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NFL

Dak Prescott’s In Pain, And Mike McCarthy’s In Trouble

mike mccarthy and dak prescott
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jerry Jones spent the offseason giving Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy a Bob Dylan lyric sheet-sized series of endorsements and votes of confidence because, well, because Jerry likes to talk his will into reality, and this is the best damn team we’ve had in years here for the 19th consecutive year.

So of course you know what happened. Dak Prescott’s hand was turned into a crumpled sheet of tinfoil to cap off a disastrous season to date, full of injuries and a night of hapless performances against the Brady Bunch. Prescott will reportedly need surgery and be out for several weeks. The season has collapsed, McCarthy, whom Jones assured would finish the year in glory, is more likely to spend the day before Halloween hanging decorations to the neighborhood haunted house rather than coaching the team against the Chicago Bears. The season has just begun, and it is already ruined.

Not dead, mind you. This is the NFC East, where dreams go to create dry rot and dark mold, and as we know from recent history, seven wins may as well be 15. Never mind what you think after the Eagles, Giants, and Cornhusk- err, Commanders all won on opening day. They all will suck because they all are suck (see Magary, Comrade). The Cowboys are out of nothing unless you are including respect, dignity, and aspirations for greater things. As any Eagles fan will tell you, 2017 ain’t walkin’ through that barn door.

But the Cowboys always believe Jer’s big dreams and ever nictitating larynx because A) he’s the boss, and B) what else is there? They went 12-5 a year ago and then lost in the wild card game to a team that couldn’t wait (yet still failed) to ditch its quarterback. They still are a ratings grabber and a hope generator, but that is muscle memory rather than contemporary achievements—at least when it comes to January, when all markers are called in.

January, though, seems like two meaningless games at Tennessee and home against Snyder Flats. You don’t get the NBC broadcast crew to whinge repeatedly about your injury list and THEN lose your quarterback for half the season without ramifications, and if nothing else the first ramification will be McCarthy.

McCarthy is guilty of many things depending on your fevered imaginations, the details of which we encourage you to keep to yourselves, but mostly he is guilty of two things: getting crosswise with the star of Ayahuasca State, Aaron Rodgers, and being shaped like a Russian doll. McCarthy has always seemed like the guy who didn’t get Rodgers, and even growing a beard to seem more with it made no difference. Even the Super Bowl season of 2010 was won more with an exceptional defense than with Rodgers’s incandescence, and eventually the two drifted apart. In other words, Rodgers won the first of his many power struggles with the power structure in Green Bay, while McCarthy became a figure of fun.

Fun, that is, as explained more completely by the word “malice.”

But this was the year in which he had been granted the velvet spike of expectations based on a surplus of talent, so much so that the man who runs the entire league went out on a limb to back his hiring and continued employment. Now Prescott, the reason the Cowboys work, can’t, and between now and the bye week, a potential 6-2 record looks a lot more like 2-6, and the one thing about Jerry Jones’s mind is that it is always open to being changed by its owner.

Now maybe McCarthy gets the full season because of Jer’s sheer cussedness, or maybe because the fact that no other coach could salvage this mess any better gives him one final mulligan, but either way, Prescott’s season being halved means McCarthy’s season is essentially over, along with all the seasons after that. McCarthy was always more maligned than his abilities would suggest is fair (his career winning percentage is right below those of Bill Walsh and Tom Landry, so he can’t be the clod he is portrayed as), but perception is the only reality, and in a sport with only 17 chances not to look like an undiagnosed growth, every failure is a disaster once you have been marked for firing—and McCarthy has been marked for the chop for seven years now, including all 35 games in Dallas. Too bad, too; he looks a dead ringer for my pal Riley, who taught me everything I know about wine (“If you can arm-wrestle it down your yap, why would you care about its finish or aroma?”).

Now, though, seems like the final hammer to the head, for the season and for McCarthy. This will thrill some Cowboys fans who believe that losses in the pursuit of a pink slip are always worth the momentary stink of dismay, but that’s true of every fan base, and let’s be honest, if fans were valuable enough to be made into winter coats, there’d be a bounty on them.

By this standard and this alone, Dak Prescott might actually be the MVP on the collateral damage alone. On a team with no trophies in 27 years, that should count for something. For now, though, all it counts for another season of creosote-and-broken glass sandwiches.