FRISCO, Texas – If Mike McCarthy thought the honeymoon was over after Week 1, it's hard to articulate the challenge he's facing in Week 7.
It's to be expected after a 38-10 shellacking that dropped the Cowboys to a lowly 2-4 record, but frustrations are mounting around a season that feels dangerously close to going sideways.
Obviously, a good bit of that comes from fans and media, but on Tuesday the team's roster entered the fray. According to an anonymous report from NFL Network, several Cowboy players were cited as saying the coaching staff is "totally unprepared" and that "they just aren't good at their jobs."
Asked about it Tuesday evening, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy didn't seem to give the report a ton of credence, though he did acknowledge that there needs to be a clear line of communication between players and coaches on making improvements.
"I think the key word there is anonymous," McCarthy said. "We've looked at how things were done here in the past and there's a clear vision in understanding and demand on how things need to be moving forward. But it's important for us to have those conversations as men one on one or as a group."
Again, frustration is understandable given the breakdowns that keep stacking up. The Cowboys' offense committed four turnovers on Monday night, giving them a league-worst 15 on the season.
The defense allowed scoring plays of 80 and 69, helping the Cardinals reach 38 points and making them the fifth opponent to score 34 or more points on the Cowboys in six games. The repetitiveness of the results prompted a question about whether this team has improved from Week 1 to Week 6.
"Have we improved? From an analytical standpoint, if I look at trendlines in the things we focus on and the four key areas that I focus us, no our trendline is not pointing in the right direction," he said.
Naturally, that's bound to raise questions about how this team can flip the script. McCarthy was asked several questions on Tuesday about how he can better coach ball security during the week. He was also asked about simplifying the scheme under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan – to which he revealed that he already has, as far back as Week 3 of the season.
"We're just not going to run a scheme just because that's the one we like," he said. "Our job is to make sure that we're putting players in position to be successful. Now, with that we have to be accountable to that and to their skill set and how it all fits together."
At the same time, McCarthy reiterated a point from earlier in the season that his players have to buy in to the changes that are being made.
"They also have to be accountable to the fact that maybe a scheme or technique that they have done in the past may be easier or they liked it differently than we're asking them, but we feel it's in the best interest for the team," he added.
If there is one, perhaps that's where the disconnect lies – a coaching staff trying to push forward and find what works for an entirely new set of personnel, and a group of players adapting to techniques that don't feel as comfortable. Given the results it's producing, it makes sense if that is frustrating.
For all the outside noise, McCarthy said he "definitely" thinks his players are bought in on the transition. As deep as the hole might feel right now, that's what the Cowboys will need if they're going to climb out of it.
"Frankly, we're in the infant stages of it," he said. "Our volume has been cut way back and it's for the right reasons and until we get to where we can build of it that's where we'll be. But to me that's part of these first year challenges."