Jerry Jones explains if Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is in the hot seat

OXNARD, Calif. β€” Jerry Jones didn’t wait for the question.

The Cowboys owner and general manager knew speculation had been circulating about his head coach’s job security. Is Mike McCarthy in the hot seat after two seasons without a playoff win?

Tepid mentions of Jones last winter fueled speculation.

Tuesday during the team’s opening press conference at training camp, he explained.

“I want to be very clear: he wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think he was the man to lead this team to a Super Bowl,” Jones said. β€œHe wouldn’t. And I have choices (which) were there for my use if I wanted them.

“No, the guy to my right is the one I was convicted of and been for.”

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Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, left, and owner Jerry Jones, right, react as they answer questions from the media at the start of NFL football training camp, Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in Oxnard , in California.

The Cowboys hired McCarthy to take them where their predecessor Jason Garrett didn’t: deep into the playoffs. Dallas has always struggled for dominance in the NFC East, but the team’s last 11 playoff berths have fizzled out without a conference championship appearance, let alone a Super Bowl trophy.

Dallas last passed the Divisional Round en route to the title after the 1995 season. Franchise quarterback Dak Prescott was then 2 years old. Defensive star Micah Parsons was born more than three years after that game. Jones feels the urgency to win as he nears his 80th birthday.

In McCarthy’s 13 years as head coach of the Packers, Green Bay’s nine playoff berths included a Super Bowl championship and three other conference championship contests. This playoff recap appealed to a drought-ridden Cowboys team. Then a series of injuries ravaged McCarthy’s first season in Dallas, with Prescott among the key players lost early in the season. The Cowboys finished 12-5 in 2021 before becoming the only NFL team last season to lose a wild card game at home.

Last winter, Jones was even coy about whether defensive coordinator Dan Quinn could take over from McCarthy. He said Tuesday he wanted teams across the league to suspect that.

“I had wanted the NFL to ask early on if Dan Quinn would be my head coach,” Jones explained in off-podium conversation on the tennis courts at the team’s training camp. “I wanted to talk someone else out of having him because I wanted him to be our coordinator.

“I was playing poker.”

Jones dismissed indications from reporters that such activity fueled a narrative that Jones now says he is “uncomfortable” with. Owner insists he helped his Cowboys by retaining Quinn to guide defense for a second year – Quinn’s first year featured league-leading takeaways and drastic improvement in scoring defense – imploring fans to “trust me” that he made Quinn’s potential employers “think they might be facing a tougher negotiation.

Nonetheless, Jones said leaving McCarthy this offseason is not and never was an “active” decision. McCarthy’s contract has not been extended this offseason, but Jones said the coach is not entering the final season of his contract. He declined to confirm how many were left, joking with a smile that “when you stick your ass out a bit…” the pressure can motivate.

“We definitely had things that we touched on,” Jones said. “The way we’ve approached them in the offseason, I think we’ve been able to put in a staff that really from that standpoint gives us absolutely the best chance with our makeup and our team to achieve the ultimate success.”

McCarthy, for his part, said he was more focused on planning the game than dispelling rumors and that Jones’ endorsement was “in line with our conversations.”

β€œI obviously have the opportunity to meet with Jerry in the GM/Head Coach area for conversations about partnership, direction, vision,” McCarthy said. “But I also get to talk to Jerry as the head coach owner, and it’s really a broad education on so many different things about how the things we can do better from of a great kingdom to make us better.

“At the end of the day, we are here to win a championship.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones intervenes on Mike McCarthy rumors in the hot seat