FRISCO, Texas — When Mike McCarthy was named coach of the Green Bay Packers in 2006, he was well-versed in the history of that franchise.
“Driving into the stadium and you had statues of Curly Lambeau and [Vince] Lombardi in the front,” McCarthy said Wednesday as he was introduced as the ninth coach in Dallas Cowboys history. “After about the fifth day, I started going through the back door. I just didn’t want to look at it anymore.
“I’m just kidding.”
There is a statue of longtime Cowboys coach Tom Landry, but it is at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the coaches and players don’t have to pass by it often because they enter on the other side at the stadium. But at The Star, the Cowboys’ day-to-day home, there are five Vince Lombardi Trophies on display in the lobby.
McCarthy will only have to see the Super Bowl hardware before and after his news conferences.
As Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones listed all of McCarthy’s attributes — from 33 years of coaching experience to understanding the inner workings of the NFL, including knowledge of a wide set of contracts — Jones also highlighted McCarthy’s experience in Green Bay.
“[He has] familiarity in working for a storied and historic NFL franchise that has a worldwide fan base that expectations are very high,” Jones said.
All Jones wants is for McCarthy to accomplish what no coach in the Super Bowl era has done: win a championship with a second franchise.
Don Shula, the NFL’s all-time winningest coach, won an NFL championship with the Baltimore Colts and two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, and he is one of six head coaches who have gone to a Super Bowl with different teams.
Shula lost Super Bowl III with the Colts, but won Super Bowls VII and VII with the Dolphins. He also lost Super Bowl VI, the first of the Cowboys’ five Lombardi Trophies, as well as Super Bowl XVII and Super Bowl XIX with the Dolphins.
Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants but lost Super Bowl XXXI with the New England Patriots. Former coach Mike Holmgren beat Parcells with the Packers, but lost Super Bowl XL with the Seattle Seahawks.
Dick Vermeil lost Super Bowl XV with the Philadelphia Eagles but won Super Bowl XXXIV with the St. Louis Rams. Dan Reeves took the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl, losing four times, and John Fox coached the Broncos and Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl, losing both times.
In 2020, the Cowboys will be entering their 25th season since their last Super Bowl victory.
History looms over the franchise whether the Super Bowl expectations are real or not. When McCarthy took over in Green Bay, the Packers were only a decade removed from their win in Super Bowl XXXI and nine years removed from their loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII.
McCarthy was able to navigate the burden of history in Green Bay, and Jones hopes he can do the same with the Cowboys.
“It’s a great experience that I could obviously draw from because you have the same thing here. You look at the great coaches that have been here. The Super Bowl champions. All the Hall of Fame players. You look at the great quarterback play here,” McCarthy said. “There’s a lot of similarities that I feel that I can use in this particular situation. This is the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t think you have to say anything more than that. I’m just telling you. I am honored to be the steward of this iconic franchise. I told Jerry this in the interview: that I will take care of that honor and privilege and that responsibility. Because I understand it. And I know what it takes.”
There was a time Jones was reluctant to look at a Super Bowl-winning coach. He did not think such a coach would have the same fire for a second championship as he did the first. Parcells’ arrival in Dallas came after three straight 5-11 seasons and a looming stadium vote. Jones needed Parcells’ gravitas on and off the field in 2003.
Now Jones needs McCarthy to take his team back to a championship level.
“You love the ambition and the fire in a young person and willing and dare to be great. You love all of that. But obviously you want to get the experience that is involved in decisions, because we all know every young person gets stepped on. That’s part of what we are. You’ve heard it here — to have someone that certainly has had it not go exactly like he wanted it to over this past year or two and to have him demonstrate that resolve just from afar, plus have him to be able to sit there,” Jones said. “I mean, those things, [the] Lombardis [trophies] are hard to get a hold of and we know that. And he’s had one of his own right here. To catch that right now and get our time to do that was just an opportunity.”
As he spoke, Jones was holding a Deja Blue-branded water bottle over his head.
He yearns for the day that water bottle could be the sterling silver Lombardi trophy one more time.