The Dallas Cowboys’ first-round playoff exit has raised some major questions about the team’s immediate future. The job security of head coach Mike McCarthy might be at the top of that list, following a 23-17 loss against the San Francisco 49ers on Wild-Card Weekend. 

Dallas was the only betting favorite to be upset in a 2022 wild-card game. While the other five home teams all won by at least a touchdown, the Cowboys needed a late comeback to even have a chance of winning at the end of regulation. 

With Dallas trying to pull off an improbable victory, Dak Prescott’s ill-conceived quarterback draw in the final seconds ended the Cowboys’ chances. Time expired as the offense unsuccessfully scrambled to execute one final play. It was just one in the line of many questionable decisions that has loomed over McCarthy’s two seasons in Dallas.

Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called in the play, though the head coach ultimately has the final say. Poor time management, the league’s most penalties and the Cowboys’ subpar record against the toughest part of their schedule also reflect negatively on McCarthy.

“It was quite a letdown — quite a letdown,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters after Sunday’s loss. “We’ve got good players in there. Really good players. … Very disappointing that we couldn’t get it done. I would like to say that when I look at the year, I feel one way. But the year, a big part of it when you’ve got a team like this, is winning tonight. And we didn’t get it done tonight and that’s big-time disappointing.”

The most likely scenario features McCarthy returning for a third season with the Cowboys in 2022, but it is not a guarantee. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, there has been “some chatter” around the NFL that a first-round loss could prompt Jones to replace McCarthy with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

Quinn, who was the Atlanta Falcons head coach during the team's run to the Super Bowl five years ago, is a candidate for several head-coaching vacancies. 

Moore has a chance to land a head coaching job elsewhere, as well. The coordinator has led Dallas to the league’s top-ranked offense in two of the last three seasons. The Cowboys might’ve had the No. 1 offense in 2020 had Dak Prescott not missed most of the year with an injury.

Dallas went 6-10 and missed the playoffs in McCarthy's first year as the head coach. The Cowboys went 12-5 and won the NFC East in the 2021 regular season, making his departure unlikely.

There are plenty of reasons for Dallas’ playoff exit. Dak Prescott had a paltry 69.3 passer rating against San Francisco and didn’t meet expectations in the second half of the season. The Cowboys committed 14 penalties and allowed the 49ers to convert six of 13 third downs. 

Prescott is locked in as Dallas’ quarterback of the future. If Jones believes the roster is good enough to win a Super Bowl, much of the blame could fall at the feet of the head coach.

“When you get this combination of players together, you need to have success,” Jones said. “Because we all know how it goes in the NFL. The whole thing is set up to take away from the best and add to the ones that need improvement. Personnel-wise, I think we have one of the best.”

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he expects spectators for the team's NFL home games this season despite COVID-19 issues Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / TOM PENNINGTON