FRISCO, Texas — Dak Prescott began shaking his head earlier than the query was accomplished.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback knew the place this was going. And he wasn’t shopping for it.
Mike McCarthy, coaching for his job in Monday evening’s wild-card sport in opposition to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
“It’s comical, in a way,” Prescott stated Friday afternoon. “Back-to-back 12-win (seasons) in y’all inform me how lengthy, and we’re speaking a couple of man’s job in jeopardy? That simply reveals you, once you play for this group, what comes with it.
“That’s why it is necessary to create these partitions round us. Create this protected place in our locker room. What issues is the males that go on the market and get in between the traces and put the work in all through the week for us to exit and win.”
The Cowboys will try Monday in Tampa to realize feats which have eluded the franchise. Dallas hasn’t gained a highway playoff sport in 30 years, nor superior to a convention championship sport (a lot much less a Super Bowl) in 27. Against Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, the Cowboys’ historical past continues to loom giant: Brady has confronted the Cowboys seven instances in his profession. He has gained all seven.
McCarthy, who gained a Super Bowl as Green Bay Packers head coach, was employed by Dallas three years in the past to alter this.
Nevertheless, he has sought to downplay exterior distractions this week, reminding the Cowboys each that they are enjoying the complete Buccaneers group and that they’re accountable for what they do in their tenure — not for the franchise ghosts of a long time previous.
To additional underscore how far eliminated the Cowboys are from the futility they’re being requested to reply for, McCarthy surveyed his group this week. How many gamers had been even alive on Jan. 17, 1993 when the Cowboys beat the San Francisco 49ers for their final highway postseason win? Eleven lively gamers had been. Ten submitted child photos for McCarthy’s presentation.
“We had the child photos of 10 gamers and the dates that they had been born and clearly acknowledged that,” McCarthy stated. “And the actuality of it is now we have zero accountability for what’s occurred right here in the previous, all the manner again even to the San Francisco sport.
“This is about our alternative. It’s about what’s in entrance of us.”
Several Cowboys gamers acknowledged this week: Playoff runs like this one will outline their legacies. All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons stated “this is the place legends are made.” Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb chimed in that “stars are born in playoffs,” the true mark of gamers how they “carry out in elimination rounds.”
Players referenced a brand new burst of power round conferences and locker rooms, excessive anticipation for a sport in which they’re 2.5-point favorites but additionally going through a seven-time Super Bowl champion identified for comebacks and playoff elevation.
“You’ve received to like enjoying in these moments,” Prescott stated. “If you do not, this league, this sports activities, this is not the place for you. So for me, it is about embracing the second. Staying inside myself. It’s not time to do something new, create something new.
“Trust my teammates, belief the manner I’ve ready all through, and go on the market and keep inside the second.”
Expect Prescott leaning into his confidence to function utilizing his legs to increase performs, whereas Lamb’s playoff mantras embrace staying level-headed even when the Bucs revert to their oft-used technique of double-covering a No. 1 receiver. Lamb will remind himself: The extra defenders hawking to me, the extra my teammates will face one-on-one matchups.
Interior defensive linemen will purpose to disrupt Brady’s pocket earlier than his fast 2.45-second launch time, whereas secondary members will try to speak excessively, cautious that Brady will purpose to confuse their play diagnoses.
Each participant will work in the direction of avoiding the destiny they suffered final 12 months: a wild-card upset and an early exit dwelling. The feelings are recent, that 12-months-removed disappointment is “what we constructed our group off this 12 months,” defensive finish DeMarcus Lawrence stated.
“You’ve received to make use of that as power, juice heading into these playoffs,” Lawrence stated. “I’m not getting any youthful. This is the time.”
But as the Cowboys think about their postseason targets and the alternatives to form their legacies, gamers insist they don’t seem to be targeted on this sport’s implications for McCarthy.
He’s guided the Cowboys’ most profitable two-year regular-season stretch since the 1994-1995 seasons. Cowboys group proprietor and common supervisor Jerry Jones insists McCarthy has extra than simply playoff success on which to evaluate his third-year head coach.
The exterior discuss will swirl. If the Cowboys lose in alarming trend to the Buccaneers, Jones’ feelings will possible gasoline additional hypothesis. But Cowboys gamers won’t be tuning in. The accountability to win, they imagine, lies on them.
“Us as gamers, we love Mike,” Lamb stated. “We love enjoying for him and every little thing he is carried out for us to place us in the finest place to win. You can see it in the manner we play, and as you stated, 12-5 in again to again years.
“I really feel like the solely manner we are able to actually repay him is persevering with to win out all through the season. And let the relaxation maintain itself.”
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein