INDIANAPOLIS – Say this for Mike McCarthy: he's quick with a quality retort.
That's been demonstrated repeatedly in the early going of this offseason, which has faced the Cowboys' head coach with more scrutiny than anyone in the NFL to this point. So when asked for a response to Stephen Jones' comment that McCarthy is "more involved in the offense than you know," McCarthy came ready.
"I mean what do you know? I guess that would be the first part," McCarthy said Tuesday from the coach's podium at the NFL Combine.
Again, it's hard to say what that means without a baseline for comparison. Even still, given the way the Cowboys' offense slumped to the finish line, it's understandable if that's where the head coach has his focus moving forward.
Here are some more notes from McCarthy's time with reporters on Tuesday afternoon:
- Coaches tend to stay out of the fray when it comes to the business of football, but McCarthy was bound to be asked about the speculation surrounding Amari Cooper this month. It still remains to be seen what will happen with Cooper, whose 2022 salary is set to become guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year. But when he was asked if he thought his team could improve next year without Cooper, McCarthy said it's his job to get the most out of his players, regardless.
"It doesn't matter. We have to be a better team regardless of how that shakes out," he said. "I learned this a long time ago. My first two years in Green Bay as a head coach, when you've got to stand up there and answer business questions about your players, you can't have an opinion. Because it's between the player and the club."
- McCarthy did touch on the notion that Cooper didn't receive as many targets as a receiver in his pay range. In response, McCarthy talked about the ability of his players to be as versatile and adaptable as possible. Interestingly, he highlighted Michael Gallup as an example of being more adaptable to opposing game plans. From the sounds of it, the Cowboys could stand to improve on the way they respond to challenges from opposing game plans.
"That was a big thing for Michael from last year to this year. He has to play in the slot some," he said. "We've got to move these guys around, so when we do get to those games, they're saying 'We are going to take away Dalton and Amari and make the other three guys beat us.' That's what the good defensive coordinators do. Defenses don't play as much bend but don't break. The aggressive ones say we're going to take away some guys and you've got to be ready for that."
- With all of that said, McCarthy also added that – despite the financial situations facing the Cowboys this offseason, he feels good about the overall depth of the roster. Specifically, he talked about the trio of Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong and DeMarcus Lawrence – two of whom are slated for free agency. He also touched on the trio of Cooper, Gallup and Cedrick Wilson, who are in a similar circumstance.
"We've got to decide what we're going to do at the rush position as far as with D-Law, Randy and DA. At least you're talking about three guys," he said. "Same thing at receiver, you've got those three guys you've got to talk about. That's where you want to be. You don't want to lose any of them but that's good planning because you have numbers."
The Cowboys won't be able to keep everyone, but the players they do prioritize should speak volumes about their thought process.