Last Stands For Tom Brady and Mike McCarthy?

We likely won’t see Tom Brady in a Buccaneers uniform in 2023. There isn’t anything keeping him in Tampa Bay, and the roster will be going through changes in the offseason, given their current cap situation. But he’s not the only one who could be on the sidelines for the final time with their team.

Although moving on from Mike McCarthy is unlikely, it’s certainly not out of the question for the Dallas Cowboys. But why would a coach who has won 12 games in back-to-back seasons lose his job? I’m glad you asked.

The Cowboys May Not Be Long For Mike McCarthy

If you’ve spent any significant time following the Cowboys, you know that owner Jerry Jones talks a lot. He joins 105.3 The Fan in Dallas twice a week, as does Stephen Jones. The difference is Jerry talks himself into trouble with his delivery of him and sometimes grotesque analogies.

The other day was no exception. Those who have been around the Arkansan enough know what he was trying to say, even through his ambiguous word choice and awkward delivery.

“No. I don’t even want to — no. That’s it. I don’t need to go into all the pluses or minuses, but I’ve got a lot more to evaluate Mike McCarthy on than this playoff game.”

What he’s saying is that losing one game does not make or break McCarthy’s employment with Dallas.

The Cowboys are in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006-2007. They won 12 games in consecutive years for the first time since their Super Bowl run in the early ’90s. They accomplished that in 2022 despite Dak Prescott missing five games.

MORE: Cowboys vs. Buccaneers Prediction, Odds, and Picks

But that alone may not save McCarthy. Jones is 80 years old, and although he has more money than most can fathom, he hasn’t exactly subjected his body to highway miles over the years. There is no guarantee his patience as he won’t run out if the 12-win Cowboys lose to an eight-win Buccaneers team that made the playoffs by default.

The prospect of losing one, if not both (probably not), of the team’s coordinators adds to the intrigue surrounding McCarthy’s status. The players adore defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. And while he does n’t have a Super Bowl victory under his belt by him, he has Super Bowl experience without having an all-time QB to hang his hat on him.

The Sean Payton rumor will reach volcanic temperatures if Dallas loses to Tampa Bay. But it’s a stretch to hire Dallas, a team who practically used their draft picks as their only team-building avenue, would give up significant draft capital for Payton.

Jones’ own history cannot be discarded, either. He fired Chan Gailey after multiple one-and-done playoff appearances. He also fired the only coach the Cowboys had ever had to hire Jimmy Johnson, who won three Super Bowls with the team before a quick departure to Miami.

The Cowboys were embarrassed a season ago in the Wild Card Round by the San Francisco 49ers. McCarthy most likely survives a hard-fought loss in a game in which both teams played well. But anything is possible if the Cowboys are embarrassed on Monday Night Football against a team that ranked 25th in weighted DVOA.

Does Tom Brady Have Enough to Extend His Buccaneers Career?

Brady has not been the same player in 2022 as in his prior two seasons with the team. He posted the lowest QBR of his career and spent most of the year looking like a man going through hell.

Of the 32 QBs with at least 250 attempts, Brady ranked 29th in yards per attempt, 17th in ANY/A, and 27th in aDOT despite being pressured less often than any QB in the NFL, likely because he wasn’t holding onto the ball any longer than he absolutely had to.

But we’re also not going to ignore what Brady did to the Carolina Panthers in a must-win game just two weeks ago. See, Brady and Mike Evans picked on the Panthers’ secondary, who didn’t have Jaycee Horn on the field.

MORE: Tom Brady’s career wins, earnings, record, and more

Dallas will field one of Trayvon Mullen, Nahshon Wright, or Xavier Rhodes opposite of Trevon Diggs. That does not bode well for the Cowboys. But Brady and the Buccaneers’ receivers haven’t been connecting downfield the way they have in the past. Brady was “off” for most of the year, pushing the ball downfield.

Can Brady and company put together a full 60 minutes of football and extend his Buccaneers career for another week?

Turnovers Could Decide the Game

The Cowboys turn over teams more than anybody but have also struggled with turnovers themselves, particularly in the form of interceptions.

However, the outcome has less to do with turnover differential and much more with how Dallas’ defense has done when they cannot turn teams over. Dallas finished the year second in defensive EPA per play and fourth in defensive success rate. While they only fall to seventh when we exclude turnovers, that doesn’t take into account their recent form.

Since Prescott’s return, the Cowboys rank fourth in defensive EPA. But they’ve been successful because of their ability to turn the ball over. They drop to 19th on non-turnover plays, which is a far cry from the dominant defense Dallas fielded early in the season.

Injuries have slashed production, but the Cowboys are getting some important defensive pieces back for the Wild Card Round, which should help those concerns.

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