NFL great Howie Long understands why Cowboys stuck with Mike McCarthy over Bill Belichick, but ‘this is it’

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Mourning among Dallas Cowboys fans continued beyond the team’s playoff loss Sunday when it was revealed the team is keeping Mike McCarthy as its head coach.

McCarthy went 12-5 in each of the last three seasons, but the Cowboys have just one playoff win in that span, and their NFC championship game drought continues.

While many Cowboys fans were disappointed about McCarthy’s return, one football Hall of Famer understands owner Jerry Jones’ controversial decision.

Howie Long gave Jones the benefit of the doubt with his decision during the current coaching carousel.


Mike McCarthy coaches against the Bills

Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium Dec. 17, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y.  (Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

“Mike has won a lot of games over there the last few years. He’s cultivated a really strong relationship with Dak Prescott,” Long said in a recent interview with Fox News Digital. “For whatever reason, when they get to the playoffs, they falter. That’s what’s unique about our game. Mike made the point, they picked the wrong time to have a bad day. 

“Unlike baseball or hockey or basketball, where it’s best-of-three, best-of-five, best-of-seven, it’s one game. And if you’re off one day, you’re out, you’re done. It’s over sudden. I think there’s always kind of an inclination to rush to judgment, and I think Jerry did a good job of kind of hanging in there and saying, ‘Do I want to be in a market where seven or eight other teams are going to be looking for head coaches, offensive coordinators?’ That probably factored into Jerry’s decision.”

But the “NFL on FOX” cohost seemed to suggest Jones still wants to win his own way. That could be why he stuck with McCarthy, even when Bill Belichick is a free agent for the first time this millennium.

Bill Belichick prepares

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick before a game against the Atlanta Falcons. (Simon Bruty /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

“If Bill Belichick signed up to be the Dallas Cowboys’ coach tomorrow, they’d be one of the frontrunners for the Super Bowl,” Long said. “They have the talent. They have the facilities. They have everything that you can need, but Jerry and the entire organization would have to change. 

“This is Jerry’s team and Jerry’s organization, and for Jerry to give up the kind of things he probably would have to give up to bring in Bill Belichick, I’m not sure he would want to do that.”


But Long did say McCarthy will have a short leash. 

“I think this is it,” he said of McCarthy. “They’ve gotta make a decision on Dak, and if you’re gonna commit to Dak, that means you feel like Dak is an elite, elite quarterback, because you’re going to have to pay him $50, $60 [million], whatever the going rate is. Do you want to do that, and do you want to commit to that? They have to make a decision on that. 

Jerry Jones at FedExField

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones walks off the field after warmups prior to a game against the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field.  (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

“How they feel about him is the only thing that’s important. CeeDee Lamb needs to be signed for sure. He was the best receiver in football the second half of the season. And the other guy is Micah Parsons. He’s a guy you’ve gotta sign, and you’ve gotta pay top dollar too. So, they’ve got some decisions to make.”


Dallas has not won a Super Bowl since the 1995 season, also the last time they made it past the divisional round.

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