FRISCO, Texas – Only one team in the NFL can create these types of news cycles.
Friday morning, having successfully retained Dan Quinn as his defensive coordinator, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones hopped on local radio to discuss the state of his coaching staff – namely, the job security of head coach Mike McCarthy.
"The idea of Mike being twisting in the wind just wasn't the case at all," Jones told 105.3 FM The Fan. "We were sitting there, trying to keep Dan Quinn and trying to maintain continuity on our coaching staff."
On the surface, it seems strange that McCarthy's job status would even be in question. Of course, there's no denying the disappointment of a one-and-done performance in the NFL postseason. Dak Prescott said himself in the wake of the wildcard loss to San Francisco that this Cowboys team had underachieved.
Even still, it'd be rare territory to move on from a head coach who had just finished 12-5 with a division title in his second season.
Of course, the irony is that it was a previous comment from Jones – or rather, the lack of one – that prompted this much speculation in the first place. On an appearance with 105.3 FM last week, Jones was asked if he had talked to McCarthy about returning in 2022. His response raised some eyebrows.
"I won't get into any conversations that I've had with anybody relative to anything to do with the staff," Jones said at the time. "I understand the interest in it, but there is nothing compelling me. I've got everyone under contract that I want under contract."
Asked about those comments on Friday morning, Jones pointed out that his quote did nothing to single out McCarthy or threaten his job status. Though, as he also noted, it's a testament to the media attention that surrounds this team.
"It was never an issue with me, with Mike being the head coach – you never heard that from me," Jones said. "You've taken the fact that I was sitting there being coy, it was taken as though I were somehow wishy-washy – nah uh. Just because you're frustrated doesn't mean somebody necessarily is going to lose their job."
It didn't help the situation when Saints head coach Sean Payton – a former Cowboys assistant and longtime friend of Jones – retired on Tuesday afternoon. Rumors around Payton's possible return to Dallas have persisted throughout the last 15 years, so his decision to step down only ramped up the speculation.
Despite that, Jones said he has not talked to Payton, and he did not have to clear the air with McCarthy about that.
"I did not. I did not. Because we're sitting here, building together, our future," Jones said. "He's well aware of our relationship and long-term friendship with Sean. I haven't talked to Sean and am not a part of any of the dialogue or any of the decision making relative to him leaving New Orleans."
Clearly, there was a lot of ambiguity to clear up – which explains the reason for the phone call. Intrigue surrounding potential staff changes has fueled the news around the Cowboys for the past week. But according to Jones, he was simply trying to play his cards close to the chest while trying to retain his other coaches.
"Mike was very involved in this process and very involved in trying to give us every chance to keep Dan Quinn," Jones said. "There's no question it was a competitive situation, and I couldn't really get out and speak to it publicly, because I didn't want to push teams toward him. I wanted to keep him to ourselves."
It's fair to wonder why Jones would need to be vague about McCarthy in order to retain Quinn, but it's obvious that it was a concern. If anything, it sounds as if the Cowboys' general manager wanted as little of his thought process available as possible. He was also sure to point out that McCarthy confirmed his job security last week during his season-ending press conference.
"Mike actually said – correct, and it was just maybe skipped over. He said 'Jerry and I talked job status, I'm fine.' He said that," he said. "What you didn't hear was that an announcement wasn't necessary."
Jones added: "We were in a competitive situation for key personnel, key coaches here that I didn't want to be over here pushing and talking about how good they were or how good they weren't, where we are. All of that's read like a fine tooth comb with your competition. That's other teams trying to get your staff."
Regardless of how we got here, it feels like a moot point now. The Cowboys have their head coach, and they have retained their defensive coordinator. Jones also allowed Friday morning that he feels optimistic that offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will be back in 2022.
However winding a road it might have been to get to this point, all's well that ends well.