Mike McCarthy says Dallas Cowboys will learn from mistakes

FRISCO, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys beset by injuries to key players, including Dak Prescott, and having lost six of seven games to fall out of contention even in the NFC East, leading to questions about the team's effort, coach Mike McCarthy's first year has been a mess.

"We're not where we need to be. Clearly. Our record reflects it," McCarthy said Friday. "We can improve on a number of things. It's just not one area, one person. Everybody's 3-9 right now, so we all need to do a better job."

This the worst 12-game start McCarthy has endured. He was 4-8 in his first year with the Green Bay Packers in 2006, and that team won its last four games. He was fired in 2018 with a 4-7-1 record. The Cowboys' 3-9 mark is the worst the franchise has had since it was 1-11 in 1989, Jimmy Johnson's first year.

"It's definitely a challenge. We're all in this to win. Make no mistake about it. No one is happy," McCarthy said. "No one likes where we are today. But I think to a man everybody sees the opportunity to continue to build. We still have a number of opportunities in front of us. With that, my focus has always been about improving. We definitely need to improve.

"This has been a hard stretch. And it's just really the stretch has been difficult because the number of challenges that everybody in this league goes through. We're just not doing as well as we'd like with the multiple challenges that we've had. I'm glad to be a Dallas Cowboy. I love it here. This is a phenomenal opportunity. Make no mistake about it. This is not where we intended to be. This is not where we're going to stay."

McCarthy signed a five-year deal with the Cowboys in January. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has not spoken to the media since the start of training camp, but he and executive vice president Stephen Jones have backed McCarthy numerous times in their weekly appearances on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

There could be changes on the staff, though, especially on defense. The Cowboys have allowed the most points in the NFL (32.8 per game) and have the worst-ranked run defense. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has presided over a unit that has allowed the first- and third-most rushing yards in a game in franchise history, giving up 307 yards to the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 4 and 294 to the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday.

In his past 40 games as a head coach, McCarthy has a 14-25-1 record, but he said he has not lost confidence in his beliefs in putting a program together.

"There's no doubt that you have to continue to look at everything and be honest about it," he said. "I think it goes back to the preparation of a football team. How did you set your schematic schedule in the limited time that we had? Just the anticipation of the changes. Frankly, I don't think any of us anticipated the amount of it. Are we handling it properly? Did we adjust in midstream as good as we can? So I think, like anything, times like this can confirm what I believe in.

"I do believe that we will be much better from this experience and all this adversity is happening for a reason, and from adversity and negative experiences, obviously you have a great opportunity to learn and increase your instincts and your awareness. And I feel that our program and our team will be better for this moving forward. It can't happen quick enough."