Skip to main content

McCarthy on 4-3, Senior Bowl, Witten & More


FRISCO, Texas – In a sit-down interview with over a dozen beat writers from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, new coach Mike McCarthy was peppered with several different questions on Thursday, hitting on a wide range of topics.

Here are some of the highlights from his interview that lasted over 30 minutes at The Star in Frisco.

Staying With 4-3?

The addition of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan created immediate questions regarding a possible switch from a four-man front to a 3-4 defense, a scheme Nolan has run for years.

However, McCarthy said he expects to stick with a four-man front, but somewhat downplayed the entire question in general, choosing to focus more on adding players rather than fitting them into a scheme.

"Really, 3-4 and 4-3 defense is how you're identifying the player profiles," McCarthy said. "I feel like player acquisition and coaching instruction is a two-way street. I think if you have a system of defense where you need a certain player to fit your scheme, you're limiting your personnel department.

"We know what a Dallas Cowboys football player looks like. The length, the athletic ability. Let's get as many good football players as we possibly can. Its our job as coaches to make sure our scheme boundaries are plenty wide enough to fit any excellent football player into our program. That's always been a philosophy of mine on offense and that'll continue to be so on defense."

McCarthy said the terminology will probably the biggest change for the defensive players next season.

Witten's Future

When asked if there might be a spot for Jason Witten or Sean Lee on his coaching staff, McCarthy said those are "conversations for the future."
But specifically on Witten, McCarthy said he had a good visit with the tight end.

"I had a great conversation with Jason and he's got a number of things he's thinking about," McCarthy said. "I think that's what he's working through right now."

Witten said he would make a quick decision on his future after the season. The speculation is that he will likely retire again, but no official word has been made. He will be an unrestricted free agent in March if a decision hasn't been made before then.

Meeting With Dak

Last week, Mike McCarthy said he had yet to speak with his quarterback since taking the job. But that has changed as of Thursday. McCarthy said he had a quick visit with Dak Prescott, but didn't elaborate much.

"Good … he's energetic," McCarthy said of Prescott. "And we talked about his plan for the next couple of weeks and what he's going in front of him. I know Kellen and Doug also talked to all the quarterbacks."

Obviously the contract situation will continue to be a hot topic involving Prescott, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March unless the Cowboys sign him to a long-term deal or place the franchise tag on him.

Passing on Senior Bowl

While the Cowboys are expected to have most of their scouts and front-office personnel in attendance next week for the Senior Bowl, McCarthy said the coaches won't be heading to Mobile.

Part of the reason is that he's continuing to put the staff together and trying to evaluate the entire roster. But he also said there have been changes in the setup that has taken away from the evaluation process of the players on the field.

"I just think the Senior Bowl has changed," McCarthy said. "I know as a young coach — particularly coaching quarterbacks, for an offensive coordinator — when you were able to get on the practice field and stand right next to those guys, I thought the evaluation was significant. To be that close and interact on that level was a lot different than sitting up in the stands. I think now, because they practice at the stadium — and the video has improved too in the last five, 10 years. So I just don't see the value of taking the staff, especially in Year 1. I mean, Year 1 we have a lot of work to do."

Coaching Traits

When asked about his coaching staff hires, McCarthy said he was looking for a combination of things from experience to personality to even day-to-day consistency.

"I think it goes to the personality type that you're looking for. I think it's important to have individuals that are the same guys every day," McCarthy said. "I'm not expecting it to be smooth sailing all the way through. We just have to make sure we have the right people that handle those adversity times because at the end of the day everything we do is about the locker room. It's how the players are being coached, motivated, supported, and at the end of the day, that's what will make our football team go. Just looking for consistent personalities and obviously the best evaluation of that is if you do have former experience."