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Following the playoff disaster, the Dallas Cowboys must fire Mike McCarthy, promote Dan Quinn to head coach

My personal suggestion for the omicron variant is that even though it's not that bad for most of us - cold-like symptoms with moments of turbidity that are not so different from my standard moments of turbidity - it's still strong enough to get you to miss an entire Cowboys post-season.

Who knew that after three hours and 16 minutes, the highest scoring team in the club's history would be finished?

My personal bid on what to do in the wake of the 49ers 23, Cowboys 17, is that some fine farewell gifts should be given directly to Mike McCarthy, while Jerry Jones announces that Dan Quinn will be the 10th head coach in Cowboys history. The Cowboys owner was deliberately vague about some of his thoughts in connection with the club's recent playoff defeat in the first round, saying he would not get into coaching talk of any kind.

Jones' most telling quote came when asked if his team had been ready for the 49ers. “Again, I will not discuss coaching, preparation, any of these things. It's not on the table. The game speaks for itself, ”he said. "Really, I thought the score was not indicative of the game."

In other words, he knew the 49ers outplayed the Cowboys poorly and that Dallas, through a bit of hard work and the luck of a Jimmy Garoppolo bout, crawled back into the competition in the end. But let's get right to the point of why McCarthy is here in the first place. This is because playoff games will not look like they did during the Jason Garrett era.

What did this look like?

A 13-0 lead for the 49ers before the Cowboys even got their car started started certainly resembled a 21-3 Packers lead here back then when Dak and Zeke were rookies. A team playoff record with 14 penalties? Who is to blame here for an ongoing problem - the Cowboys led the league in penalty kicks - which were never resolved? Instead, the club almost turned into the worst kind of apology maker, even Dak Prescott pointed fingers and made a flippant comment about fans throwing trash at the referees after having one of his worst big fights to date.

The last game of the game was not worth a risk to take because the Cowboys do not know how to perform it. How many times have you seen Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald catch a late pass and hurry to pass the ball to the nearest referee, knowing he has to put it before the team can nail the ball? The referee hit Prescott the most because the quarterback had run too far and then not given him room to squeeze between him and the center to touch the ball.

McCarthy defended it, and I see it as nothing more than defending yet another bad call from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who had plenty in the second half of the season. Moore still believes Zeke is the key to the Cowboys' attack and that Tony Pollard should be used sparingly, if at all. It was painfully clear again on Sunday when Zeke got 31 yards on 13 touches. It's something a stronger head coach would have cleaned up in earlier this season, but McCarthy never did.

(If you think the Cowboys are playing Zeke too much because Jerry insists on it, I'll just say I do not agree with you, but I can not prove you wrong. That's not out of the question).

So Quinn and Moore get their interviews this week, and the only significant risk to the club is that Quinn stays away. Why let it happen? In what way is this team better off having McCarthy as head coach with a new defensive coordinator to be determined than just letting Quinn continue to manage the defense as head coach?

The improvement on this team in 2021 came on defense. Even against the 49ers, when the defense was pushed around more than it will ever admit (apparently a lion able to being bullied), kept the San Francisco group to score goals often enough to stay within reach. It's a risky defense that will give up some big games to make some big games, but it's far better than what Dallas had gotten used to.

I recognize that two years is a very short time for evaluations, and given that both seasons have been disrupted by COVID, one could argue that it is simply too early. But what are we really talking about here? Garrett was fired because his winning team did not excel in the playoffs. In its last two seasons, Dallas was 19-15 with a playoff victory. McCarthy's two teams are 18-16 with no playoff wins. The overall record was damaged by Prescott's absence in 2020. But this was an extremely healthy Cowboys team that took the field against the 49ers, who lost their best pass-rusher before the break, and you would never know that from watching the game.

San Francisco was better prepared in all areas except to allow Dallas to perform a false punt. There was not the least bit surprising about Kyle Shanahan's direct approach to the Cowboys' attack. Meanwhile, Dallas went against some of the more exposed cornerbacks in the league, and you would never know that either.

Seventeen points. Fourteen penalties. Lots of excuses about the judges. That's what this team produced on its biggest day under Mike McCarthy.

Chan Gailey disappeared after two playoff losses two years ago when Jones had higher expectations for his team. Why should Jerry not let Cowboys fans see what Quinn can do in an elevated role? Or do you expect really drastic improvements from McCarthy in 2022?

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Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn goes on the field while the teams warm up before an NFL Wild Card playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers at the AT&T Stadium on Sunday, January 16, 2022 in Arlington.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) and safety Jayron Kearse (27) leave the field after a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, January 16, 2022 in Arlington.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) during the first half of an NFL Wild Card playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers at the AT&T Stadium on Sunday, January 16, 2022 in Arlington.

Find more Cowboys coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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