Mike McCarthy has coached Hall of Famer-caliber QBs in his career and, ahead of facing one in Aaron Rodgers, he's pushing Dak Prescott to reach that level.
FRISCO, Texas —Mike McCarthy has worked with his fair share of Hall of Fame quarterbacks during his nearly 30-year career as a coach in the NFL. From breaking in with the Kansas City Chiefs and Joe Montana, to his 13-year run as the head man with the Packers and Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
The relationship between head coach and franchise quarterback rank near the top when determining what is most important to building a sustainable winning culture. And despite a turbulent end to his time in Green Bay with Rodgers, the two did win a Super Bowl together to highlight their successful run.
Now, as McCarthy is midway through his third season with the Cowboys and prepares to return to the place that he called home for over a decade, he brings his latest franchise arm with him to face his previous one.
"I honestly can't wait for his Saturday night speech," Dak Prescott said. "But not a lot has to be said about this week. We know what our coach means to us. We know how long he was up there, we know how special going back is going to be for him."
To say that Prescott and McCarthy have gone through an avalanche of adversity in just their two and a half season together would be an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 during McCarthy's first season created challenges in every facet imaginable for everyone, both personally and professionally.
With McCarthy and a new staff trying to implement a new system and attempting to build relationships, the logistical roadblocks did not help. Then Prescott's season-ending ankle injury the very same season threw a wrench into an already difficult season.
Fast forward to 2021, and the Cowboys cruised to a 12-5 season to capture the NFC East crown while Prescott returned to the field with a vengeance by setting the franchise record for most touchdowns in a season, though it ended in anguish in the playoffs at home against another one of McCarthy's former teams - the San Francisco 49ers.
All of that brings us to the present day. The Cowboys along with McCarthy and Prescott have, yet again, navigated through adversity. Prescott broke his thumb in the season opener against the Buccaneers and subsequently missed the next five games.
For a coach who many considered to possibly be on the hot seat, McCarthy and the Cowboys responded to Prescott's injury with backup Cooper Rush and a ferocious defense to rattle off four straight wins.
So, yeah, the two have seen it all in such a short span of time. And for Prescott, he didn't shy away from his glowing affinity for his coach and what he's meant to him.
"He's meant a lot," Prescott said. "He's been instrumental in my growth, personally, and professionally, honestly. Just being able to have that sounding board and whether it's on the field or off the field. [He's] a guy that has seen a lot of football, been through a lot of football and been in another place.
"He's been great, not only just for me, but for this team, and for so many others. And I've continued to say it - we're blessed to have him."
But how exactly has McCarthy aided in Prescott's growth and development on the field like he alluded to? Well, if you've worked with Hall of Famers before, naturally you lean on your experience with those guys and bring it to your current guy.
And that is precisely what McCarthy has done.
"I can't say he's doing it all the time," Prescott said. "Not by any means. He uses a lot of Joe Montana as much as he does Aaron [Rodgers.] He's been around some great quarterbacks. He's used a lot of Brett [Favre], we've talked a lot about Brett this week."
The strength of the relationship between both Prescott and McCarthy is apparent whenever either of them are asked about the other. With the Cowboys traveling to Green Bay for the first time since Prescott's rookie season, McCarthy has been adamant about his players wearing the proper cleats on the grass at Lambeau Field.
When Prescott was asked how many times he had been reminded about the topic by his coach, his humorous compliment illustrated the comfortability between them.
"We know how he's a guru in the cleat and grass business," Prescott said with a chuckle. "We listen to him and more importantly, when you get out there pregame - check your cleats."
Even more important than that, Prescott acknowledged the importance of not only getting a road victory against a rival, but also ensuring that McCarthy knows that his team has his back during what is sure to be an emotional weekend.
"Yeah," Prescott said before pausing. "He knows that. I've told him before… He knows I've got his back. This is important for us to go out there and represent him."