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FRISCO, Texas – Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will serve as the Dallas Cowboys’ interim coach on Thursday against the New Orleans Saints, while head coach Mike McCarthy will miss the game because he tested positive for COVID-19.
Quinn served as Atlanta’s head coach for parts of six seasons from 2015-20, with a record of 43-42 in the regular season and took his team to Super Bowl LI. He was fired last season and has rejuvenated a Dallas defense that came after a season that allowed a franchise record for points.
Quinn will ultimately make the final decisions, but offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and special teams coordinator John Fassel will also be heavily involved.
“I understandably understand with Dan’s experience, the challenge flag, the timeouts, the referee meeting, that there are just a lot of little things going into it,” McCarthy said. “You could get someone to do it on a weekly basis, but we’re spreading it around. Kellen just needs to focus on the offensive and call the game and keep at it. John is also involved in some game management, as most special team coaches are. We “has the network up, so it’s not changing. So the biggest change is to have Dan down the pitch and just make sure he gets the information he needs to make sensible decisions.”
McCarthy was put on COVID minutes on Monday, but continued to lead the game’s preparation and was involved in all the meetings virtually. He will lead his normal pregame talk with the team Thursday morning.
McCarthy, who said his only symptom so far has been a “scratching throat,” does not remember ever missing a workout during his tenure in the NFL. A stomach problem kept him from training in the Pro Bowl in 2016. He said he has not thought about what it would be like to see his team play on TV.
“I just want to make sure the team is prepared,” McCarthy said. “This is how I have always done it: there is a preparation phase and a performance phase. The preparation phase, we have to complete it, because of course it gives us the best chance on Thursday night. It is clear that I think it’s going to be hard to sit there and watch your team compete.It’s hard.It’s clear I had a bit of that experience there at the end of 2018 (after his firing in Green Bay) and it was brutal to watch . “
McCarthy informed his players at the end of the virtual team meeting Monday morning.
“The message was to keep going, just keep going,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “The coaches have done a fantastic job of putting us in a routine and giving us a foundation. And we have good leaders and good coaches and coordinators who will do a great job of stepping up. We are going to miss the coach, but his health is first and foremost important. We will fight and get everything we need done. “
The change will move Quinn from the stand to the sideline. He called defense for two years in Atlanta as head coach.
“The most important thing about decision making and defensive is that he gets the right information within the right time frame, which is probably also more critical than the right information,” McCarthy said. “The guys in the box will have to pick it up a little bit up there.”
The Cowboys continue with virtual meetings Tuesday and Wednesday before flying to New Orleans. McCarthy said the Cowboys will continue to test through the gameday. So far, right tackle Terence Steele is the only player not active this week due to COVID.
In addition to McCarthy, the Cowboys will also be without offensive line coach Joe Philbin, assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko, strength and conditioning coordinator Harold Nash and assistant strength and conditioning coach Kendall Smith against the Saints.
Running back coach Skip Peete missed the game on November 14 against the Atlanta Falcons due to COVID.
With the high number of cases among the coaches, McCarthy moved into the Omni Hotel next to The Star to keep himself and his family safe. He said members of his family have also tested positive.
In his message to the players, McCarthy said he “just emphasized from a personal perspective that this is real. This threat is very real, and please do everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe. … I said to them, ‘Hey, if it can get me, it can get anyone.’ “I want to think I was super careful and cautious. I just think it shows you the danger of the pandemic and the virus.”
Wide receiver Amari Cooper was back in the building after missing the last two games on the reserve / COVID-19 list but not training.
After minimal COVID issues last season, the Cowboys have been hit much harder by it this season. Pro Bowls right guard Zack Martin missed the season opener on the COVID list. Linebackers Keanu Neal and Cooper, who were the only two unvaccinated players on the 53-man list, missed two games on the COVID list. Defensive end Randy Gregory, kicker Greg Zuerlein, guard Brandon Knight and defensive end Bradlee Anae also missed matches on the list.
McCarthy is the fourth head coach to miss a game while on the COVID record since last season. Kevin Stefanski missed the Cleveland Browns’ playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals and Matt Nagy of the Chicago Bears each missed one game this season.