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Dallas Cowboys expected to pursue Sean Payton in 2023 if Mike McCarthy fails to reach specific goal

Matt Johnson

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy found himself on the hot seat following the 2021 season after costly mistakes in the Wild Card round knocked his team out of the playoffs. While Jerry Jones ultimately kept him around, McCarthy’s days in Texas could be numbered.

McCarthy landed the job before the 2020 season after campaigning to replace Jason Garrett. Once a Super Bowl winner with the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy admitted he lied to Jones about analyzing every Cowboys’ snap.

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The results weren’t promising in his first season. Dallas finished 6-10, with McCarthy’s decision to hire long-time friend Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator backfiring. However, the Cowboys turned things around in 2021 with a 12-5 record and an NFC East title.

Unfortunately for Dallas, its season ended the same way it has so often. The Cowboys failed to win a playoff game, losing to the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in a game that saw Dallas commit 14 penalties at home. Despite the frustration, Jones opted to retain his head coach.

While McCarthy is safe heading into the season, he is on the hot seat. Dallas will face even more challenging competition from the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East crown this season. If things don’t go well, Jones might already have his target in mind.

On the Yahoo Sports’ You Pod to Win the Game podcast, NFL insider Charles Robinson said he expects Dallas will pursue Payton next offseason if McCarthy doesn’t meet expectations.

“I 100% think that they will make a run at Sean Payton if Mike McCarthy does not coach his way to some sort of a dominant season

Charles Robinson on potential Dallas Cowboys pursuit of Sean Payton

What will it take for Mike McCarthy to be fired

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Minicamp
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

While Jones has shown an unusual amount of loyalty to coaches in recent history, the most iconic owner in the NFL is also running thin on patience. Dallas hasn’t advanced to the NFC Championship Game since 1995, turning ‘America’s Team’ into a perennial disappointment.

Expectations are high for the 2022 season. The Cowboys have one of the best NFL quarterbacks, a strong rushing attack and a roster filled with young talent at key positions. With the Washington Commanders and New York Giants unlikely to be strong threats in the division, the path to winning the NFC East should be easier.

Related: Dallas Cowboys, Mike McCarthy fined for ‘too physical’ practice

The expanded NFL playoff format makes things even easier for Dallas, but just making it won’t be enough. Ownership needs to see this team in the NFC title game, at the very least, to have any confidence that McCarthy can lead this team in future seasons. Anything short of that would be a failure and he’ll likely be fired.

Can the Dallas Cowboys land Sean Payton?

NFL: New Orleans Saints-Press Conference
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Sean Payton is taking the year off from coaching, but a return to the sidelines seems realistic. There are already reports that he is interested in specific situations and he has long been admired by Jerry Jones in previous years.

However, landing him will be costly. The Miami Dolphins presented him with a historic contract proposal and they still didn’t land him. It’s also important to note that the New Orleans Saints still hold Payton’s contractual rights and they will likely want at least one first-round pick, if not more, to trade him to another team.

Given the Cowboys previously tried to land him, it should come as no surprise that it will likely happen again. If Jones is willing to offer the legendary offensive guru a contract worth $100-plus million and he will part with valuable draft picks, Payton could be coaching quarterback Dak Prescott in 2023.