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FRISCO, Texas -- Just over three hours. That's how long -- 3 hours, 9 minutes to be exact -- it took for the second-seeded Dallas Cowboys' 2023 season to come to end in their 48-32 home loss in Super Wild Card Weekend against the seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy informed local media at his end-of-season press conference on Thursday that his one-on-one meeting on Wednesday with Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones lasted about the same duration. It was during that sit down that the two came to the conclusion that McCarthy would return for a fifth season as the Cowboys head coach in 2024 and finish out his original contract with the franchise. 

"(We) talked about a number of topics," McCarthy said Thursday. "First topic was obviously the disappointment of the ending of the season. Went through all of the layers of that. We talked about pretty much everything in the football program."

The Cowboys entered the postseason with a 12-5 record. They were the NFC's No. 2 seed -- guaranteeing home playoff games for at least the first two rounds of the postseason and boasted the NFL's highest-scoring offense (29.9 points per game). Quarterback Dak Prescott led the NFL in touchdown passes (36), wide receiver CeeDee Lamb led the league in receptions (135) and they possessed the NFL's only perfect record at home (8-0). None of it mattered.   

Dallas has at least 12 wins for three seasons in a row under McCarthy. This stretch marks the second time in franchise history for that to occur, joining the Cowboys' 1990s dynasty run from 1992-1995 in which they won three Super Bowls in four seasons. McCarthy is the first Cowboys head coach to accomplish this feat. Only the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (37) have more regular-season wins than Dallas since 2021. 

However, McCarthy's Cowboys also became the first team to win 12 games in three straight seasons and fail to make the conference championship in any of them after losing three of their four postseason games in this stretch. That left everyone at The Star, the team's headquarters, with unresolved feelings of grief and anger on Monday. McCarthy's regular season record as the Cowboys head coach is 42-25 (62.7% win percentage), giving him the highest career win percentage of any coach in team history. He pointed to that regular season success as a primary reason for why his players as well as fans can feel comfortable buying back into his message and leadership in 2024.

"We have an unbelievable fan base, and they should be frustrated," McCarthy said. "We're extremely disappointed. Disappointed for them. Disappointed in our performance. But my message would be this. We have established a championship program. It's just not a world championship yet. We know how to win. We know how to train to win. We have the right people. But we have not crossed the threshold winning playoff games. It's extremely disappointing to be sitting here talking about. But I know how to win. We will get over that threshold. I have total confidence in that, and that's what I'm standing here today."

It's understandable for Cowboys diehards to be livid after thinking 2023 seemed like the year Dallas was going to break through to the NFL's final four. They now are left to come to terms with the Cowboys going through a 13th consecutive playoff appearance without reaching a conference championship game, the league's longest active such streak. However, the head coach made sure to clarify his teams are only accountable for the latest three disappointments. 

"There's a lot of people that are here that were part of those three experiences," McCarthy said. "I'm just trying to go through the three (playoff) games. There are too many things that are different. The reality of it is in the game of football, it's going to be different next year too. I'm going to tell you this too. I'm going to take no responsibility, and I talked to the players too, and they have no responsibility on what's gone on here in the 20-plus years before this point. We're responsible for what's going on the program. I know it's disappointing to the fans, but we are in position to learn and grow from this and build on it. That's the best answer in my opinion."

McCarthy characterized his meeting with Jones as more about looking forward to 2024 solutions rather than him having to beg the team owner for his job despite the playoff letdowns. 

"I wouldn't view the conversation that way (begging for his job)," McCarthy said. "I think clearly it started off with peeling back the layers of what went wrong and the disappointment and then, frankly, it got to where Jerry and I were one on one. The best meetings I have is with Jerry is one on one. They're super productive. He's an awesome boss but he's even a better leader. He asks all the hard direct questions which I love and appreciate because you get a depth into conversations that go into different directions which is always so much that come out of it. We talk about everything, the right, the wrong, the indifferent. What we need to build off of. I don't know if there's much we didn't talk about as far as topics that apply to the football operation. It's a conversation, a hard conversation, definitely throughout a number of points here. They are conversations that I look forward to. I never walked out of a one on one with Jerry where I didn't think I was better one way or the other."

His largest disappointment from how the year ended was the juxtaposition between his squad's regular season and postseason performance. Prescott threw two first-half interceptions against the Packers, including a 64-yard pick six, after having the second-best touchdown-to-interception ratio (36-9)  in the entire NFL in the regular season. 

"Biggest regret? Not winning the game," McCarthy said. "We haven't, the coaches have done their evaluations. I got those last night. So I'm still working through it. Have had some conversations, will actually go into a meeting from here. But yeah, I think the disappointment is just not playing to your standard of playing. You go through the whole regular season, you establish a standard of play, a standard of productivity and approach, all those things. One team played to their standard (the Green Bay Packers) and the other didn't. Unfortunately, we didn't. So, I'm very disappointed in our performance. Just not playing to our standard."

One of the factors McCarthy identified as to why the Cowboys didn't play to their regular season standard was his team's tempo, playing too fast. Prescott said after the game Sunday that the team was "pressing and trying to get the ball back" after falling behind multiple scores early. 

"I think if anything, we were going too fast," McCarthy said. "That was the common message with the players. I watched the game Sunday night when I got home. That's what I felt. We've done such an excellent job in a big play production component of the game (43 plays of 25 or more yards in the regular season, tied for the fourth-most in the NFL), and it was definitely one of our strengths all year. You can't chase big plays. There's a there's a number of times we were chasing play. It bit us in the ass."

An NFL head coach leading a team without contractual security typically isn't the standard around the league, but even with McCarthy and his staff in a literal make-or-break situation (make at least the NFC title game or be out of job), he remains confident in who he is and his tenure with the Cowboys despite his atypical situation. 

"I think the biggest thing is, and I've been asked this for 20 years, those questions, I never talk about a player's contract or a coach's contract," McCarthy said. "I'm not going to start today. But I will say I am very confident in the direction. I like where we are as far as moving forward. I'm very confident where I am. ... It's (the last few days) tough, no doubt about it. I think when you have the opportunity to sit down and talk to every player, every coach, that's what Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was, it really shifted from the player exit interviews right up to the conversation with Jerry. So yeah, to say it's not emotional, of course it is. I think that's being captain obvious. The family part of it is the only thing that concerns me. Everything else, I have great confidence who I am as a man and who I am as a coach, but the personal part of it is a challenge."

Fully committed to his quarterback

One thing McCarthy was ironclad about moving forward is that having Prescott as the Cowboys' quarterback is "part of the solution" in 2024 and beyond. He is set to have a $59.5 million cap hit in 2024, the second-highest in the NFL behind only Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's $64 million, in the final year of his current contract. The quarterback himself stumped for McCarthy to remain his coach postgame on Sunday, and Jones granted his wish on Wednesday. 

"He's (McCarthy) been amazing," Prescott said postgame. "I don't know how they can be (calling for his job), but I understand the business. In that case, it should be about me as well. I've had the season that I've had because of him. This team has had the success that they've had because of him. I understand it's about winning the Super Bowl. That's the standard of this league and damn sure the standard of this place. I get it but add me to the list in that case."      

Prescott bounced back from co-leading the NFL in interceptions (15) in 2022 to becoming the the first quarterback in Cowboys history to lead the NFL outright in passing touchdowns while compiling a career-high 105.9 passer rating in 2023 with McCarthy as the offensive play-caller for the first time in Dallas.

"I think that it shows the connection we have and the belief in the direction we're going," McCarthy said when asked about Prescott's comments. "Like I said earlier, I believe in Dak Prescott. I think he's the answer. He's part of the solution moving forward. I think as difficult as this time is right now, we can work through this emotional period that we're in. We'll continue to build off of what he brings to the table."

Building off of the most efficient season of the 30-year-old's eight-year NFL career is the best reason to explain retaining McCarthy for another season. He claims Prescott can continue to reach an even higher level after being named the league's 2023 Second-Team All-Pro quarterback. 

Dak Prescott this season


Completion Pct



Pass Yards/Att



Pass Yards4,5163rd

Pass TD






Passer Rating



Expected Points Added/Play0.182nd

"There will definitely be more growth because now that we've gone through it, you can't get to the spot without going through it, is the situations that we were able to go through and now apply to the training," McCarthy said. "That's how my brain works. There are the conversations you have not only with Dak but particularly the veterans, there are a number of things that come out of it. How do I tweak the training component to maybe move the needle in a different direction? That's an area we're focused on. That's really what those conversations are about, and that's what makes those conversations powerful. Because of what he means to the team."

Despite Prescott's 2-5 career playoff record, tied for the worst in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least five starts along with Alex Smith and Billy Kilmer, McCarthy is certain he has the quarterback necessary to lift the Cowboys to new playoff heights. 

"I have unbelievable belief in Dak," McCarthy said. "I think he clearly has another step. This offense has suited him well. The things we were able to improve on, it's a system built around making the quarterback successful. The growth opportunity, we're really looking forward to the future, is something that we are excited about. A big part of the conversation was the disappointment. We talked about the particulars of the game and things that went wrong and how we can improve it."

In his statement about retaining McCarthy, Jones mentioned his current head coach "has demonstrated postseason success at a high level, and we have great confidence that can continue." That reference comes from his run to a Super Bowl championship as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 season. That was his fifth season with the Packers, and he feels like the connection he has with his players now entering Year 5 in Dallas is similar to what he had entering Year 5 in Green Bay.  

"I think you build a program and continue to grow from it," McCarthy said. "But the reality of it is you have to go through the tough questions and make sure you have answers. The reality of it is this team is going to change. We're going to have changes. It happens every year. Just start with your roster. Twenty-five percent of our players will be different than what they were this year. Frankly, that's part of the disappointment. Because I thought we had an unbelievable team. I love the way these guys work, their connection and belief in one another. They're very coachable. When you kick them in the ass, they've responded. And they love one another. I think that's important. The chemistry. So there's so many good things. But we clearly came up a lot shorter than we anticipated."

The connection and belief many Cowboys fans have with McCarthy can be categorized as "on the rocks" at best to "ready to kick him to the curb" at the worst, but he promises a changed Dallas squad built off the foundation laid by the 2023 edition's regular season production. 

"I clearly understand and respect the emotion of all this and definitely the fan's perspective," McCarthy said. "That's what really the evaluation process is for. It's very raw right now as I'm standing here in front of you. So there definitely will be changes and adjustments that are made. I think we do have a lot to build off of."