Jerry Jones hired Mike McCarthy in January 2020. A couple of months later and the pandemic hit. Nothing has been normal since. According to former Dallas Cowboys defensive star Darren Woodson, McCarthy and Jones have an abnormal relationship that blends in perfectly with this year. That’s because, for the first time since 1994, when Jones fired former head coach Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys owner has taken a back seat to the coach. For Cowboys fans, that could be a good sign that things are genuinely changing in Dallas.
Jerry Jones replaces Jimmy Johnson with Barry Switzer
After winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993, the Dallas Cowboys were riding high and looking for a three-peat. But the egos of Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson got in the way. After weeks of conflict in the media, Jones and Johnson agreed to part ways.
Just days later, Jones introduced his longtime friend Barry Switzer as the new head coach. The pair had been friends for 30 years since Switzer was the freshman team coach at the University of Arkansas, and Jones was on the offensive line.
For three years, Switzer coached in Dallas, including one Super Bowl title, which most considered Johnson’s leftovers. Since Switzer’s departure in 1997, it’s been a coaching carousel in Dallas with five different coaches. The longest tenure belonging to Jason Garrett, who lasted from 2010-19. According to the prevailing thought in football circles, Jerry Jones told all of those coaches how things were run in Dallas.
Jerry Jones hires Mike McCarthy
In January, just days after firing Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones introduced Mike McCarthy as the Dallas Cowboys new head coach. After years of limited success in Dallas since Johnson’s departure more than 25 years earlier, many believed McCarthy would be just another in a line of coaches who would be the leader in name only and take a back seat to Jones.
What most forgot is McCarthy arrived in Big D with something on his resume very different than Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, and Jason Garrett. McCarthy had a Super Bowl title to his credit, like Johnson and another member of the Cowboys coaching carousel, Bill Parcells.
Since Mike McCarthy’s arrival, things don’t appear any different from the past, at least publicly, including the team’s first game, a 20-17 loss to the LA Rams.
Mike McCarthy given more power than previous coaches
According to former Dallas Cowboys defensive star and three-time Super Bowl champion Darren Woodson, there’s been a noticeable shift of power away from Jerry Jones. The five-time Pro Bowler appeared on the Pat McAfee show this week and said in the past, media, sponsors, and fans freely moved around the Cowboys facilities, including during practice. When McAfee described how most NFL teams are so secretive and access to anything, especially practice, is very limited, even to the media, Woodson said that’s what McCarthy is doing now in Dallas.
“This has been the case with the Cowboys, since, I would say, when Jimmy Johnson was fired and let go. There’s been a ton of access to everything. Practice. Lunch. Anything you want. And that’s how the Joneses sell the brand. The sponsors have a ton of access, and the local fans have a ton of access to watch the Cowboys.
“I think it was Mike McCarthy saying, ‘Look, we have to put a halt to this.’ And what surprised me in this is that Jerry actually allowed that to happen. That was the biggest surprise because it’s been the norm around here as far as access and when they shut it down, I had to applaud Mike McCarthy because it showed that he has some power moving forward and his word means something.”
While the Week 1 loss in LA was disappointingly similar to what fans have witnessed from many Cowboys teams in recent years, there’s a change in the culture behind the scenes. And that transformation reveals Jerry Jones is at least trying to allow the head coach to have full control over team activities, including access to players. Whether that translates to success on the field is yet to be determined.