While they may not agree on everything, Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy are in lockstep when it comes to their philosophy of playing starters in the preseason.
Many teams have started playing their starters more in the preseason, a byproduct of the NFL decreasing the preseason schedule and increasing the time between the preseason and the start of the regular season. Several teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, are playing their starters in each of their three preseason games.
Despite this, the Cowboys are sticking to their philosophy of not playing their starters in the preseason. For the Cowboys owner, this belief dates back to a joint practice his team had decades ago with the Raiders, who at the time were run by then-owner Al Davis.
"You know, Al Davis, the very first time I was ever out of practice with him, he stopped a drill," Jones said, via the team's website. "He got out and stopped it. We had maybe run seven snaps, and the drill was a contact drill. It was a training camp in Austin; he brought the team up there. And, man, the coaches were just dumbfounded.
"What's he doing stepping over and stopping the drill? He said, 'That's it, man.' He said, 'The Raiders are not gonna leave anything on the field here in August. We're gonna need it in December. We're through. Nobody is going to have any more contact here.'"
The memory has stayed with Jones, who wants his team to continue to air on the side of caution regarding the exhibition season.
"I use that as a memory because you do have to sometimes use the word, but you've gotta weigh the good you're getting out of it over what it might do to availability, and it's a hard call," he said. "I like [McCarthy's] approach. And we all see what it is now -- you've now gotten used to it and I have to.
"I think he wants [the veterans] there in December."
McCarthy's belief in not playing starters in the preseason dates back to his experience as the Packers head coach. McCarthy's Packers suffered their share of notable preseason injuries, including Jordy Nelson suffering a season-ending knee injury against Pittsburgh in 2015.
"Well, I've lost players," said McCarthy. "I mean, there's pros and cons of playing them, and there's pros and cons of not playing them. You know, there's pros and cons of practicing against another team, and there's pros and cons of not.
"It's all just understanding how it all fits together."
The other part, McCarthy said, is knowing where you are as a team and what you're trying to do. As far as the 2023 Cowboys are concerned, McCarthy said he has "great confidence" in his defense, a group that finished seventh and fifth in the league in scoring the past two years, respectively. McCarthy said he wants to see more practice reps from the Cowboys' starting offensive line, which will be a point of emphasis between now and the team's season-opener against the Giants.
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By not playing their starters, the Cowboys increase their odds at having a healthier roster for the start of the regular season. Conversely, Dallas is risking starting off slow, which could ultimately cost them a shot at the No. 1 seed, a division crown, etc. It appears, based on their decision to stick to their philosophy, that Jones and McCarthy are willing to take that risk.
"I think the risk assessment is maybe you get older, you do get a little uncertain," McCarthy said. "I don't know that. But, you know, I just think common sense needs to prevail. But, you have 32 teams and not everybody attacks it the same way. So that's really the answer. [For me] it's, 'Where's my team at?'
"Now, if we were all just brand new and young, and I was back in 2006, 2007 -- we were playing all three games. We'd played 25 in our first game, would've played the first half in the second game, and played into the third quarter of the third game. I have done that formula, but this format works for us."