Mike McCarthy will return as coach of the Dallas Cowboys after stunning wild-card loss

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy walking on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Susan Walsh, Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mike McCarthy will get another chance to end a nearly three-decade stretch without a deep playoff run for the Dallas Cowboys, a decision that ends three days of intense speculation over the coach’s future.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Wednesday night that McCarthy will be back for a fifth season after a stunning 48-32 wild-card loss to Green Bay.

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The Cowboys were the first No. 2 seed to lose to the last team to get in since the 14-team format was adopted in 2020. Dallas surged to the NFC East title in the final two weeks and had a chance to host at least two playoff games.

Instead, McCarthy's team is the first not to reach a conference title game after three consecutive 12-win playoff seasons.

“There is great benefit to continuing the team’s progress under Mike’s leadership as our head coach,” Jones said in a statement with several references to the disappointment of the playoff loss. “Mike has the highest regular-season winning percentage of any head coach in Cowboys history, and we will dedicate ourselves, in partnership with him, to translating that into reaching our postseason goals.”

McCarthy was hired to get Dallas past the divisional round for the first time since the 1995 season, the last of the storied franchise's five Super Bowl titles.

The 60-year-old coach won a Super Bowl with Green Bay 13 years ago and reached the NFC championship game three other times in 12-plus seasons leading the Packers.

McCarthy was fired midway through a second consecutive losing season in Green Bay in 2018. He was out of football in 2019 before Jones hired him. He is 167-102-2 overall and 42-25 with Dallas.

McCarthy has one year remaining on his contract. Jones' statement made no mention of an extension.

Quarterback Dak Prescott, who also has one year left on his $160 million, four-year deal, played poorly in the first half as Dallas fell behind 27-0. A top-five defensive unit never did slow the Packers in quarterback Jordan Love's playoff debut.

Dallas allowed the most points in the franchise's postseason history while dropping to 1-3 in the playoffs under McCarthy. Prescott is 2-5 in the playoffs.

“We will start our process of review and decision-making regarding everything that impacts our team and roster,” Jones said. “While we’re not going to address specific players and extensions or free agents at this point, it deserves our deepest review and consideration, and it will get it.”

Two of the Cowboys' three playoff losses under McCarthy have been playoff openers at home, where Dallas won 16 consecutive regular-season games before the loss to Green Bay.

Both times, Dallas was the only team to lose at home on wild-card weekend. San Francisco won at AT&T Stadium to end the Cowboys' 2021 season.

One factor working in McCarthy’s favor was he had just finished his first season as the play-caller for Prescott, who led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes and completed a career-best 69.5% of his passes.

Jones had high praise for his coach and quarterback during the season, and might want to see how the new dynamic of that relationship might grow.

“Our loss on Sunday is shared by everyone here, not just coach McCarthy. Our players. Our coaches. Our front office. Myself,” Jones said. “The lens we use to view and evaluate coach McCarthy is holistic. While we’re all disappointed with the result on Sunday and with our playoff record, I am 100 percent supportive of him as our head coach and ability to reach our goals.”

The Cowboys might lose defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to a head coaching job. The former Atlanta coach has been in charge of the Dallas defense for three seasons, but the performance against the Packers was perhaps the unit's worst since Quinn took over. ___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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