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In the modern NFL, head coaches have to wear several hats. Most call plays on either offense or defense; some act as general managers and get involved with personnel decisions. They also have to manage their entire staff and act as master motivators, getting 50-plus players to buy into what they’re selling. It seems like Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has that last responsibility down pact.

When the 2020 NFL season began, McCarthy’s Dallas Cowboys looked like an unmitigated disaster. Heading into Week 17, however, the team is still fighting for a playoff berth, thanks to the coach’s motivational melons.

Mike McCarthy’s time with the Dallas Cowboys hasn’t gone according to plan

In terms of status, few NFL jobs are bigger than the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately for Mike McCarthy, however, that job hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park.

On paper, the Cowboys entered the year with plenty of talent; even if they weren’t the best team in the league, they should have been good enough to win the awful NFC East. When the season began, though, Dallas was barely able to win a game, let alone the division.

When the campaign kicked off, the Cowboys’ defense couldn’t get a stop. Then, during Week 5’s victory over the New York Giants, Dak Prescott went down with a season-ending ankle injury. That forced Andy Dalton—and, in subsequent weeks, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert— onto the field as the starting quarterback.

That reality, combined with a pandemic-affected training camp, several key injuries, and a handful of bizarre coaching decisions, created a mess in Dallas. Even though the Cowboys have recovered in recent weeks and can still make the playoffs, no one is planning a parade for a sub-500 team.

Mike McCarthy brought back his motivational watermelons for Week 16

Earlier this season, Mike McCarthy shook his Dallas Cowboys out of a four-game losing streak by smashing some watermelons with a sledgehammer during a team meeting. That wasn’t a one-off stunt, it seems. Ahead of Week 16’s date with the Philadelphia Eagles, the coach performed an encore, this time with some help from the team captains.

“On Saturday, the team brought out the sledgehammer again,” Michael Gehlkin reported in the Dallas Morning News. “McCarthy assigned his three game captains — wide receiver Amari Cooper, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford — to smash watermelons in front of the team.”

While smashing fruit isn’t exactly a standard motivational technique, it seemed to resonate with the team for a second time. “You know, it kind of gets the guys going,” Cooper explained.

Come Sunday’s game, the Dallas Cowboys were still fired up; after falling behind early, they downed the Philadelphia Eagles 37-17, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

The Dallas Cowboys can still make the playoffs in Week 17

It’s safe to say that Mike McCarthy’s first season with the Dallas Cowboys hasn’t gone according to plan. Thanks to his watermelon-based motivational techniques, though, the coach has his team fighting for a playoff spot heading into Week 17.

While they’ll finish the year below .500, the Cowboys still have a chance to win the NFC East and earn an automatic postseason berth; they don’t control their own destiny, though.

Everything starts with the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles game. If Washington wins, they’re in the playoffs; if they lose, their season is over. Should the Eagles win, the spotlight moves to the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game, with the winner of that matchup earning the NFC East championship and a ticket to the postseason.

Although the Dallas Cowboys campaign hasn’t exactly been a success, Mike McCarthy has managed to drag his team out of the doldrums and get them within a game of the playoffs. The coach, however, couldn’t do it alone; he owes a debt of gratitude to the humble watermelon.


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