DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys started a new era in their storied franchise on January 6, 2020. With the hiring of Mike McCarthy on that date, the team turned the page on Jason Garrett and a regime that could never quite muster a prolonged run of success. Since that date, McCarthy and the team have welcomed a new staff of well-regarded assistants in their pursuit of returning to the playoffs.
After nine years with Garrett at the helm, it was safe to say things would be much different in 2020 with McCarthy leading the charge as a former Super Bowl-winning coach. Dallas will have the continuity of Kellen Moore remaining on staff as the offensive coordinator, but McCarthy brings his own schemes and philosophy.
However, due to COVID-19, we haven’t been able to see much of anything McCarthy will bring to the table. The virus has rendered all offseason activities to be done either virtually, or in small groups without a team setting. There have been no on-field team workouts or mini-camps to fully grasp anything on either side of the ball. All of McCarthy’s installations have been done via learning sessions online.
Unfortunately, the lack of on-field instruction will be a detriment to the Cowboys. The NFL usually allows additional practice time for teams with new coaches, which was rendered useless this offseason. McCarthy never got that extra time to work with his team on an actual football field ahead of training camp.
Now, with camp around the corner, and the virus still rearing its ugly head across the country, players have rallied together for their safety. There has been a wave of NFL players utilizing the hashtag #WeWantToPlay as a way to garner better safety protocols ahead of training camp.
One of the player’s demands was to eliminate preseason games, which the league obliged.
With the NFL getting rid of preseason games, the Cowboys will be at even more of a disadvantage. The team was supposed to play five preseason games, but that was cut short to four after the Hall of Fame game was canceled last month. The league then shortened the preseason to two games, and now they have proposed ridding themselves of the exhibition season altogether.
While this might be the most prudent plan for player safety, it isn’t good news for the Cowboys as a football team as they prepare for the upcoming year with the hopes of contending in the NFC East. Dallas hasn’t had sufficient time in the offseason to fully implement new schemes on either side of the ball, nor have they had the ability to put them into practice.
Instead, they will now learn on the fly in training camp, and without the trial and error of preseason games. With the NFL rules on how many practices – including padded practices – a team can have, no exhibition games is unquestionably a detriment for teams with new coaches.
Having only the summer to pick up new systems to get ready for the 2020 season is definitely not what the Cowboys envisioned when they made wholesale changes to the coaching staff. It’s been nine years since the majority of the team on either side of the ball has had to learn something new. Being afforded only a handful of weeks to prepare for the regular season and being tasked with being successful out of the gate is a lot to ask.
Cowboys fans will get to see what McCarthy and his staff is made of quickly. If he used the time away from the game following his dismissal from Green Bay wisely, embraced the analytics, and has progressed his thinking to the game of today, Dallas can still prosper this season.
However, the Cowboys are at an unforeseen disadvantage as training camp approaches and there’s no preseason to work out the kinks. McCarthy and his team will sink or swim when the regular season arrives, without the use of floaties.
Just another surprise in the year 2020.
Do you think the Cowboys will have enough time to adjust to the new coaching staff without preseason games? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.