FRISCO, Texas – Forget the championship pedigree and the questions about the coaching staff. Don't worry about the particulars of how the Cowboys came to hire Mike McCarthy.
There was only one question anyone wanted to ask the former Green Bay Packers head coach at his introductory press conference on Wednesday, and there was only one acceptable answer.
"I'll tell you exactly what happened," McCarthy said with a laugh.
This topic doesn't need an introduction for anyone who has followed the Dallas Cowboys, for any amount of time. In the 2014 divisional playoffs at Lambeau Field, Dez Bryant went up against Packers cornerback Sam Shields for a must-have, fourth down pass – and appeared to come up with a game-changing catch on the Green Bay goal line.
"As I said after the game, that was one hell of an athletic play," McCarthy said. "I was impressed. Because I mean, Dez and Sam Shields – you talk about two great athletes going up for the football."
McCarthy was careful with his choice of words. After all, he was the head coach who challenged the ruling. And, reflecting on the moment five years after the fact, he revealed it was a conversation with head official Gene Steratore that prompted him to do so.
"If he wouldn't have answered the question the right way, Gene Steratore, I would not have challenged it," he said.
Quipped Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones: "These damn officials shouldn't talk so much."
The rest is history. Steratore reviewed the play, and ruled that Bryant hadn't maintained possession all the way through the process. The call was overturned, the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs and the Packers went on to win the game.
Now, as to the question itself. McCarthy answered it deftly, pointing out that the NFL Competition Committee has since changed the rule – due in no small part to the efforts of Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones, who sits on said committee.
"It was a great catch, I can say now – but it wasn't then, technically," he said with a laugh.