The 7-4 Dallas Cowboys face the 5-6 New Orleans Saints on Thursday at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana in the Cowboys' second Thursday game in as many weeks. .... and they'll do it with some step-up leadership from the coaching staff.
It's already a challenging week of practice for coaches and players with the Thursday-Thursday turnaround, but to make matters worse, the Cowboys are currently dealing with a number of COVID-19 issues within the building that has disrupted the schedule and personnel availability.
Added to the list Monday morning: Coach Mike McCarthy.
Dallas already knew it would be without the services of starting right tackle Terence Steele as McCarthy announced Sunday morning Steele had tested positive for COVID-19. But the Cowboys will also be without at least three more coaches, as assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko, offensive assistant Scott Tolzien, and strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash all entered COVID-19 protocol over the weekend. Strength and conditioning assistants Kendall Smith and Cedric Smith already entered protocol over the weekend.
Offensive line coach Joe Philbin tested positive for COVID-19 before the Thanksgiving game, and will still be out Thursday due to protocol.
With McCarthy set to do his coaching virtually, who is next man in charge? Rob Davis is McCarthy’s “assistant head coach” (read here) but has little practical experience as an actual coach compared to coordinators Dan Quinn, John Fassel and Kellen Moore.
Davis, we're told, might play a key "administrative role'' in organizing the staff. But Quinn has the most real experience as a head coach, by far. USA Today reports that Quinn might be the "point person'' on game day in terms of who is actually running the game from the stadium.
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Meanwhile, veteran offensive lineman La'el Collins is expected to play for Steele, while Cowboys offensive quality control coach Chase Haslett, tight ends coach Lunda Wells, and offensive consultant Ben McAdoo should help out on the coaching side.
On Sunday meetings were held virtually, and the in-person walkthrough was limited to 75 minutes. Monday will be much of the same, with three hours of virtual meetings followed by a walkthrough practice.
Tuesday's practice and meeting schedule will be dictated by test results as all players and coaches are undergoing COVID-19 tests on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, regardless of vaccination status.
And on Thursday? Mike McCarthy will be "virtually'' in charge. But Dan Quinn could be the guy in the spotlight.
The Cowboys hope to see wideout Amari Cooper back on the field on Thursday as he missed the last two games due to COVID-19 protocol. Cooper is scheduled to be back at The Star on Monday to have his conditioning evaluated for Thursday's game.
The Dallas lead in the NFC East has shrunk to just two games as the Cowboys have lost three of their last four. But after New Orleans, Dallas will see three division games in a row, the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field, the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, then Washington back at AT&T Stadium.