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I Don’t Want To Live In A World Where Mike McCarthy Has His Shit Together

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 30: Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys coaches from the sidelines during the 2nd quarter of the game against the Seattle Seahawks at AT&T Stadium on November 30, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, through here.

I’m gonna say some nice things about Mike McCarthy today, but I need to work myself up to it. I’m gonna have to take a good, long shit on him first. Then, only then, will I feel comfortable getting to the modest praise.

So let’s begin with the hatchet out. Mike McCarthy has been one of the best running jokes of my adulthood. I can’t remember a time when this man wasn’t a laughable boob. He was hired as head coach of the Packers after serving as offensive coordinator for a 49ers team that ranked dead fucking last in total offense the year prior. McCarthy would win a Super Bowl with Green Bay just four years into his tenure, but that title was quickly obscured by inexplicable coaching decisions he made in the years thereafter. He was addicted to attempting field goals that had virtually no chance of making it through the uprights. He declined to go for it on two fourth-down attempts from the one against Seattle in the 2014 NFC title game, and then watched helplessly as the Seahawks came from 12 points behind with less than five minutes left in regulation to tie that game and then win it in overtime.

I can go on, and I will. A few years later, McCarthy lost to Seattle again after punting on fourth-and-2 on what would be the Packers’ final possession. He blew not one, but three home playoff games, including one to the Giants after Green Bay had staged a 15-1 regular season. He ran the ball only when his running game was ineffective. And he always looked like this:

"Scoreboard says we're losin'? That can't be right!""

This is the ideal coach to hate, and fans like me love to hate idiot coaches. I’m dimensions away from being an athlete on par with the worst NFL player. But our worst coaches don’t have to suit up. They don’t have to run, or tackle, or lay out for the ball with a free safety closing in. They can just stand there on the sidelines, pretending they know stuff. I can do that, and the illusion becomes all the more vivid when I’m watching a guy like McCarthy commit errors that I, the layperson, wouldn’t even make if I were blindfolded.

For nearly two decades, this streak of idiocy has defined Mike McCarthy. Justifiably so. He sucked at managing the clock. He loved doing the other team favors. He squandered Aaron Rodgers’s prime and called plays that the quarterback routinely disregarded. If the press questioned his tactics, he’d get churlish, the way a straight man might before slipping on a banana peel as he walks away in a huff. And he was LAZY. Before independent NFL reporter Ty Dunne exposed Sean McDermott as a fraud a week ago, he published a similarly damning assessment of McCarthy’s leadership abilities for Bleacher Report that included this money graf:

About once a week, a meeting would start up and McCarthy was MIA. Players weren't quite sure where he was while, for example, an assistant coach would run the team's final prep on the Saturday before a game. Eventually, word leaked that McCarthy, the one calling plays on game day, was up in his office getting a massage during those meetings.

I am a no-good, down-and-dirty Vikings fan. As such, I have little to hang my hat on when it comes to ridiculing other teams, especially Minnesota’s chief rivals in the state next door. The Packers have the rings, the stadium, and the unending affection of the national media. I have to find cheap comfort wherever I can, and Lord knows that Mike McCarthy was willing to provide it. My team always lost when it mattered, but at least they weren’t coached by THAT dumbfuck. So when the Packers finally canned McCarthy in 2018, I quietly mourned.

Then Jerry Jones hired McCarthy to coach the Dallas Cowboys. In Whoville they say, my heart grew three sizes that day. Once again, McCarthy was gifted a talented roster with an excellent quarterback, and once again he made every last effort to piss it all away: the stupidest fake punt ever called, the draw play, the “Let’s have Zeke be our only lineman!” fiasco. He even lied to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about liking analytics in order to secure the job. These were all signature Mike McCarthy fuckups, and I couldn’t have been happier to see the man back in his element and sabotaging the most widely hated franchise in the NFL from within.

Nothing about the 2023 Cowboys suggested that things would be different this time around. McCarthy had not only fired once-coveted offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, but had installed himself as the playcaller and promised an offense that, befitting him, would not be “sexy.” These Cowboys have always been less than the sum of their parts, and who besides 1,000-year-old Jerry Jones thought Mike McCarthy would be man to fix it? Mike McCarthy always sets himself up to fail, and I was again ready to lap it up like milk from a saucer.

Instead, I got a colossus:

There’s still time for all of this to go to shit. Sunday night’s win over the Eagles is Dallas’s only victory this season against a team that currently has a winning record. The Cowboys also lost to a deeply unserious Arizona Cardinals team, and they got crushed by a Niners team that, as of right now, is the biggest obstacle in their way to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1997. Under normal circumstances, this would be all I’d need to write off McCarthy in advance and tune in for the divisional round to watch him blow a home game by having 13 men on the field on the deciding play.

But something is different about these Cowboys, and about McCarthy himself. As Kalyn Kahler noted at The Athletic, the head coach has gone against his word and built an offense that is EXTREMELY sexy:

McCarthy is calling more passes this season, and the Cowboys are passing way more on first down, traditionally a low-risk run down, which is a sign of analytics influence. ... They Cowboys have used play action more this year than any other under McCarthy (17 percent of plays, fourth in the NFL), up from 14.7 percent in 2022, and they’ve diversified their personnel groupings. Dallas has already run 30-plus snaps with an NFL-high six personnel groupings; it had never before run more than three personnel groupings at that rate.

Not only are these Cowboys sexy, but they’re confident. They wear that confidence all over the field, and then bury opponents with it. They average 32.4 points per game, best in the league. They’ve put up at least 40 points in four of the last seven games. They score on over half their drives. They finally integrated their analytics department with their coaching staff and make snap decisions on fourth down, decisions that often prove successful. Their quarterback, Dak Prescott, has an INT rate that may as well be zero, and is looking more and more like a lock for MVP. Their best defender, LB Micah Parsons, has a pass rush win rate that’s seven percent better than the next best guy (Myles Garrett). These Cowboys are even confident when they’re kicking field goals, with rookie Brandon Aubrey nailing four kicks from beyond 45 yards, including a 60-yarder like it was nothing at all. Aubrey, in fact, hasn’t missed a single kick all year. This is the best team in football.

To be clear, all of this disgusts me. I’m not here to watch the Dallas Cowboys prosper, and I’m certainly not here to watch their head coach do likewise. I was happier with Mike McCarthy being a walking punchline. His glaring failures gave me joy and surreptitiously isolated me from my own self-loathing.

But now everyone is talking up these Cowboys as a Super Bowl threat and it DOESN’T feel they’re wasting their time. What if this team really does have its shit together? What if Mike McCarthy is about to earn the same kind of redemption that Andy Reid did when he finally won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs? In sports, redemption doesn’t play favorites. Bill Belichick was once a laughingstock, and he figured it out. What if Mike McCarthy has as well? What if this man is a … sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little … a genius? I want to believe it can’t be so. I want to believe that, come January, Mike McCarthy will swallow his own tongue in a critical moment and order will be restored to the universe. I used to bank on him doing that. But I don’t think I can anymore, and that frightens me.

But hey, at least the Packers lost Monday night.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

Five Throwgasms

Broncos at Lions: Speaking of coaches I hate to see prosper, Sean Payton might jolly well take the Broncos from 1-5 to the AFC West title. The worst part is that, for homer reasons, I have to ROOT for him and Russell Wilson to win this game. It feels very wrong, and I blame Roger Goodell.

By the way, this game is on Saturday night. That’s right, the December Saturday games are back. And shitty bowl season also gets underway this weekend, too! Can’t wait to nap through 60 percent of these games. My recliner is already wincing at the prospect.

Cowboys at Bills

Four Throwgasms

Ravens at Jaguars: I buy Oatly because it tastes good and because it comes in bigger cartons than Chobani. But every time I get the Oatly out of my fridge, I’m greeted with the most obnoxious “we’re a brand but also your bae!” copy you can possibly imagine. Imagine a Chipotle bag that voted for Pete Buttigieg. That’s Oatly. But that packaging is only the least of their crimes. Look at this shit:

Back when I was an ad man, I would’ve admired this guerilla marketing effort. But I’m not ad man anymore, and I will strangle Oatly’s ad agency with an Hermes scarf if I ever see them face to face. Please Chobani … please sell bigger cartons of your shit. I’m begging you.

Three Throwgasms

Jets at Dolphins: All season long, I’ve been screaming LET ZACH WILSON COOK to anyone who would listen. WFAN extra Brandon Tierney knows what I’m talking about!

That’s right! Take the cuffs off of Zach, so that he can chain Stifler’s mom to the bed and fuck her brains out!

Bucs at Packers: I can never look at this matchup without thinking of Chris Berman affectionately referring to it as the “Bay of Pigs.” I even hear him say it in his cutesy, RUMBLIN BUMBLIN STUMBLIN voice. I need to consult a shaman to rid myself of this curse.

Eagles at Seahawks

Two Throwgasms

Texans at Titans: The 14-year-old watched a movie with us for the first time in like a decade the other night when he asked us to rent Coach Carter. He then asked to watch it with us again the following night. He really, really liked Coach Carter.

Giants at Saints

Bears at Browns

Vikings at Bengals

Steelers at Colts

One Throwgasm

Falcons at Panthers: If David Tepper knows anything about football (he doesn’t), he’ll let Chris Tabor bench Bryce Young, for Young’s sake (he won’t). Poor Bryce is getting his brains kicked week in and week out. It’s like watching Damar Hamlin collapse, but on every play. Inhumane.

Chargers at Raiders

Commanders at Rams

49ers at Cardinals

Chiefs at Patriots

Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Bongkiller,” by Thunderkok! You don’t wanna skip past this video, no you do NOT. From Tom:

Their video for "Bongkiller" is about an anthropomorphic bong that steals the band's weed before leading them on a foot chase through Ottawa (with a cameo by the Parliament buildings). SPOILER: in the end they shotgun a bunch of Old Style Pilsner and then stab the bong to death for his crime. If killing a man in a bong suit made of cardboard isn't for you, they also have excellent titles such as "Single Mom" (where the video has them playing in shirtless lederhosen and singing about finding a single mom on Tinder) and "Kokaine" which is... well, I think it's about time travel? 

Possibly. Anyway, the video for “Bongkiller” was somehow not just better than I hoped it would be, but WAY better. Truly one of the greatest videos I’ve ever seen. Also, this band has riffs. I’m both amused and impressed.

Eric Adams’s Lock Of The Week: Broncos (+5.5) over Lions

“Now I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life, and lemme tell you: Snow! We have all the snow here, so people can do all of their favorite snow things: skiing, sledding, snowskating, and cuddling by the fireplace with a hot gin and tonic! When you have this much snow, you get to have a snow party, and that’s the kind of party I love. But you know what kind of party I don’t love? A crime party.”

2023 Record: 8-6

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2023 chopping block:

Josh McDaniels – FIRED!
Frank Reich – FIRED!
Sean McDermott
Dennis Allen
Arthur Smith
Todd Bowles
Ron Rivera*******
Brandon Staley*******
Bill Belichick

(*potential midseason firing)

This week in Belichick Is Doomed, Tom Curran of NBC Sports said that Bob “A Little Bit Lower Please” Kraft has already made the decision to fire the Pats' head coach after the season:

"When they came out of Germany, conversations I had that week made it very clear that a decision was made. They were going to play out the string, and at the end of the year there would be a parting of the ways, for a variety of reasons."

Oh, and wideout coach Ross Douglas just left for the same job at known football powerhouse Syracuse, effective immediately. When Joe Judge leaves next week to take a job as a Phys Ed teacher in Natick, you’ll know it’s all over.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Jonathan sends in this story I call POOPSTOCK:

It was the final day of a three-day music festival in Chicago. I arrived early on the final morning in order to see a band I enjoy and promptly began drinking. My stomach began to make horrifying noises around 5PM, but I soldiered on, determined to see the evening’s headliner. A few hours (and beers) later, I was sweating profusely. I made it two-thirds of the way through the set of the night before I realized that I was playing a dangerous game. Not wanting to offload at the festival (last hour of the last day in a port-a-john that’s endured three days of defilement), I said goodbye to my friends and tried to catch a bus that would get me home. To my chagrin, I was informed that the buses wouldn’t start running until after the concert was over. I contemplated taking a cab but felt safe enough to make it home and not spend $40 on a taxi.

Being a cheap bastard would be my downfall.

I needed to take two trains ,and on a good night that would take 45 minutes. After several delays it ended up taking well over an hour and a half. The whole time my stomach was making sounds that seemed fit for a white-noise album of whale calls. I finally made it to my stop and carefully waddled down the stairs. My girlfriend’s apartment was only four blocks from the train, and I made up my mind that it was worth the risk to my relationship to beat down her door for the sole purpose of taking a monster beer-shit.

I would only make it two blocks.

The combination of relief and shame that transpired as I crapped my pants was an indescribable. Almost Zen-like. If there was a saving grace, it was that I was wearing boxer briefs in order to contain the carnage. My girlfriend buzzed me in and I rushed past her into the bathroom hollering, “Bring a plastic bag!” I immediately slammed the door, disrobed and jumped in her shower. 

Her shower was clogged with her long hair. 

It took almost 30 minutes of starting and stopping the shower in order to drain before I was reasonably clean. I was then forced to walk home in the only clothing I had at her house: Minnesota Vikings pajama pants. I asked her to walk me home so that I didn’t look like a crazy person.

We’re still together to this day.


And Now Let’s Go Down To The Sideline To Check In With Charissa Thompson

“Drew, you were talking about Mike McCarthy earlier. I actually had a chance to speak with Mike’s twin brother, Earl, before the game and he told me, ‘I always knew he’d not only be a head coach in the NFL, but a great one.’ He told me the moment he knew Mike was a true leader was one day when the twins were riding their dirt bikes at their grandfather’s ranch in Oklahoma.

“Earl told me that Mike accidentally ran over a chipmunk that day. But, rather than call Animal Control, Earl says Mike yelled at the chipmunk to walk it off. ‘I couldn’t believe it,’ Earl told me. ‘Mike kept telling this little guy, PLAY THROUGH IT. PLAY THROUGH IT, YOU LITTLE TURD.’ And then that chipmunk got up and started running, yes running, back into the woods. Earl told me he’d never seen anything like that, but ‘that’s just Mike. He’s just a natural leader.’ And he sees a lot of that same leadership on display with this year’s Cowboys team. Their heart, their determination … he says that’s all his brother. Back to you, Drew.”

Thanks, Charissa.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Obolon! In solidarity with Ukraine! From Greg:

Here's one I had in a Lithuanian restaurant in Maryland: Obolon, "The First Ukrainian Beer." I got a 16.9 ounce can for $5 at the bar, but it looks like it retails for about $8.50 for a four pack. 4.5% ABV, so easy on the liver. It was very cold. After a while, it was still pretty cold. And that's about it. It definitely was a liquid, I can say that for sure. Otherwise, imagine if Natural Light is too strong tasting for you, then Obolon is your beer.

Honestly? Sounds delicious. I’d buy this for my friends, but Republicans in the Senate will only let me do it if I sign off on $5 billion to build a new migrant baby jail in El Paso.

Gameday Movie Of The Week For Panthers Fans

Tokyo Story, which you can watch in full above if you’ve got 137 minutes to spare. Yasujirō Ozu’s opus is widely considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, so I had to watch it to see what the fuss was all about. Here I where I confess that the first half of this movie tested my patience in the extreme. Suddenly I was a 10-year-old kid again, thinking BOR-ING on a loop and wondering when Spider-Man would show up to get the story moving. Instead, I was treated to an insidiously compelling back half, and a family drama that ultimately hewed so close to real life that it was like having my own parents over for the week.

I’ve thought about this movie a lot since I watched it, and I read the Ebert review of it to understand all of its masterful little nuances. This is not an easy movie, but I get why it’s ranked up there with Citizen Kane and the like. Four stars. If my mom ever gets a little bit sick the next time she visits me, I’m not letting her out of my eyesight.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“You know Reverend, this really isn't a hymn.”

“Ned, there's an oil stain in the parking lot that looks just like St. Barnabas.”

“Oh my stars!”

“That oughta keep him busy.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.

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