Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was stumped.
A simple question about what the team did for coach Mike McCarthy after Sunday’s 33-13 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles drew a blank stare from a man owner Jerry Jones called the best leader the franchise has ever had and who normally has the right words and gestures for all situations.
McCarthy had just completed his finest hour as Cowboys coach, per Jones, leading his biggest victory of his almost four-year tenure four days after experiencing stomach pain so bad that he underwent an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday. He didn’t get out the hospital until Thursday and didn’t return to the facility until Friday.
And the team did nothing to acknowledge McCarthy’s ordeal and being able to tough it out when he brought them together for the post-game pep talk in the locker room.
“No, we didn’t,” Prescott said. “You know he’s quick and easy. Chop, chop, chop. We broke it down. So, you know, we’ve got time. We’ll get it in.”
Then Prescott tried to make joke out it.
“Now we’re giving game balls for appendicitis? For recovery?,” he asked rhetorically with a grin.
“Today was no different than any game day. Obviously, I understand that he had surgery just the other day. He’s a tough guy. I know I called him out earlier in the week and said he here’s an opportunity to show it. He definitely showed it. It felt normal. He called some great plays and [had] some great timing on some plays. . .Ge called a great game.”
Arguably, the biggest testament to McCarthy was that it was just a normal game for him and the Cowboys.
It was symbolized by the Cowboys were so locked in on winning and didn’t celebrate him
And McCarthy would have it no other way.
“No issues. Really, I just wanted to do my part,” McCarthy said. “I just wanted to make sure that I was prepared as I normally am. I was I was a little nervous about it today. We’re all creatures of habit. You know, you go through these normal seven-day weeks and when you miss time…but I was able to make it up. I think the best part about it is I was able to get more sleep than I normally do. But the players did a great job. The coaches did a great job, and we didn’t miss a beat and I think we demonstrated that.”
It was from a normal week.
And while he toughed out it, there was pain and soreness from the surgery and then standing on his feet for more than three hours during the game.
McCarthy acknowledged he was more nervous coming into the game than in the past.
And that began on on his drive to the stadium.
“I have a routine that I do on game day,” McCarthy said. “I was just frankly trying to get here as fast as I can. And I was surprised really, I think it was about 2:15, how many people were here already. The only thing I was thinking about was I hope our players aren’t late because of traffic. That’s what I was thinking about on my way here. But no, I have a routine that I do, get the stadium earlier. So that was really part of my angst, was just to get here and stay in a routine and get ready to you know, call the game. I was excited to compete.”
A telling moment came in the second quarter when running back Rico Dowdle was ruled short of the goal line and McCarthy had to run down the field to throw a challenge flag.
It proved to be successful and the Cowboys were rewarded a touchdown.
Jones said what McCarthy did and went through on Sunday was anything but normal.
“Anybody that doesn’t understand, go out there and stand for three hours and go up down that sideline,” Jones said “Go up and down that sideline and keeping that stature and keeping that leadership posture, that coaching posture. Anybody doesn’t understand that was gutting it up, doesn’t understand just anatomy. So he did that. He was bound and determined to show that and show that to the team and show that to the opposition.”
Jones said it was one of the biggest regular season wins in franchise history, the biggest of the McCarthy era and “bigger than life” because of what McCarthy went through.
“I would say, yeah. And it has to do with the fact that he came up off the operating table and did not even wince and stand there and fight it all night and coach it,” Jones said.
It was enough to make Jones invoke the comparison to the late Charlton Heston’s heroic and inspirational character in the 1961 movie “El Cid”.
El Cid is known as the knight saved Spain.
“It was like El Cid,” Jones said. “They strapped him on the horse after he had been mortally wounded. His soldiers quit. And his enemy were over running. And they strapped him on a horse and ran him down the beach. And when he did his enemy ran and his guys got courage and went out and won it. With a dead El Cid.
“He wasn’t exactly dead. We did have him strapped to the horse running down the beach.”
In the words of Prescott, “for appendicitis?”
Jones may have gone too far.