Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took some time away Thursday from celebrating the 2026 World Cup coming to AT&T Stadium to talk to reporters about his football team heading into the 2022 season.
And his smile turned to a frown when Jones was asked about coach Mike McCarthy’s job security with the backdrop of former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton being brought up as a possible replacement.
“Sean Payton shouldn’t be out there,” Jones said. “For him, the Cowboys, that’s just sheer out of the air. It’s well known we’re good friends and we think a lot of him as a head coach. But in this case, asking the way you’re asking, he shouldn’t be a conversation piece. ”
This is not the first time Payton has been connected to the Cowboys job since his retirement from the Saints following the 2021 season. He has a strong relationship with Jones dating back to his days as a Cowboys assistant under Bill Parcells.
Jones says he only has eyes for McCarthy as Cowboys coach right now. He believes McCarthy can win big in his third season in Dallas.
“Mike has got an opportunity here to win a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “That’s really the measurement that I look at. But it’s also an eternity between right now and next year. ”
After going 6-10 in 2020, due largely to quarterback Dak Prescott missing the final 11 games with a fractured ankle, the Cowboys won NFC East with a 12-5 record in McCarthy’s second season.
A disappointing loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the wildcard playoffs ushered in an offseason of change for the Cowboys, especially on offense.
The Cowboys traded No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, cut right tackle La’el Collins and lost left guard Connor Williams and receiver Cedrick Wilson both in free agency to the Miami Dolphins.
But Jones remains confident that the Cowboys can be better in 2022, largely because of the health of Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Prescott had a full offseason for the first time since 2019 after missing 2020 in a contract dispute and rehabbing his fractured ankle in 2021.
Elliott is 100 percent healthy again after playing the last 14 games of 2021 with a torn knee ligament.
“I’m really happy with Dak (Prescott), just his work to get in top shape coming in,” Jones said. “I like Zeke’s physical condition. Those are pluses. They are musts for us, ”Jones said. “I like the fact that [backup running back Tony] Pollard’s got an enhanced expectation. That’ll pay off for him and us. ”
The Cowboys added James Washington in free agency and drafted Jalen Tolbert in the third round out of South Alabama to bolster a receiver corps that will now feature CeeDee Lamb as the No. 1 option.
Jones has already stated that he believes Lamb, the team’s 2020 first-round pick, is an upgrade over Cooper.
“I really like our receiving corps,” Jones said. “I know we’re missing Cooper, but that’s going to get some more balls for somebody else out there. And I think we’ve got a group of receivers that can enhance Dak’s passing and our execution, so all of that’s good. ”
Jones also feels good about the offensive line being better in 2022 with the addition of first-round pick Tyler Smith, who is expected to replace Williams at left guard.
Terence Steele, who made 13 starts last season, will take over for Collins at right tackle.
“A place that was probably my most concern that I’m the most encouraged is in our offensive line,” Jones said. “We’ve got some players from last year that are going to be real contributors, and then we’ve got some new players this year, our draft picks principally, that will help us.”