Cowboys' Mike McCarthy: Personnel decisions will be 'we' decisions

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FRISCO, Texas -- One of the most emotional moments for Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones came at the end of coach Mike McCarthy's introductory news conference.

It came after McCarthy was asked about the importance of having the ability to hire his own coaching staff and the separation between church and state, so to speak, when it comes to putting a team together.

"Believe it or not, before I got to be involved with the Dallas Cowboys -- and this is all I'm going to say about this -- on my desk was [a sign]: 'If you're willing to give others the credit, you'll conquer the world,'" Jones said. "Bam. And somehow this thing has turned me into something perceived that I don't like about it. Because it is a 'we' deal."

Perhaps there was a time when Jones was more hands-on with the inner-workings of the franchise, overriding decisions that others made, but the reality of how the Cowboys have operated for years has been hard for outsiders to believe.

In 1998, coach Chan Gailey did not want the Cowboys to draft wide receiver Randy Moss in the first round, so Jones didn't. In 2003, coach Bill Parcells wanted to move on from Emmitt Smith, so the all-time leading rusher was released. In 2011, coach Jason Garrett helped convince Jones to select an offensive tackle in the first round for the first time since 1981, and Tyron Smith has been selected to six straight Pro Bowls.

There are examples where Jones has asserted his power, such as signing wide receiver Terrell Owens and defensive end Greg Hardy as free agents, but the coach of the Cowboys also has power.

"The best statement that was said over and over in the interview is we're going to make 'we' decisions," McCarthy said.

With Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and vice president of player personnel Will McClay, the Cowboys believe they have put together a solid roster, their 8-8 finish in 2019 notwithstanding.

While McClay sets the draft board, Garrett helped in directing the meetings. The assistant coaches play a big role in the evaluation process, sometimes to a fault (Cowboys' 2017 first-round pick Taco Charlton, Cowboys' 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill come to mind), but the Cowboys have been among the better drafting teams in the league since 2014.

When it comes to free agency, the Cowboys have shied away from the higher-priced players, but they have done well on cost-effective free agents in recent years.

In Green Bay, McCarthy did not have a large say in personnel with Ted Thompson as general manager. Thompson rarely used free agency as a tool and what reportedly upset McCarthy was being left to answer for what the Packers did or did not do with personnel decisions.

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With the Joneses, McCarthy does not have to worry about being that lone voice, but his voice in the Cowboys' room figures to grow.

"Just like Bill Parcells or any other head coach, he'll be very involved," Stephen Jones said. "Matter of fact, I don't want to put words in his mouth, but he said something like, 'Looks like I'm going to have a bigger voice than I had in Green Bay in terms of how we go about building consensus.'"

Since being named coach, McCarthy's primary job has been assembling a staff. While the team has not made an announcement, Kellen Moore will remain as offensive coordinator with Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator and John Fassel as special teams coordinator.

McCarthy has been allowed to select his assistants. Some have been with him in Green Bay, such as new offensive line coach Joe Philbin, who will replace Marc Colombo. Even Parcells kept some of the team's current coaches when he took over in 2003, most notably Mike Zimmer as defensive coordinator.

"We wanted [McCarthy] to pick his own staff," Jerry Jones said. "I've always thought that."

That is another sign of the juice McCarthy has as coach.

Once the Cowboys' staff is finalized, the attention will turn toward the 2020 NFL draft, starting with the Senior Bowl practices in two weeks, and then NFL free agency -- keeping their own players and filling in holes.

McCarthy's job is just beginning.

"The job that's been done to this point, the personnel, is very impressive. That was a big attraction for me," McCarthy said. "I'm excited as a head coach to probably have more input than I've had in the past. But the way it's structured, very similar to the way it was done in Green Bay and New Orleans and Kansas City and other places I've worked in. You know, the 'we decisions' was stated over and over again in personnel. So, I think that's all you can ask for as a coach."