The disaster in Dallas could get Mike McCarthy kicked out. Is Bill Belichick next for the Cowboys? – FOX Sports

They're used to pain and disappointment in Dallas. It has become as much a part of their winter as the Super Bowls used to be. They know the Cowboys are always likely to pull the red carpet out from under them just as they start to believe.

But this one felt different. This one was worse. For the Cowboys, this may have been their best opportunity to reach a Super Bowl in nearly three decades.

So it's hard to imagine Jerry Jones letting the matter go without making someone pay.

That's why all eyes and ears will be on the team's 81-year-old owner in the coming days following his Cowboys' bitter, unexpected and inexcusable 48-32 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card playoffs on Sunday. He made it clear that he had handed coach Mike McCarthy a team that, as he put it, was “certainly capable of winning the whole thing.” He was thrilled as they prepared for two potential home playoff games in a stadium where they had won 16 straight.

Then he sat there, with the cameras in his sights, and watched as they screwed everything up spectacularly.

That's why McCarthy is suddenly sitting in the hottest seat in the country.

And Bill Belichick could be on his phone.

“This seems like the most painful (playoff loss) because we all had such high expectations,” Jones said shortly after it was over. “And we had high hopes for this team and felt we were well positioned and in top form. That’s incomprehensible to me.”

And he added: “I’m down.” jpg&props=eyJwYWdlX25hbWUiOiJmc2NvbTpzdG9yaWVzOm5mbDpEaXNhc3RlciBpbiBEYWxsYXMgY291bGQgcHVzaCBNaWtlIE1jQ2FydGh5IG91dC4gSXMgQmlsbCBCZWxpY2hpY2 s gbmV4dCBmb3IgQ293Ym95cz8iLCJwYWdlX2NvbnRlbnRfZGlzdHJpYnV0b3IiOiJhbXAiLCJwYWdlX3R5cGUiOiJzdG9yaWVzOmFydGljbGVzIn0= Loading video…

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It was like that for everyone. It was incomprehensible that the second-seeded Cowboys trailed 27-7 at halftime, 41-16 after three quarters and 48-16 with six minutes left before Dallas padded some stats against the Packers' second team. They were so bad that AT&T Stadium sounded like Lambeau Field South, especially as the Cowboys fans headed for the exits in the second half.

Jones emphasized after the game, “I haven't thought for a second about McCarthy's future or what he might do next.” But really, how could Jones not wonder if someone like Belichick could do better with this team after McCarthy's seen a mess?

And the Cowboys coach has earned a lot of criticism for it. From the start, his team seemed unprepared for everything the Packers threw at them. His offense – his baby with its playbook – was particularly lazy and seemed incredibly out of sync from the first drive, despite being in a stadium where it won games by an average score of 37-16.

Dak Prescott, his MVP-caliber quarterback, “sucked,” in his own words. He came within inches of throwing two pick-6s, dropped a third interception and had just 210 yards through three quarters. And his No. 1 receiver, CeeDee Lamb — his only reliable weapon all year — almost completely disappeared, catching seven passes for just 51 yards in the first three quarters. Prescott and Lamb looked like strangers at the start of the game. Lamb had two drops on his first three passes. And the dynamic duo seemed engrossed in discussion after each piece.

But they weren't nearly as disastrous as the defense. The self-proclaimed “best defense in the National Football League,” led by Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator everyone seems to want to hire, was completely embarrassed by these upstart Packers. They gave up a total of 415 yards. The 48 points were the most points allowed by the Cowboys in the playoffs in franchise history. Aaron Jones ran through them for 118 yards and three touchdowns. And Packers first-year quarterback Jordan Love (16 of 21, 272 yards, 3 touchdowns) just tore them apart. jpg&props=eyJwYWdlX25hbWUiOiJmc2NvbTpzdG9yaWVzOm5mbDpEaXNhc3RlciBpbiBEYWxsYXMgY291bGQgcHVzaCBNaWtlIE1jQ2FydGh5IG91dC4gSXMgQmlsbCBCZWxpY2hpY2 s gbmV4dCBmb3IgQ293Ym95cz8iLCJwYWdlX2NvbnRlbnRfZGlzdHJpYnV0b3IiOiJhbXAiLCJwYWdlX3R5cGUiOiJzdG9yaWVzOmFydGljbGVzIn0= Loading video…

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Dave Helman sits down to analyze the Green Bay Packers' impressive win

It was easy for him because the Packers' receivers always seemed to be wide open – like the exclamation point 38-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luke Musgrave early in the fourth quarter that had no one within 20 yards Dallas Corner or Safety was located. The secondary – the first of the NFL season – looked confused. The pass rush – also one of the best in the NFL – couldn't match Love with a Map. Brandon Aubrey, their near-perfect kicker, even scored an extra point in the post.

In the biggest game, when everything was in front of them, literally nothing went right. McCarthy was coached in every phase of the game by Matt LaFleur, his successor in Green Bay.

McCarthy said, “I don’t think anyone saw this coming.”

Coaches don't often survive such shocks. And while it's nice that McCarthy has led the Cowboys to three straight 12-5 seasons, they're now the first team since the AFL-NFL merger to have three straight 12-win seasons and not in the conference in any of them reached the championship game. Plus, that's not how you measure success in Dallas – not with an octogenarian oilman as the owner who's been chasing titles since he was 53.

The 71-year-old Belichick is also seeking another ring as well as Don Shula's all-time record for coaching wins. And while his four years in New England after Tom Brady weren't great, no one doubts his ability to coach a championship team. His six shiny championship rings as head coach of the Patriots and two more as defensive coordinator of the Giants are more than enough résumé for an owner who needs and wants to win now.

And don't overlook this fact: Bill Parcells, Belichick's old boss, enjoyed working for Jones from 2003 to 2006. He raved about him as a boss when no one believed Jones would be a good boss. If Belichick is looking for a championship-ready team in a good situation, you can bet Parcells would be willing to point him to Dallas. ac7b-e3e19c44af31/8u4jl0cjhy0gjsb5.jpg&props=eyJwYWdlX25hbWUiOiJmc2NvbTpzdG9yaWVzOm5mbDpEaXNhc3RlciBpbiBEYWxsYXMgY291bGQgcHVzaCBNaWtlIE1jQ2F yd Gh5IG91dC4gSXMgQmlsbCBCZWxpY2hpY2sgbmV4dCBmb3IgQ293Ym95cz8iLCJwYWdlX2NvbnRlbnRfZGlzdHJpYnV0b3IiOiJhbXAiLCJwYWdlX3R5cGUiOiJzdG9yaWVzOm FydGl jbGVzIn0=Video loading…

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Would Jones do it? He'll have to think about it after that, right? He always defied his reputation by being far too patient with coaches and keeping them for far too long. But he never actually said he was sticking with McCarthy this time. When asked a week ago whether McCarthy would come back, he said: “We'll see how every game goes.” Even when he had a chance to clarify on the radio two days later, he praised McCarthy and said: “I could could not be happier with what he did.”

This was followed by his refusal to comment on Sunday. He still never really said “yes.”

So he has to make a decision. McCarthy came to Dallas with a reputation for wilting in the playoffs. Many believed he should have won far more championships than just one in 13 years with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers as quarterback with the Packers. His playoff record is currently just 11-11 overall.

Even Jones might realize that it might be impossible to sell his fans — or even his team — another year of McCarthy after this. Not when one of the greatest coaches of all time is out there, available, ready and able to make one final run.

McCarthy said: “I didn't think beyond the outcome of this game,” but the outcome is probably enough. Jones believed he had the team needed for a championship run. He could have most of it back next season.

Now he just needs to make sure he has the right coach.

Ralph Vacchiano is an NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. For the past six years, he covered the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, he covered the Giants and the NFL for 16 years for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.