons.
A rough start to the Mike McCarthy era in Dallas
With a Super Bowl title on his resume, Mike McCarthy joined the Cowboys with the expectation that he would put Dallas back in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy. Unfortunately for the former Green Bay Packers coach, his first year working for Jerry Jones has featured plenty of challenges.
Injuries have been a major issue all year long. Over the summer, free-agent addition Gerald McCoy ruptured his quadriceps tendon. Instead of starting at one defensive tackle spot, he got released and never played a down in Dallas.
The offensive line has also been ravaged by health problems. Dallas had to place star offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins on injured reserve, and the rest of the unit has undergone changes on a near-weekly basis.
Obviously, though, losing Dak Prescott represented the toughest blow. Without their star quarterback under center, the Cowboys lost four straight games before going on their bye week.
The Cowboys coach potentially saved his job using watermelons
On the heels of a four-game losing streak, Mike McCarthy had to do something to shake up his team. But while some coaches resort to impassioned speeches, the 57-year-old took a different route.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Cowboys had a team meeting on Saturday that included a unique motivational tactic by McCarthy.
“Mike McCarthy gets up and says, ‘Guys, I want to apologize. I don’t think I did a good enough job emphasizing our objectives for the week’—one of which was to hammer the ball out of [Minnesota running back] Dalvin Cook’s hands,” Pelissero said on Monday. “At that point McCarthy pulls out a sledgehammer, not a prop, a full sledgehammer you could knock a wall down with, and someone rolls in a bunch of watermelons.”
What happened next may have gotten messy, but it may also have been the key to McCarthy saving his job.
“McCarthy reads the objective—BAM!—smashes the watermelon. He goes down the row doing this,” Pelissero explained. “The players are roaring, McCarthy’s pants are soaked. He finally gets to the watermelon with Dalvin Cook’s picture on it, DeMarcus Lawrence jumps up and goes, ‘I’ve got to get that one.'”
McCarthy handed the sledgehammer to his 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive end. Lawrence smashed the watermelon like a quarterback standing idle in the pocket.
Of course, the Cowboys ended up pulling off a 31-28 victory the next day thanks to a clutch fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Dalton Schultz.
But now the question is: Can Dallas build off its recent victory and win the NFC East?
Will McCarthy’s motivational tactic fuel a playoff run?
Mike McCarthy may have saved his job and his team’s season thanks to watermelons and a sledgehammer. Because if the Cowboys can find some consistency as December nears, they have an excellent chance at making the playoffs.
Sure, Dallas has mostly been awful through the first 11 weeks of the season. Yet, thanks to an easy schedule and the dismal state of the division, the Cowboys can still earn a postseason berth for just the fourth time in the last decade.
On Thanksgiving, the Cowboys should handle business against the 3-7 Washington Football Team. While the Baltimore Ravens represent a tough matchup, the Cowboys finish the year with winnable games against the Cincinnati Bengals (Week 14), San Francisco 49ers (Week 15), Philadelphia Eagles (Week 16), and the New York Giants (Week 17).
Conceivably, the Cowboys could go at least 4-2 down the stretch and finish the year with a 7-9 record. If they only lose to the Ravens, they will finish 8-8, which will likely make them NFC East champions.
Ultimately, we will have to see if Mike McCarthy’s motivational tactic pays off in the long run. It may have worked on Sunday, but will the Cowboys build off that performance and start stacking success? If so, we will look back at a Saturday night meeting with watermelons and a sledgehammer as the moment he saved his job.