FRISCO, Texas – It's a question that was bound to be asked in the face of another disappointing performance.
After watching his defense surrender 397 yards and 25 points to the worst offense in the NFL, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy was asked if he had considered making changes to his coaching staff – specifically, replacing defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
"That hasn't crossed my mind," McCarthy said. "I'm focused on getting better each and every day. That's where we are."
The natural response to that is that the Cowboys' defense hasn't seen much in the way of week-to-week improvement this season – thus, the reason for the question. Washington entered Sunday averaging just 18 points a game.
They topped that in one half of football against the Cowboys, as they went to the locker room at halftime with 22 points and 252 yards of offense. Perhaps most alarming was that a Washington rushing attack that was ranked dead-last in the league finished the day with 203 yards – an impressive average of 5.3 yards per carry.
"I mean, we didn't play well enough obviously," McCarthy said. "The thing that disappointed me is the yards after contact. There were times that I felt that our gap integrity was pretty good but there were too many yards after contact. So, we need to do a better job there."
Nolan has been a lightning rod for criticism much of this season, as the Cowboys have continued to display the same miscues and deficiencies each week. It has raised repetitive and frustrating questions about which is more to blame for the defensive woes: the Cowboys' coaching or their personnel.
Asked if he thought whether his players are still buying in on the overall vision, McCarthy said "definitely."
"I can only tell you what goes on every day as far as the preparation, the daily communication and interaction with the players throughout the program," he said. "We knew there would be adjustments throughout as a football team. We've been hit with a number of challenges that we are just not pushing through right now."
It's understandable if this sounds familiar. Stretching back to their 49-38 loss to Cleveland in Week 4, the Cowboys' problems on defense begin to feel like déjà vu. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin scored a 52-yard touchdown on Sunday that saw him blow past Trevon Diggs, who didn't seem sure of his assignment.
"We need to learn from our mistakes," McCarthy said. "We can't keep letting our mistakes hold us down and hold us back because we obviously have made similar mistakes in different forms or fashions."
To this point, they haven't proven they can do that. But McCarthy said he thinks the Cowboys' best bet is to stay the course, rather than trend toward drastic actions. Even after such a disappointing day, he added that he's frustrated but not hopeless that his team can get it turned around.
"I would say frustration, clearly. No doubt about it," he said. "I wouldn't say hopelessness because that wouldn't reflect the men in that locker room."