When the Dallas Cowboys finally decided to part ways with longtime head coach Jason Garrett, the goal was to succeed him with a proven football mind who already has a plan for improving the team and finally getting them to turn the corner in 2020. Enter Mike McCarthy, the former Green Bay Packers head coach who led the team to a Super Bowl victory at AT&T Stadium in 2011. McCarthy split with the Packers in 2018 and sat out the 2019 season to revamp and evolve his coaching approach, and he's already hit the ground running in North Texas.
Under Garrett, the usual strategy for NFL free agency was to sit out the first wave -- sometimes even the first two waves -- and instead go bargain shopping in the third and fourth waves, but McCarthy's influence on owner Jerry Jones and the Cowboys front office has seen them depart from the dated blueprint and instead dive right in the pool early and often.
They didn't allow much time for bemoaning from the fanbase following the loss of Robert Quinn to the Chicago Bears and Maliek Collins to the Las Vegas Raiders. Even when much-maligned safety Jeff Heath saw fit to join Collins and future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten on the wagon to Jon Gruden's digs, McCarthy quietly continued piecing together his rebuttal. That reply was a master stroke of free agency rarely seen under Garrett -- including the signing of four-time All-Pro pass rusher Gerald McCoy on a three-year deal, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on a one-year prove it contract, and All-Pro nose tackle Dontari Poe having agreed to a two-year deal, pending physical, a source tells CBS Sports.
And as far as Witten goes, the future Hall of Famer didn't leave because he wanted to, but instead because McCarthy didn't offer him much of a role (if any at all) with the new-look Cowboys. The team is now all-in on former backup Blake Jarwin getting the nod as full-time starter, as evidenced in his four-year extension awarded this offseason worth $24.25 million, and signing super-blocking tight end Blake Bell -- known as the "Bell Dozer" by many -- to a contract to help complement Jarwin's athleticism.
The signing of the Oklahoman Blakes -- Jarwin and Bell having attended Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma, respectively -- adds serious potency to a McCarthy regime that's not only filled key needs, but also upgraded with each of the aforementioned moves. Further evidence is in how there's suddenly a competition at kicker after two seasons of the Cowboys refusing to challenge Brett Maher. Kai Forbath returns on a one-year deal to lock horns, pun intended, with former Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein to ensure the Cowboys finally end their kicking woes for the foreseeable future.
This is all been going on while the team has seen reignited talks with Dak Prescott, by the way, and the re-signing of four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper to a five-year, $100 million deal is the coup de grace before the actual coup de grace -- namely the looming contract that will make Prescott the highest-paid player in franchise history. McCarthy rubber-stamped the future of Prescott in Dallas expeditiously and often, and even if McCarthy and the Cowboys make no other splashy signings this offseason outside of the former NFL Rookie of the Year and two-time Pro Bowl quarterback, what he's done in only two weeks of free agency already eclipses any excitement Garrett ever enjoyed in his nine seasons with the club.
McCarthy has shown he values the safety position, the interior defensive line and a playmaking tight end more than Garrett ever did, and it's one reason why players like McCoy are calling their respective signing a "dream come true" while Clinton-Dix labels it "the opportunity of a lifetime". What McCarthy brings to Dallas isn't just experience but a plan that's a year in the making, and one the Joneses are drooling to see unfold before them. And thus far, be it his construction of an impressive coaching staff and/or what he's convinced them to grant him in free agency, the excitement in Dallas is still subject to the test of time, but it's justified for now.
Up next comes the 2020 NFL Draft, and the team has already promised things "will be a bit different" to get McCarthy the pieces he needs to win games. There's a new sheriff in town in Dallas, and the governor, the mayor, and the city council are all letting him establish new law.