The Cowboys haven’t made the NFC Championship Game since 1995, which was the last of the franchise’s five Super Bowls. Dallas has had six head coaches since Jimmy Johnson, but Mike McCarthy will get a fourth season despite one playoff victory in three years.
Sean Payton, who has made no secret of his desire to one day coach the Cowboys, and owner Jerry Jones may have missed their best, last opportunity to reunite.
Payton took the head coaching job with the Broncos, taking him off the market for a few years at least.
The Cowboys missed out on Payton by a year when the Saints hired him in 2006, and Bill Parcells retired a year later. They may have missed out on Payton by a year again, depending on how the Cowboys fare in 2023 with McCarthy on the hot seat.
The Cowboys instead parted ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. McCarthy will take over play-calling duties, something he did in his career as the Packers’ head coach.
Johnson, now a studio analyst for Fox, wasn’t surprised that Jones didn’t make a move at head coach this offseason after McCarthy won 12 games a second consecutive regular season.
“When you look at the numbers, Mike McCarthy and Sean’s numbers are very similar,” Johnson said. “I think both are outstanding football coaches, and so it could be a good fit with Mike calling the plays and taking over the offense. But when you just compare the two, it’s hard to pick, because they’re both outstanding.”
Still, the Cowboys are only 5-12 in the postseason since their last championship, including 1-2 with two losses to the 49ers the past two years.
“Everybody’s going to gauge a team on what you do in the playoffs,” Johnson said. “That’s what’s been frustrating [for the Cowboys]. The thing about it is a lot of times during the regular season you can beat up on teams because you’re more talented than they are. Talent alone will win those games, but once you get in the playoffs, you’re playing teams just as talented as you are. There’s a very small margin of error — turnovers, sacks, negative plays, how good of defense you’re playing, explosive plays — and sometimes you’ve got to go against the percentages in the playoffs. If you just play it by the book in the playoffs and that team is as talented as you are, they’re going to beat you. The playoffs are a completely different world than playing in the regular season.”