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'We Were Nervous': Unusual Cowboys 'Angst' Admission from Coach Mike McCarthy

McCarthy addresses the media for the final time for the 2021 season, and we'll have live updates here at CowboysSI.com

FRISCO - "I thought we were nervous to start the game. I felt it in the locker room at the team prayer. ... Let me take the word ‘nervous’ back. It was a little angst ...I just think it was the first time we were doing this as a whole."

This was an unusually frank admission from a head coach, and it was delivered by the Dallas Cowboys boss in his Wednesday media wrap-up of the season.

"Nervous''?

"Angst''?

Normal problem? Abnormal admission? Easy fix?

This season did not go as planned. Not as coach McCarthy planned, not as owner/GM/president Jerry Jones planned, and not as quarterback Dak Prescott planned. There are lots of places to point fingers and plenty of blame to go around. ... and we dig into much of that below as we give you the blow-by-blow of McCarthy's media session ...

After starting the season 6-1 and the offense playing at a Super Bowl-winning level and Prescott playing like a league MVP, things derailed quickly after Prescott's calf injury against the Patriots.

That, along with inconsistent play on the offensive line, a stagnant running game, and questionable play-calling down the stretch, seemingly doomed the Cowboys, who, although finished the season 12-5, didn't have any real success against potential playoff teams all season long.

And now, with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn both being possible head coaching targets for other teams, the immediate future of the franchise is in question.

But it's not just the immediate future of the coordinators in question, as several Cowboys players enter the offseason without contracts, and Jones & Co. will have their work cut out for them determining who stays and who goes.

McCarthy will address the media for the final time for the 2021 Cowboys season at 2:00 p.m. CT on Wednesday and will no doubt address the Wild Card loss to the 49ers and what we can expect in 2022.

Follow along with CowboysSi.com during the entire press conference as we update comments from McCarthy.

LIVE press conference comments will appear below. These are not quotes, but live summaries of McCarthy's comments:


Q: How do they reconcile with how they finished the season?

McCarthy: There's only one team that gets to feel good about how they finished. We're disappointed and we'll build on what we have accomplished from last year to this year.

Q: Was there too much blame of officials after the game?

McCarthy: Officials don't lose games, but players comment immediately after the game and hold themselves accountable. There were way too many penalties and there's no excuse for it. We had way too many pre-snap penalties. This is one of the most disciplined teams I've ever coached. So the penalties aren't an indication of a lack of discipline for this team. There's no excuse to hold on a run play. We as coaches will continue to take a look at things and find a way to get better.

Q: How dangerous is it to have the mindset that when you lose it's someone else's fault?

McCarthy: That's a great point. And my history as a coach, when we were highly penalized, and my experience is every coach has a way he wants to coach, and you try to coach players to be aggressive. With aggressiveness comes room for error and combative penalties. We need to do a better job as coaches.

Q: What's the point of correction for Randy Gregory with his penalties?

McCarthy: I haven't watched the game yet so I can't address that yet. But we know he'll get better.

Q: What's your message to fans about why things will be better next year with the loss of coaches and players in the offseason?

McCarthy: We'll get better. I have confidence we'll do that moving forward. We'll have a good draft and we'll find a combination of veterans and the players we have to get better moving forward.

Q: How much pressure will be on you next year to take the next step?

McCarthy: That's what we do. We're not here to go backward. It's part of the challenge. Whatever level of success you find sustaining it is the challenge. To do it every year is a huge challenge. With the group of guys we have and with the culture we've created we'll be fine.

Q: Comment on the running game and the struggles.

McCarthy: Running the ball was definitely not our strength. The rushes plus completions and ball distribution is the most important. The goal is 55 rushes plus completions. In wins, we were around 57, 58. The run game is a constant conversation for us and some of the conversations we had about the offensive line is part of that. We need to be better.

Q: What conversations have you had with Jerry?

McCarthy: We sat down and had some very positive conversations and I'm sure we'll have more.

Q: What went wrong in the game Sunday?

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McCarthy: We won't get into specifics since I haven't really looked at it, but I think the team started out nervous, I felt that in the locker room during the team prayer. From talking to Kellen we had I think eight 2nd and 10's and a couple of 2nd and 20's and it's hard to be successful with situations like that. But it's something we'll look at in greater detail.

Q: If Kellen were to leave would there be any consideration to instilling some of your offense here?

McCarthy: The goal is to keep the foundation for Dak and his success. It would be a language change but the most important part is that we evolve. That process if Kellen is here or not will change. We'll always build the offense around the success of the quarterback.

Q: The foundation of the offense won't change?

McCarthy: It's something you have to take a hard look at and see what worked and what didn't. It's something we'll take a normal look at.

Q: Would you call plays?

McCarthy: I don't think that's the best way to run an offense. To be honest I laugh at that stuff sometimes. We have a play-caller for offense, defense, and special teams, and for us to be the best we can be I think that's the way it should be run. 

Q: Are you prepared for Kellen and Dan to be done?

McCarthy: I think you're always prepared for that. Movement in the league is high and that's just something you prepare for. I have a clear responsibility to the organization to do what's best in every aspect of the team.

Q: This franchise hasn't been in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in about 14 years, is that part of the success you were talking about earlier?

McCarthy: That's definitely part of it, and it's something you look for as a coach. It's tough to get things like that done as a young team but we're confident and it's important and it's hard to accomplish. 

Most importantly I can't say enough about the players and their confidence and how we feel as a program and what we accomplished in the year. This is one of the best locker rooms I've ever been a part of.

Q: What kind of influence do the coaches have in what players come back?

McCarthy: It's a collaboration between all involved and with Jerry and Stephen I think we've done a good job with that especially last year, and I have great confidence we'll have another good year.

Q: How much do you look at the offensive line in the offseason?

McCarthy: We haven't really had any personnel meetings yet but you always look for ways to improve and we'll look at staying healthy and look at some things fundamentally and pass protection.

Q: Any other possible changes to the coaching staff?

McCarthy: That's premature, we'll do exit interviews next week and then we'll address that.

Q: How do you expect Micah Parsons to improve in year two?

McCarthy: What can you say about Micah? He'll make a huge jump and we'll have him prepared. He's a huge challenge for an offense, but he needs to take that next step next year.

Q: Do you ever get used to speculation about your job security?

McCarthy: It's accepted, it's part of the job, and I know why you're asking it, but I personally don't put a lot of thought into it. I know how to win, win playoff games, and win championships, and I feel very good about what we've built in the last two seasons. 

Q: How will you watch the rest of the playoffs?

McCarthy: I won't. I just don't get up for all the emotion watching it on TV but I'll be watching game tape.

Q: Will you go to the Senior Bowl?

McCarthy: I apologize, I haven't even thought about that yet.

Q: With Gallup and Wilson both free agents how will you decide which one to keep?

McCarthy: As far as pending free agency I think it's a little early to get into that.

END OF PRESS CONFERENCE