Jerry Jones’ meddlesome reputation is set in stone, but Mike McCarthy’s fingerprints can already be seen on the Cowboys

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Jerry Jones’ reputation is set in stone: He wanted to coach the Cowboys so much, he ran off the best man he ever hired. Wants all the cash he can get and credit, too. Craves attention. Can’t keep his hands off anything in his vast domain. Undermines his underlings, meddles in meetings, dictates the draft.

Like any good conspiracy theory, there’s some truth in the charges above, then facts get in the way of the rest.

Like the fact that Mike McCarthy hasn’t even gotten his hands on the team yet, and you can already see his fingerprints.

Consider the additions of Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, not to mention the subtraction of a couple of players who have moved on.

And then imagine that McCarthy had been coaching the Cowboys in 2017 when they picked Taco Charlton instead of T.J. Watt.

Confession: Your intrepid reporter seconded the now-infamous decision to take Taco with the 28th pick because, as a 4-3 defensive end, he fit the scheme better than Watt, an outside linebacker in a 3-4. The Cowboys’ scouting staff had Watt higher on its board, but Rod Marinelli liked Taco’s versatility in the line. Rod won, just as he did last year when the Cowboys took Trysten Hill, a player he favored based on film and a few phone calls.

Let’s check the scoreboard to see how the ‘17 draft panned out:

Watt: 34.5 sacks.

Taco: 9.

On behalf of myself and the Cowboys, consider this a formal apology. This is what I get for not thinking outside the box and falling for a nickname.

Based on comments McCarthy has made since going to work for the Cowboys, the biggest miss under Will McClay’s watch probably wouldn’t have happened if the new coach had been on board back in ‘17 when Jerry was on the clock.

“When you’re throwing away good players because they don’t fit your system,” McCarthy told reporters, “you got to take a hard look at your system.

“If a guy is a good football player, he can play for me.”

Which brings us to the team currently under construction at the Star. Three good defensive starters — Byron Jones, Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins — left in free agency. You can argue, as I did, that the Cowboys should have spent more to keep Jones and Quinn, their best defensive players last year. You can’t make the same case for Collins. His numbers weren’t bad. For an interior lineman, he provides a good push. Quick twitch, as scouts say. Marinelli prized the quality, but, in the trade-off, the Cowboys sacrificed the ability to stop the run. And that explains why McCoy and Poe, who can still generate a pass rush at 346 pounds, will now man the tackles.

Meanwhile, of the safeties available, the Cowboys could have taken a flyer on any number of possibilities. They chose Clinton-Dix, whose first NFL head coach, not so coincidentally, was McCarthy.

Clinton-Dix would seem to be an upgrade over the much-maligned Jeff Heath, but that’s probably not a fair comparison, either. Heath is a strong safety. Clinton-Dix, never a big hitter or great tackler, is really a free safety. Which just so happens to be Xavier Woods’ position.

The Cowboys will try to make it work because the positions are interchangeable these days, and because, as McCarthy says, you shouldn’t pass up good players because they don’t fit.

What the Cowboys hope is that Clinton-Dix gives their secondary the kind of ball skills it’s been lacking while the front seven covers up his deficiencies.

On the other side of the ball, McCarthy could have made a case for keeping either Jason Witten or Randall Cobb, and it appears he passed. We know this because of something Stephen Jones told us the day he and his father introduced McCarthy to Dallas. McCarthy will not only have more say in personnel than Jason Garrett did, he’ll have more than any Cowboys head coach since Jimmy Johnson.

The list, you may recall, includes a guy named Bill Parcells.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Easy to say upfront that you’re going to give a guy a lot of say. The lovely wife struck the same deal with me. No comment on how that’s worked out.

Just the same, even if Jerry can be a meddlesome sort, you can see how he could get used to a coach who offers McCarthy’s assurances. The new guy tells him if the player’s good enough, he can adjust the scheme. That gives Jerry more latitude in the war room and an opportunity to put together a roster he truly likes. Give Jerry what he wants, and you not only make him happy, you carve out a little power for the time being.

One last thing about the Taco-over-Watt fiasco: Maybe you recall the Cowboys passed on his big brother, too. At least they ended up with Tyron Smith. No matter who coaches the Cowboys from here on out, the moral is, if another Watt comes along in the draft, grab him.


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