FRISCO, Texas — The 9-3 Dallas Cowboys are set to battle the 10-2 Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East on Sunday, and Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, like many of his players this time of year, will be entering Sunday night’s game a little banged up.
The Cowboys released a statement Wednesday:
Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy experienced abdominal pain this morning that warranted further evaluation and resulted in a diagnosis of acute appendicitis. He is currently slated for surgery this afternoon, expected to be released later today, and anticipates coaching on Sunday night. The Cowboys three coordinators will run practice today and until McCarthy returns.
McCarthy has since had the procedure, and it went well and according to plan, per to NFL Media’s Jane Slater. Stomach pain was the first of McCarthy’s symptoms.
“He’s like, ‘Ah, I don’t feel good, you know?’ So when something’s wrong, you don’t feel right,” Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Wednesday. “So he’s an early riser, so when you see him there, we kind of pulled up at the same time, walked in together so he was going right over to see [Cowboys athletic trainer] Jim [Maurer] and thankfully did right there. As tough as he is, like, ‘I’ll fight through it,’ and then next thing you know you’re like, ‘this is not good. Glad he went, got squared away. Good news for him, he’s a fast healer. So he’s been through it before, so we certainly expect him back quickly, getting his procedure done today.”
Quinn, formerly the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons for six season from 2015-2020 — including the team’s run to Super Bowl LI in 2016 — , took to the podium Wednesday in place of McCarthy to explain a plan was in place for this type of event. McCarthy missed the Cowboys Week 13 game during the 2021 season at the New Orleans Saints on “Thursday Night Football” after testing positive for COVID-19. Dallas won 27-17 as its defense recorded four interceptions off of quarterback Taysom Hill. Quinn served as the head coach and handled game management decisions that day.
“You always have to have a contingency plan,” Quinn said Wednesday. “Mike is great about that. I think we all learned a lot a few years back in COVID. Coach down, player down, how does that go? He’s done a fantastic job of mapping, not just him but me, anybody else who could be in that same spot to say hey, this is the next step and this is how we go. We’re super organized and ready for that.”
McCarthy, the Cowboys’ offensive play-caller, is anticipated to be coaching against the Eagles on “Sunday Night Football.” Quinn refused to even talk about the hypothetical situation of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer calling the offensive plays Sunday night should McCarthy miss coaching the game.
“You really think that tough Irishman is going to miss this game?” Quinn said with a smile. “We’re certainly anticipating Mike being back for the game. We’ll hold it down for practices. Knowing him, he’ll be online tonight wanting to go through red zone and third down and everything else. We expect him to be rocking by game day.”
Quinn, Schottenheimer and special teams coordinator John “Bones” Fassel will run the team’s practices until McCarthy, 60, returns to the sidelines. Despite missing their head coach, the Cowboys don’t plan on changing a thing about their practice regimen throughout the week.
“What’s good about Mike and the system here is it’s all laid out about how we go and what we would do from yesterday, today, all the way through the game and the meetings and schedules,” Quinn said. “So pretty easy in that one. You just take it and run with it between myself and Brian and Bones, we’ve got it covered and we’re ready to go today, expect a great practice just like it’s been set up to do. We’re ready to go do that.”
All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons, the NFL’s 2023 leader in quarterback pressures (78) and quarterback pressure rate (20.3%, best among players with at least 250 pass-rush snaps in this season), is one of the Cowboys biggest warriors. However, he gave kudos to McCarthy for deciding not to power through the issue and get it taken care of right away despite it coming during the week first place in the division is on the line.
“Just found out this morning and just sending prayers to Mike, hopefully surgery was good and he gets back healthy,” Parsons said Wednesday. “Coach Mike’s energy is very contagious, but this is just an extremely rare circumstance. He hasn’t missed anything, ever. This is for him to be available for the long run. I always believe in take care of your business now and see you later.”
Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence credited that Thursday night win in New Orleans for preparing the team to be without McCarthy during the week.
“Just found out this morning, shoutout to Covid,” Lawrence said Wednesday. “It helped us learn how to adjust quickly. Definitely praying for him to get back healthy as soon as possible. He knows we’re getting ready, and we will be ready.
When McCarthy does return, before or by Sunday night, his players guarantee they’ll be ready to roll.
“I feel like Mike has built a great structure around here for us to continue to keep up the pieces and keep going,” Lawrence said. “I feel like it was no stress, no struggle to the day. I feel like we did a great job of adjusting and making sure we were on time and locked in. We understand what comes with this weekend. A big rivalry game. We know the Eagles are coming into town. We’re locked in, ready to have fun.”