Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy emotional ahead of Green Bay return, but focus remains on winning

What sort of reception will McCarthy receive? He said he hasn’t given it much thought, although he pointed out the Packers are known to have very nice fans. He grew up personally and professionally in Green Bay and approaches this week with a mixture of anticipation and dread.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy walks the sidelines during the game against the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022.
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FRISCO, Texas — Mike McCarthy made it through two-thirds of a press conference to discuss his upcoming return to Green Bay without shedding a tear.

Then he was asked about what the area means to his wife, Jessica, and their youngest children, Gabbie and Izzie. The Cowboys head coach jokingly accused the media of trying to make him cry before he plunged ahead.

“What do I miss most?’’ McCarthy asked, repeating the question. “Shoot, I think it’s like anything. The people.

“That’s why I think it’s been such a great transition for our family. Our kids, obviously born there and raised there, but to come here, and this experience. The lifestyle in Dallas, Texas, is incredible. This has been an incredible opportunity for us as a family. But, you know, Jessica’s born, our kids were born there…'’

McCarthy paused to collect himself as tears welled in his eyes. He tapped the podium a few times then resumed.


“The people,’’ he said. “Just the people.’’

McCarthy is forced to straddle a fine line ahead of this weekend’s game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. He wants to show he cares.

How could he not? He spent nearly 13 seasons with the organization as head coach, winning a Super Bowl and six division titles.

But he doesn’t want to show he cares too much. That would be bad form for the 6-2 team he now leads. He doesn’t want to become a distraction for his players in the coming days and addressed his return to Green Bay when the team met Monday, Nov. 7.

His message:

“Sometimes you’ve got to look back at where you came from to see how far you’ve come,’’ rookie Tyler Smith said.

McCarthy spoke about the great memories he carries from his time with the Packers. Emotional? The focus is to leave the not yet frozen tundra- the temperature should hover slightly above freezing at Sunday’s kickoff- with a win, not to wax nostalgic.

“I really want to win the game,’’ McCarthy said when pressed on what a return to Green Bay means. “Is that enough?’’


What sort of reception will McCarthy receive? He said he hasn’t given it much thought, although he pointed out the Packers are known to have very nice fans. He grew up personally and professionally in Green Bay and approaches this week with a mixture of anticipation and dread.

“It’s here,’’ McCarthy said. “It’s more like that.

“I obviously had to think about it today because I was coming into this wonderful session.’’

McCarthy wants to be vulnerable and honest in discussing his time with the Packers. But as he said, not too vulnerable. He readily admits he grew up personally and professionally there.

“I was there 13 years,’’ McCarthy said. “That’s a loooong time.

“The exit, it left a dent, just to be honest, with our family. But it’s been four years.’’

The relationship between McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a hot topic in the coach’s waning days with the franchise. Rodgers is known to be, well, let’s say prickly, and there were reports of friction between the two.

McCarthy had nothing but kind words on Monday. He chose to focus on the early days the two spent together in Green Bay where virtually every conversation ended with a hug and an exchange of their affection for each other.


“I’m really looking forward to seeing Aaron,’’ McCarthy said. “We’ve had great communication. I have nothing but love and gratitude for him.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Washington Commanders
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after the game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField in Landover, Md., on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022.
Brad Mills / USA Today Sports

“That’s what I think about our relationship. I think he made me a much better coach. You’re talking about a man that’s one of the premier professional athletes of his generation…He deserves all the accolades that he receives.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him.’’

He’s also looking forward to see the many friends he made through the years, although he won’t be able to spend much, if any, quality time with them.

“People will say, ‘hey, when are you coming in’ like I’m going to fly in Wednesday for the weekend,’’ McCarthy said. “We’re going to get there Saturday at 5 o’clock like we always do.’’

Vince Lombardi. Mike Holmgren. McCarthy. Those are the coaches who have won a Super Bowl with the Packers.

“Great tradition and history there,’’ McCarthy said. “But I’m also very in tune with the great tradition and history here.

“I’ve always embraced the tradition and the history. I think tradition and history is energy. I think there’s energy in the bricks of The Star, no different than Lambeau Field. I think those are assets.

“To think that I’ve been the head coach of the Green Bay Packers and now the Dallas Cowboys, frankly, I never dreamed of that growing up in Pittsburgh.

“I am very, very grateful.’’

Will he make time to take a short stroll down Mike McCarthy Way before Sunday’s game?

“I just drive by once in a while to make sure the sign is still up,’’ he said.

It’s still there.

Along with part of his heart.

Twitter: @DavidMooreDMN

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