By all accounts, the Dallas Cowboys are not replacing head coach Mike McCarthy.
But the shocking 23-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC wild card game, abruptly ended a record-setting season and has ushered in an offseason of uncertainty for the Cowboys, who are facing looming coordinator losses and major free-agent decisions.
The 2021 Cowboys showed they could dominant on both sides of the ball. They led the league and set a franchise record with points scored and they led the NFL in takeaways, and that success left team owner Jerry Jones disappointed that the club wasn’t able to put together its first Super Bowl run since the 1995 season.
“When you get this combination of players together, you need to have success because we all know how it goes in the NFL,” Jones said. “The whole thing is set up to take away from the best and add to the ones that need improvement. And personnel-wise, I think we have one of the best.”
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn have multiple head coaching interviews set for this week. Moore was scheduled to meet the Denver Broncos on Tuesday, and he will also speak with the Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins. Quinn is also meeting with the Broncos on Tuesday, followed by the Vikings on Wednesday, the Dolphins on Thursday and the Chicago Bears on Saturday.
Quinn, who engineered a remarkable one-year turnaround on defense and mentored rookie linebacker sensation Micah Parsons into a viable Defensive Player of the Year Candidate as well as Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, is most likely gone.
He is the betting favorite to wind up in Denver due to his close relationship with Broncos general manager George Paton from their days together with the Dolphins in 2005 and 2006.
And it’s not just about the coaches. The Cowboys have 21 players set to become unrestricted free agents and that doesn’t include looming decisions on the futures of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and tackle Tyron Smith because of their ages, contracts and an injury history.
Headlining the list of free agents are tight end Dalton Schultz, receivers Cedrick Wilson and Michael Gallup, left guard Connor Williams, defensive ends Randy Gregory and Dorance Armstrong, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and safeties Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker.
“You got a bunch of guys that are free agents soon and I look at guys like Leighton Vander Esch, who I would call, like, a big brother now,” Parsons said. “I never know if I’m going to play with him again. I didn’t come into this thinking this would be my last game with him ... I’m emotional because I grew a bond with these guys ... Nobody wanted this outcome, and everybody really played to win. We just got to clean things up for next year.”