Is hot seat fair to Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy as key injuries continue to mount?

FRISCO, Texas — It was the 17th question of the news conference, in about 7 minutes, 50 seconds, after the Dallas Cowboys lost 19-3 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night.

“There was a legend in the hot seat with you before the season,” a reporter asked coach Mike McCarthy. “After a performance like this, do you feel the pressure has eased?”

“I’m 0-1, we’re 0-1 as a football team,” McCarthy said. “Obviously I have to do a little more work to come out of this game, but that’s our business.”

Well or not, each week there will be a referendum on McCarthy’s immediate and long-term future. It was the biggest story to come of the season after a disappointing end to the 2021 campaign with a home playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in January.

With the defending AFC champions Cincinnati Bengals visiting AT&T (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS) on Sunday, McCarthy will look to avoid his first 0-2 start since his first year with the Green Bay Packers (2006).

Now they will have to do without starting quarterback Duck Prescott, who had surgery on his right thumb on Monday. Prescott’s return is uncertain, although owner and general manager Jerry Jones said during week 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that the quarterback could return within four weeks. Before the surgery, sources said Prescott would need six to eight weeks to recover.

If the Cowboys lose to Cincinnati, McCarthy’s talk will only intensify, despite Jones’ announcement at the start of training camp.

“I want to be really clear: He wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think he was the person to lead this team to the Super Bowl,” Jones said in July.

But should McCarthy be in the proverbial hot seat?

The day he took the job in 2020, he thought he had inherited an offensive line that included perennial pro bowlers in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick, with a top-line right tackle at L’El Collins.

They never played a game together under McCarthy, with Frederick retiring before the 2020 season.

McCarthy was also getting Prescott, who was seemingly entering his prime. In the fifth game of the 2020 season, Prescott suffered a compound fracture and a dislocation of his right ankle. Last season, he missed a game with a calf strain, which affected him the most in the second half of the season.

And now the broken thumb.

Sunday’s match against the Bengals will be McCarthy’s 35th match in Dallas. Prescott would have missed 13 of them, and he could potentially miss the next three games, if not more.

“It’s football, it really is,” McCarthy said when asked if he felt like he didn’t take a break. “I’ve lost my starting quarterback before. It’s unfortunate. Frankly my feelings go down to that person because I know how much these guys put into it. But yeah, that’s all part of the challenge. When you It gets even sweeter when you reach where you want to go.”

While injuries can derail a season, McCarthy has noted on several occasions that his best moment — winning Super Bowl XLV — came with the Packers who required 77 players that season. When the Cowboys finalized the roster this year, they noted that 10 rookies played a key role in the Packers’ Super Bowl victory.

It may seem that the Cowboys had too many offensive line combinations under McCarthy. According to ESPN Stats and Information Research, since the start of 2020, Cowboys have used 43 different five-man units for at least one snap. He is ranked 13th in the NFL; The Philadelphia Eagles lead with 61.

Not only is Prescott missing Sunday’s game, but so is safety Jaron Kersey, who sprained his left knee and led the Cowboys last season, and left guard Conor McGovern. Simultaneously, the Cowboys lost Tyrone Smith to a left tackle by December with a torn hamstring in one of the final training camp exercises.

“Man, it’s the league, man,” said tight end Dalton Schultz. ,[McCarthy] It’s like, ‘Listen, the people in this room, you’re going to play. Somewhere something is going to happen. You are going to get a chance and you are expected to play at a higher level.

Jones’ history needs to focus on what may and may not have happened to McCarthy.

He has made an in-season coaching change since becoming owner and general manager in 1989.

In 2010, the Cowboys started 1-7 and Jones replaced Wade Phillips with Jason Garrett. Incidentally, the last game the Phillips coached was McCarthy’s 45–7 loss against the Packers at Lambeau Field that called into question the effort of many players.

Phillips had been taken away from NFC East and playoff wins 10 months away at the time of his dismissal. If this season goes in a similar direction, there could be another parallel to 2010. In the sixth game of that season, quarterback Tony Romo suffered a season-ending broken collarbone.

None of that history matters to the players. Outside noise doesn’t really matter. What matters is winning against Cincinnati.

“Obviously we’re under a microscope, and that’s fine,” Martin said. “I think people understand that. It’s part of the game. Everyone deals with injuries. Yes, it’s unfortunate that some people haven’t been there, that Dak gets hurt a bunch. But we deal with injuries. We are not the only team in the world, and it really depends on the players. I think we can do better when some players are out. It’s not all on the coaches. It’s on the players that they have to take some responsibility And really have to slack something.”

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