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Mike McCarthy on player unhappiness: Need to talk 1-on-1

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In the aftermath of an alarming defeat to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night, Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy faced reports via NFL Network’s Jane Slater that his players had expressed unhappiness with the coaching staff, tabbing the coaches as “unprepared” and that they plainly “just aren’t good at their jobs.”

With a disastrous 38-10 loss not yet 24-hours-old, McCarthy indicated he needs to keep apprised of his team’s mindset and outlook, but that his door is open and the preferred approach — certainly in tough times such as these — would be talking directly to him.

“I haven’t been part of any of those type of discussions,” McCarthy said of reports that he and his staff are unable to teach and adjust on the fly. “I think like a lot of things, when you hit a part of your season or any challenge where there is negativity out there, where it comes from and who it comes from, that’s something I’ve never chased. I think you do have to recognize it and I just really go back to my first meeting with the football team. I’ve always stated this to every team that I’ve coached. I think it’s important to handle things as men; if you do have something to say publicly that is of most importance, I think it’s important to say it to the individual. Particularly in a group dynamic, setting. Especially in the game of football, especially for the Dallas Cowboys. That’s all part of the development of our program, of the system we’re installing here.”

Though the Cowboys are in first place in a borderline comical NFC East at 2-4, the struggles in every facet are abundant.

Despite an offense that leads the league in yards and is fourth in total points, Dallas tops the league with 15 turnovers and its defense has allowed an NFL-high 218 points — 26 more than anyone else.

McCarthy expressed conviction in his staff’s ability to reverse course, however.

“I have great confidence in the men that I work with,” McCarthy said. “This is something that we work on every single day. We understand that there’s still has been a learning curve for all of us involved. As a head coach you have to make sure that you’re touching each and every player. I’ll just say it as buzz words, but we need to coach better. Our job responsibility is simple, it’s to teach and demand. And the players understand that they’re responsibility is simple also. Their job is to prepare and perform. When you are working hard on one specific part of your game and it hasn’t shown up on Sunday, I have to continue to find a way to teach and demand our ball security challenge. It’s not reflective of the type of football team we’re gonna be. That’s coaching.”

While McCarthy spoke of letting teaching and development take its course, he was asked if a more drastic shakeup — perhaps a coaching change — could quicken the process. In reaction, he leaned toward needing to do a better job of dealing with any of his players’ dismay as the process comes to fruition.

“I have to keep my finger on the pulse of the football team,” McCarthy said. “I think we need to keep our eye on the target and that’s about having a healthy game plan to go win the game in Washington [on Sunday] and just continue to develop our program and just stay committed to our system.”

As the defense has relinquished 34 or more points in five consecutive games, no seat has been hotter than that of Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. McCarthy was emphatic when asked if the players believe in Nolan.

“Definitely. It’s a change,” McCarthy said. “This is something that we want to do defensively-wise. Frankly, we’re in the infant stages of it.

“That’s part of these first-year challenges.”

It’s been a rough first season thus far for McCarthy, quite obviously. Monday might well have been the worst so far and Tuesday wasn’t exactly a cool breeze.

When asked by Slater if the report was an opportunity for McCarthy to restate that his door was open for discussion with players, McCarthy jokingly thanked the reporter and reiterated that things are still in flux, but he’s always ready to listen.

“I think it’s important for our operation, the system that we’re putting in place here — all systems are different — we’ve looked at how things were done in here in the past and there’s a clear vision in understanding and demand on how things need to be moving forward,” McCarthy said. “It’s important for us to have those conversations as men one-on-one or as a group. I’m fortunate enough where I get to talk to the team everyday.”

Everyday will seemingly bring about more talk in regard to the Cowboys’ tribulations until the high-profile coaching staff and the star-studded roster begin performing at an elite level. Six games and four losses into 2020, that seems a long way from happening.

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