NFL

Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy Continues to Struggle With Fourth-Down Decisions

Mike McCarthy, the former Green Bay Packers coach hired in the offseason to lead the Dallas Cowboys as head coach, is at it again. McCarthy is known for his offensive mind but is also known for his questionable fourth-down decisions. His latest debatable call may have proved costly during the Cowboys’ 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Mike McCarthy’s coaching career

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Mike McCarthy is entering his 14th season as a head coach in the NFL. McCarthy spent the last 13 seasons leading the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay hired McCarthy in 2006 when he was serving as offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. He struggled in his first year as the Packers went 4-8 to start the 2006 season, but finished strong, winning their final four games.

That momentum carried over into 2007 when the Packers finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. McCarthy and the Packers struggled in 2008, going 6-10, but then began a streak of eight straight winning seasons. The Packers won the Super Bowl after going 10-6 during the regular season in 2010. In 2011, they finished the season 15-1 but lost to the 49ers in the playoffs.

McCarthy’s last two seasons in Green Bay were ugly. The Packers finished 7-9 in 2017 and then were 4-7-1 in 2018 before McCarthy was fired during the season. He finished his coaching career in Green Bay with a 125-77-2 record. McCarthy became the ninth head coach of the Dallas Cowboys when he was signed during the offseason.

McCarthy’s decision-making comes into question

Mike McCarthy was very successful with the Green Bay Packers. His longevity and Super Bowl title can back that up. He did leave many Green Bay Packers fans scratching their heads with some of his decisions. Many of those decisions came on fourth down.

One, in particular, came in November of 2018 when the Packers were playing the Seattle Seahawks on the road and desperately needed a win to have any shot at the postseason. The Packers were trailing 27-24 and faced fourth-and-2 from their own 33-yard line with 4:20 left. Instead of keeping the ball in Aaron Rodgers’ hands, McCarthy punted and put the ball in Russell Wilson’s hands. Wilson and the Seahawks ran out the clock and killed Green Bay’s playoff hopes.

The decision drew the public ire of one Packers player. “When we’re in games like this, we gotta go for it, man,” Packers defensive back Tramon Williams said, according to ESPN. “We play to win, you know? We play to win. We’ve got the best quarterback behind center.” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was “relieved” McCarthy punted. “I really did like that they punted the ball back to us right there,” Carroll said.

McCarthy had another fourth-down blunder Sunday night

With less than 12 minutes remaining in Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, the Dallas Cowboys trailed 20-17 and were faced with a fourth-and-3 situation from the Rams 11. McCarthy decided to skip the chip-shot field goal and gamble. His gamble didn’t pay off as the Cowboys came up short on fourth down.

“The conservative play there is to kick the field goal,” McCarthy said, according to DallasCowboys.com. “But I just felt really good about how we were moving the football.”

McCarthy continued to explain. “I think especially the first time out going into a game, I want our offensive guys to play wide open. We have that capability,” McCarthy said. “I’ll pull back when I feel like it’s in the best interest of the team. I clearly recognize that it was a three-point game, but we still had a lot of time left and I just felt that would’ve been a huge momentum play for us at that particular time.”