Opinion: Dismal showing by Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys shouldn't be a surprise

·5 min read

Maybe those bells that Jerry Jones said convinced him to hire Mike McCarthy were actually alarm bells.

The clown show performance in Sunday’s NFC wild-card game surely sent Jones and the Dallas Cowboys fan base into a full-scale panic and might have put McCarthy’s job in jeopardy. This was a Cowboys team some thought could make a deep run in the playoffs, if not reach the Super Bowl, and they were done before the first weekend was.

But was this really a surprise? Because if you had paid even the slightest bit of attention to McCarthy’s time in Green Bay, all of this looked painfully familiar. The lack of discipline and the self-sabotage that results. The questionable play calls and clock mismanagement.

And what should be most concerning to Jones: the squandering of a Super Bowl-capable quarterback during his prime.

“There’s been some good quarterbacks that haven’t advanced in the playoffs. I’m just sick we’re one of them,” Jones said after the 23-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. “Really sick. I’m surprised and sick.”

There is plenty of blame to go around for the Cowboys debacle.

Six years into his NFL career, what on earth made Dak Prescott think he should keep running and try to pick up a few measly extra yards rather than getting down and saving precious time on the clock? Why was Prescott even running in the first place, given the 49ers' penchant for pass interference?

How did no one – not Prescott, not an offensive lineman, not even someone on the sideline with a really loud voice – know they needed to let the referee touch the ball before play could resume? And that, until he did, the clock would be running?

The Cowboys committed 14 penalties during Sunday's game against the 49ers.
The Cowboys committed 14 penalties during Sunday's game against the 49ers.

That was just from the final minute. There also was that head-shaking decision in the third quarter to keep the punt team on the field in hopes of confusing the 49ers, only for the Cowboys to outsmart themselves and wind up with a delay-of-game penalty.

For those keeping score, that was one of 14 during the game for Dallas, which also was the most-penalized team in the NFL during the regular season.

Sensing a theme here?

Dallas was done in by a number of mistakes, made by a number of players. But the person running the show, the person who is supposed to have the Cowboys operating in smart, focused and meticulous fashion, is McCarthy.

The margin between teams is so thin that nothing can be left to chance, especially at this time of year. Did McCarthy not bother harping on fundamentals once the Cowboys had secured a playoff spot? Did he not say anything at halftime, when Dallas already had five penalties?

Has he never once reminded his players about the rule requiring the ref to touch and spot the ball before a play can begin? Because I’d be willing to bet a fairly large sum of money that Bill Belichick and Andy Reid have.

This can’t be chalked up to one bad game, either. The Cowboys were called for 127 penalties this season, three more than the Las Vegas Raiders. They led the league with 27 penalties for offensive holding, and were second to the Chicago Bears with 10 calls for unnecessary roughness.

McCarthy was blistered for his clock management in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers; Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles; and Week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs. This isn’t rocket science, and someone who has been a head coach for 15 years ought to have it figured out by now.

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Easy as it is to pin all of this on McCarthy – and make no mistake, he will be the one to take the blame if anyone does – this is on Jones, too.

He was so enamored of McCarthy, who led the Packers to the Super Bowl title at Jerry World, that he interviewed him before officially cutting ties with Jason Garrett. After that marathon interview, Jones didn’t bother to consider anyone else; yes, he talked with Marvin Lewis, but that was widely seen as a sham to avoid being punished for violating the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

Jones was so convinced he had the guy who would return the Cowboys to glory that he didn’t stop to ask himself whether he might not. Or, apparently, give any thought to the possibility that Aaron Rodgers might have had as much or more to do with McCarthy’s success in Green Bay as McCarthy.

Impressive as McCarthy's record with the Packers was, they should have reached -- and won -- more than the one Super Bowl they did. When many of the mistakes that hindered the Packers are playing out again in real time with the Cowboys, it's hard not to see that McCarthy is the common denominator.

The bell that Jones hears now is that of an alarm clock, telling him it's time to wake up. Before another season goes to waste.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike McCarthy makes same mistakes with Cowboys as he did with Packers