FRISCO - How many different ways can you say "Our goal is the Super Bowl''? New Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy has said it outright.
"I think conversation like that, frankly, respectfully, is nonsense," McCarthy said a few weeks ago, when asked about Super Bowl-or-bust expectations. "If you're not trying to win the Super Bowl, I don't know what you're even doing in this business.''
But on the eve of his Cowboys' trip to Los Angeles for a Sunday night Week 1 NFL opener against the Rams, McCarthy found a different way to say "Super Bowl.''
"It’s really part of the plan that I’ve expressed to our players Day 1,'' he said. "We have a '20-Game Plan' here. Everything we do today is about stacking success and putting them in the right position physically, mentally and emotionally to grow throughout the season. We’re at full steam ahead in the most important games of the year.''
A "20-Game Plan.'' It expresses a sort of quiet confidence, does it not?
McCarthy can speak from experience. His 2010 Green Bay Packers team won Super Bowl XLV. And in his 13 seasons, they made the playoffs nine times, with four trips to the NFC Championship Game.
No, the Packers didn't "bust'' when they fell short - just as the Cowboys, who haven't won a Super Bowl or even played in a conference title game since 1995 - haven't "busted.'' The Cowboys in the quarter-century have won just four postseason games. Still, no "bust.''
Championship talk resonates around this 2020 team, as it often does in Dallas. Part of it is owner Jerry Jones' optimistic salesmanship. Part of it is "America's Team'' hype. And part of it is that Jones' front office has often assembled talented rosters - and that includes this one.
But none of it - none of the talk - scares McCarthy. In fact, he took a subtle shot at any of his colleagues who are unwilling to state the goal.
"I think that (goal is) what every team starts their offseason with,'' he said. "The ones that don't want to talk about it, they're probably just trying to 'Underpromise and Overachieve.' But I've always been very upfront about it with every team I've ever coached: We're in this to win a championship. Make no bones about it."
That's one way to say it, and it's a good way. But on Thursday, McCarthy came up with another way, and we bet his presentation to the media mirrors what he's saying to his team about the nature of a season - how it's both a grinding marathon and a blink-and-you-miss-your-chance endeavor.
And how the goal is success game-by-game ... for, ultimately, 20 games.