Jerry Jones calls hiring of Mike McCarthy 'fortuitous'

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Mike McCarthy spent last August on a boat instead of on a practice field on a balmy summer day.

He won't have to do that again this summer.

McCarthy is back to doing what he "was put on this earth to do," which is coach football, and he's taking the reins of one of the most popular franchises in the NFL. He has experience doing so, having spent 13 years at the helm of the Packers. That was part of why Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted McCarthy so badly for Jones' vacancy.

Jones got his man because his man was available, spending a year out of football after being fired by the Packers in late 2018.

"When I first got in the NFL, and our family, I looked real smart, very smart, because right as we walked through the door, Troy Aikman was the first pick in the draft, and the Dallas Cowboys had the first pick in the draft," Jones said Wednesday during McCarthy's introductory press conference. "And the Dallas Cowboys needed a great quarterback to start. Those combinations of things can make you look real smart when that timing comes together.

"That's the analogy I'm alluding to here. Yes, we needed Mike. We needed a coach. But to have his availability and to have his track record and ability to check all the boxes that I just talked about was fortuitous for this franchise. ... And so while our time together initially talking about this job was meaningful, so much more went into how and why he's sitting at this table today."

Jones listed a handful of key reasons why he was set on McCarthy as soon as it became clear the Cowboys had an opening to fill: strong command of how to direct a team and compete at the highest level, experience working with and developing a future Hall of Fame quarterback, depth of knowledge on the workings of the league, extensive contacts with quality coaches and NFL figures, a natural instinct for the game, and familiarity working for a storied franchise with worldwide popularity and high expectations.

He selected a coach who has achieved those expectations in the same stadium he'll now call home.

"One of our primary goals in selecting the next coach of the Dallas Cowboys was to focus on improving, team builder and winner," Jones said. "Someone who's got a proven track record of winning, not only consistently but at the highest level. In Mike McCarthy we found a coach who not only checked those boxes but also has the experience of taking an NFL team to the biggest stage -- the Super Bowl -- and completing the job."

The pressure cooker known as the Dallas Cowboys now has its central sideline figure. Frankly, he fit right in, his blue suit and silver hair matching those of Jones and his son, Stephen, at the dais. Jones' adoration for his new coach was evident throughout the presser, with the owner using a war metaphor to describe how well he thinks McCarthy fits what Jones was looking for.

"You've got a choice," Jones said. "You can get in that foxhole with somebody that has never been ... in a foxhole. You can get in there with somebody who's been shot at. Or, you can get in there with somebody's been shot at, hit and still going. That's the one I want in there with me."

Stephen Jones told reporters McCarthy was "even more special than you'd thought he'd be" when they met for an interview after doing their preliminary work in their coaching search. It was clear: This franchise was completely sold and over the moon about its hire.

As for their role in the team's outward-facing appearance, it'll be a collaborative effort from top to bottom.

"We're gonna make 'we' decisions," McCarthy said. "... I think that's all you can ask for as a head coach."

Other points of interest gained from the press conference:

-- McCarthy was effusive in his praise for Dak Prescott and sounded as if he couldn't wait to get to work with the young quarterback.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to work with Dak," McCarthy said. "I think what he's done so far is very impressive. I think like a lot of us in the league you watch people from afar but when you have a chance to watch a player live and I can recall his rookie year when we played him there in Green Bay so I've always been impressed with him. You're going to be able to run the whole offense and then some. I think he has an incredible foundation to build off of and our offensive system will be built around making the quarterback successful, that's the way I've learned it and that's the way I believe you play offense. We have a great one here to work with."

-- McCarthy knows what talent he has in the Cowboys backfield with Ezekiel Elliott and didn't shy away from questions about his usage.

"He's going to get the football, let's not make no mistake about that," he said of Elliott. "I think you have to clearly understand, when you say that the offense is going to make the quarterback successful, the best way to make him successful is a great run game. We clearly understand what we have here and how we can build off of that."

-- McCarthy wouldn't go into detail on how he'll assemble his staff or if he'll call plays, later noting he's next going to meet with the existing staff and players before making any decisions.

-- McCarthy was predictably asked about whether Dez Bryant actually caught the controversial non-reception at the end of their 2014 Divisional Round meeting with the Packers in Green Bay, and he properly played to the crowd with an honest explanation:

"I had one timeout, a little over four minutes left in the game, and I said after the game, that was one hell of an athletic play," McCarthy recalled. "I was impressed 'cause I mean Dez and [Sam] Shields, I mean you talk about two great athletes going after the football but I asked the question in regards to how the rule was written and I was given the right answer by the referee, so then I challenged it.

"If he wouldn't have answered the question the right way, Gene Steratore, I would not have challenged it. I think it was clearly, the technical rule at that time. Stephen has since got it changed on the competition committee. I can't tell you how many people from Dallas have told me about that play, it's funny. But it was a great catch, I can say now, but it wasn't then -- technically."

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