Overreaction Monday: 3 Mike McCarthy replacements Cowboys should already be targeting

If Jerry Jones ends up firing Mike McCarthy, he'll have plenty of options from which to choose to be the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

November 5, 2023; Philadelphia, PA; Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy during the Cowboys' Week 9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles
November 5, 2023; Philadelphia, PA; Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy during the Cowboys' Week 9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Let's make one thing clear here at the start. Despite some highly questionable decision-making during the final minutes of the Dallas Cowboys' 28-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Mike McCarthy is nowhere near getting fired.

And barring an unforeseen losing streak over the next few weeks, which simply won't happen as the Cowboys' next three opponents are the Giants, Panthers, and Commanders, the chances of Jerry Jones firing McCarthy during the season are between slim and none.

With that said, however, if Dallas misses the playoffs, which could very well happen as America's Team has a brutal six-game stretch to close out the year (Seahawks, Eagles, Bills, Dolphins, Lions, Commanders), or even if the Cowboys reach the postseason but take another early exit, McCarthy could easily find himself unemployed.

So if that happens, who could Jones bring in to become the 10th head coach in Dallas Cowboys history? Let's take a look at a few options, starting with one who's already on the payroll.

Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator

In the unlikely event that Mike McCarthy does indeed get the axe during the season, the easy choice for an immediate interim replacement is current Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, as he's obviously already familiar with the franchise, which would make for a smooth transition.

And if McCarthy is fired after the 2023 season, one would think Quinn would be Jones' first choice anyway.

The Dallas defense was an absolute disaster during McCarthy's first season with the team in 2020 and easily one of the worst units in franchise history, which is why Mike Nolan was rightfully relieved of his duties.

Quinn came in the following season and made an immediate impact. And over the last three years, he's turned the Cowboys' defense into one of the most feared units in the entire league.

Given his success in Dallas and the fact that he's already proven his worth as a head coach, famously leading the Falcons to Super Bowl 51 (make your 28-3 jokes here), many didn't think Quinn would last this long with the Cowboys as it was assumed he'd get another shot at being the guy after a year or two.

And whether it's with the Cowboys or not, he will get that shot soon. Again, if McCarthy goes, whether in-season or after, Quinn seems to be the most natural fit.

Eric Bieniemy, Washington Commanders offensive coordinator/assistant head coach

As it's been for several years now, you can't have a discussion about potential head coaches without bringing up Eric Bieniemy.

Many believe the 54-year-old former running back should've already gotten the chance to be an NFL head coach, given the success he had during his five-year run as the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator, which earned him a pair of Super Bowl rings.

But that hasn't yet happened as he left Kansas City to become the OC with the Washington Commanders, also serving as the team's assistant head coach under Ron Rivera.

Now, depending on how the remainder of Washington's 2023 campaign goes, Bieniemy could very well get his shot if Rivera is fired.

But if McCarthy is let go at season's end and Bieniemy is available, Jerry Jones would be wise to take a long, hard look at bringing him to Dallas.

Sure, some of his past success can be attributed to the fact that he had the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and several other superstars with whom to work.

But even with a young quarterback in Sam Howell and a far less talented group overall in Washington, Bieniemy has helped the Commanders to a surprising 4-5 start, which has them just one game back of the final playoff spot in the NFC in the No. 8 slot.

Imagine what he could do with the offensive weapons that the Cowboys currently have, especially Dak Prescott. Bieniemy certainly deserves some of the credit for taking Mahomes to the next level, and he'd undoubtedly help Prescott get even better as well.

Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator

While Dan Campbell obviously deserves a lot of credit for changing the culture surrounding the Detroit Lions, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has earned his share as well.

And once the 2023 season concludes, the 37-year-old is likely to field a lot of phone calls about becoming an NFL head coach for the first time.

While Johnson is in just his second year as an offensive coordinator, he's already got plenty to showcase on his resume.

In 2021, the Lions' offense didn't crack the top 20 in scoring or offensive yardage. But in 2022, with Johnson promoted from passing game coordinator to OC, Detroit's offense ranked third in yardage (380 per game) and fifth in scoring (26.6 points per game). He also helped Jared Goff look like a No. 1 pick again.

The trend has continued in 2023 as the Lions rank second in total yardage (390.6), trailing only the Miami Dolphins. And while the scoring is a slight touch down at 25.0 points per game, Detroit still ranks eighth in that particular category.

Johnson will undoubtedly be a hot commodity this offseason and certainly someone Jerry Jones will want to chat with if Mike McCarthy is no longer in the picture.

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