‘We’re going to win’: Mike McCarthy returns to Cowboys facility with declaration on Washington game – USA TODAY

FRISCO, Texas — For 10 days, Mike McCarthy was so close yet so far.
The hotel in which the coach quarantined due to COVID-19 is adjacent and literally connected to Cowboys headquarters and their practice facility. Yet McCarthy, who is fully vaccinated but tested positive in a bout that hit seven Dallas coaches, could not enter. He was instead relegated to excessive hours on phone calls that he said tested his patience and the occasional walk.
“My arrival will be first thing in the morning,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “Actually, I think I may go at midnight, 12:01.”
Dallas’ head coach confirmed Thursday he did not return at 12:01 a.m., but he did arrive early to the facility, eager to address his players in person at a 7:30 a.m. meeting. He delved into self-scout tendencies and expectations, emphasizing big-picture areas of improvement and how the 8-4 Cowboys can outplay the 6-6 Washington Football Team on Sunday at FedEx Field.
By 10:15 a.m. local time, McCarthy arrived confidently to his first in-person media availability in two weeks.
“We know what people think of us. We love that,” McCarthy said Thursday. “We’re comfortable with who we are and where we are. But I’m excited about what’s in front of us because we’re going to win this game. I’m confident in that.”
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The message was somewhat atypical for a coach who insists he cares not for bulletin board material, instead delving into schemes and matchups. And yet, even before McCarthy’s inaugural season in Dallas in 2020, he minced no words about a Super Bowl title being the ultimate goal. Unlike predecessor Jason Garrett, who was ultra-focused on the day at hand, McCarthy sees no dissonance with simultaneously voicing short-term and long-term goals. His confidence stems from his team’s work ethic and accountability, he says, rather than as a substitute for the game-preparation process.
The Cowboys have struggled offensively since their bye, following up a 6-1 start with a 1-3 November. But beginning with a win at New Orleans last week, the Cowboys believe their defense is rounding into form and their offense has demonstrated enough potential to return to being explosive. 
Players said they loved McCarthy’s approach.
“[Expletive], yeah,” quarterback Dak Prescott responded when asked about his coach confirming victory. “I don’t think he’s said anything different than everyone in this building’s thoughts. He just voiced it. Now we have to make sure we’re accountable for our words. I think that’s all that is: the coach setting the tone for the week and first day back, making sure everybody understands where his mind is and the team’s mindset is.”
Running back Tony Pollard and cornerback Trevon Diggs each agreed, Diggs saying players “understand the assignment” of winning a game with such division significance.
“It makes us go harder,” Pollard added. “It just shows that he believes in us, he puts his trust in us and everything he has, he’s behind us all the way. As a team, it just makes you go harder when you know your coaches are out there defending you, keeping your name up, so it’s big.
“It was good having him back in the team meetings bringing the energy he brings, just getting guys spiced up, ready to play. It was good, definitely, having him back.”
McCarthy tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 29, at which time he had already moved into a hotel room amid heightened risk with several cases on his staff. He had hoped to avoid contracting COVID-19 himself and spreading into his family. Instead, he and four other family members tested positive. McCarthy said he felt good roughly halfway through his 10-day stretch (he did not test negative in time to return earlier, as vaccinated NFL employees have the opportunity to) but said his symptoms were not merely akin to a seasonal cold.
“You have the symptoms that are similar, but your energy is affected early on,” said McCarthy, whose symptoms also included a cough and sore throat. “There’s just such a variance to it. Watching my family go through it, the different symptoms that each person has to deal with – it’s definitely something you don’t want to have to deal with if you can avoid it.
“We’re fortunate to have the resources and the medical care to make sure everybody has passed through it properly.”
Back in the building Thursday, McCarthy showed a video compilation of the Cowboys-Washington rivalry history to players to illustrate the opportunity ahead of them. Footage of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach appeared on screen at the team meeting, Staubach declaring that the Cowboys-Washington rivalry was the greatest he had ever been a part of. The tone was set for a late-season stretch in which the Cowboys face NFC East opponents four times and NFC leader Arizona in their lone other regular-season game.
McCarthy said he’s more focused on schematics than extracurricular motivation, but his team’s improved health and talented roster cements his belief that Dallas will travel home Sunday evening at 9-4. Washington defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, when asked about McCarthy’s comments, quipped that “the only guarantee in this world is death and taxes.” But McCarthy scoffed when asked if declaring a win warrants bulletin board material.
“I mean, what am I supposed to say?” McCarthy said. “I fully expect to win every game I’ve ever competed in. I mean, that’s what sports is all about. That’s what the NFL is (about). Trust me, I understand how hard it is. They’re working hard, we’re working hard.
“But we’re clearly planning on going to Washington to win the game. There’s no doubt about that.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.


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