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The bar is set high for Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys in 2020

There is a lot of optimism as we get closer to the 2020 NFL regular season, especially after such a downtrodden offseason. Some of this optimism is unwarranted, while some is deserved.

The Dallas Cowboys were one of the most unlucky teams in the NFL season ago. They didn’t make much luck of their own, either, especially when it came to hanging on to catchable passes and making plays in the kicking game. Thus, for the first time since 2010, Dallas made a switch at the head coaching position, going with former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, who spent a year off while trying to level back up after many accused him of becoming stale over his last few seasons in Green Bay.

Aside from the worldwide pandemic, it would seem like he’s moving things in the right direction. CeeDee Lamb was widely considered to be one of the best value picks in April’s draft, and McCarthy’s decision to allow the very successful Kellen Moore continue to call plays checked a box for me as a skeptical observer. 

In this article, I wanted to look at what the precedent is for a coach like McCarthy, who is 30th all time with 125 career wins as a head coach (and 29th with a 0.618 win percentage). There are actually plenty of examples of coaches with successes similar to McCarthy’s in previous stops moving onto other teams. Let’s go through how that’s worked out. 

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Success Continued Throughout Second Stint

There are a number of coaches who Mike McCarthy can strive to be like in his second stint. After winning 76% of his games with the Baltimore Colts, the winningest coach of all time — Don Shula — won 66% of his games with the Dolphins in 26 years, bringing as many Super Bowls to South Beach (two) as he did losing seasons.

Don Coryell — one of the league’s most innovative offensive minds — left the St. Louis Cardinals having won 61% of his games before winning 55% of his games as the coach of the San Diego Chargers in the late-70s and 80s. 

Marty Schottenheimer, after having his heart ripped out and stomped on in the playoffs as the Browns’ coach in the 80s, won 63% of his games with Kansas City from 1989-98. Tony Dungy, after wearing out his welcome with Tampa Bay — a team he lifted off of the ground in the mid-90s — was able to win 76% of his games as the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, netting the franchise a Super Bowl title in 2006. And after falling out of favor in Carolina, John Fox won over 70% of his games as the Denver Broncos’ coach (though, like Dungy, it was with help from Peyton Manning), including one Super Bowl appearance.

While Dan Reeves (0.484 with the Giants and 0.454 with the Falcons), Bill Parcels (0.500 with the Patriots and 0.604 with the Jets), Tom Coughlin (0.531 with the Giants), Dick Vermeil (0.458 with the Rams) and Jon Gruden (0.509 with the Bucs) did not have impressive aggregate records in their second (or third) stints as head coaches, all of these men at least led a team to a Super Bowl, which I would classify as a success. 

Jim Mora, who was the first successful coach of the Saints franchise, finished 0.500 with the Colts during his second stint as a head coach but did win 23 of his 32 games in 1999 and 2000.

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