Jerry Jones is not concerned about Mike McCarthy's clock mismanagement

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Overshadowed by the Dallas Cowboys' elation over spanking the Philadelphia Eagles and affirming their status as clear-cut NFC East favorites on Monday was a first-half coaching snafu. 

As the clock ran down on the first half, the Cowboys squandered a perfectly good opportunity to put more points on the board. The Philadelphia Eagles, trailing 20-7, found themselves in second-and-31 with 1:55 remaining in the second quarter. They waived the white flag on the half, making it their mission to burn as much clock as possible before punting the ball back to Dallas.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy obliged. When a Jalen Hurts pass to Jalen Reagor was stopped for seven yards resulting in third-and-24, the Eagles let the clock run. McCarthy, armed with two timeouts, did nothing to stop it.

The game clock read 1:10 and the play clock :03 when the Eagles snapped the ball on third down. After a 19-yard screen pass to Miles Sanders left the Eagles facing fourth-and-5 at the Dallas 49, the clock continued to run. The Cowboys got the ball back with 11 seconds remaining and took a knee into halftime.

Instead of conserving time for a chance to score once more before halftime, McCarthy took the uber-conservative route — a decision that played directly into the Eagles' plans. 

INGLEWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talk on the field during an NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Chargers on September 19, 2021, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Mike McCarthy's clock issues don't seem to bother Jerry Jones. (Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

McCarthy: 'I was comfortable'

The decision didn't end up impacting the outcome of the Cowboys' 41-21 win. They were clearly the better team on Monday. But McCarthy still faced questioning about his clock management after the game.

“The decision was to take the lead going into halftime,” McCarthy told reporters. “I was comfortable given where the ball was at.”

As if going into halftime with a bigger lead wasn't a more optimal outcome. It's an explanation and a thought process that appears to be unique to McCarthy. The long-shot risk of something bad happening outweighed the more likely upside of Dallas scoring again with one of the NFL's most explosive offenses. Never mind that even the worst-case scenario of a Cowboys turnover leading to Eagles points wouldn't have usurped Dallas' halftime lead. 

Game management problems have plagued McCarthy

This type of mismanagement is nothing new for McCarthy. Greg Zuerlein's 56-yard field goal against the Los Angeles Chargers last week bailed the Cowboys coach out from a clumsy display of end-of-game mismanagement.

It's a reputation that plagued him throughout his Green Bay Packers tenure. His maddeningly conservative decisions in the 2015 NFC championship loss to the Seattle Seahawks was a tour de force in high-stakes game mismanagement that cost Aaron Rodgers a shot at a second Super Bowl ring and is often cited as the beginning of the end of their relationship

Jerry Jones' take

That he's still prone to these mistakes doesn't bother Jerry Jones, though. The Cowboys owner addressed the topic on his weekly radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday morning. 

“Other teams have issues with clock management," Jones said. "That’s part of the game. So let’s cut things some slack and realize that if you do enough plays — we were critical of [Jason] Garrett when he was here — don’t you think that goes with the territory?

"That’s my point. I know first-hand Mike’s capabilities and know how he approaches it, the logic that he uses. And I’m not a bit concerned about his ability to manage a tight situation.”

Jones seems to be forgetting here that the 10-year Garrett era is widely viewed as an abject failure. The criticism was valid. As is criticism of McCarthy. Sure, game management problems come up in the NFL every week. But few coaches in the league are as regularly targeted with such criticism as McCarthy. 

That it didn't impact the outcome of Monday's blowout makes it palatable in Dallas. But the questions will be a lot tougher if the topic is broached again when the stakes are higher. 

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