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Mike McCarthy on Cowboys' 2022 Outlook: 'We're Not Here to Go Backwards'

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 20, 2022

AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

Even after a disappointing first-round playoff exit, Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has high expectations for next season.

"We're not here to go backwards," he told reporters Wednesday.

The Cowboys went 12-5 with an NFC East title before suffering a 23-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round. It's still not enough to shake the coach's confidence going forward.

"We're going to be better [in 2022]," McCarthy added.

While long-term success is never guaranteed in the NFL, the Cowboys are in better shape than last year at this time after locking up Dak Prescott on a long-term deal. Key players on both sides of the ball have already signed extensions, including Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, La'el Collins and DeMarcus Lawrence.

Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs and CeeDee Lamb are all still on their rookie contracts and could continue to improve next season.

Several notable players are set to hit free agency, including Jayron Kearse, Leighton Vander Esch, Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz, but there should still be limited turnover in the offseason.

It could allow the Cowboys to build off this season's success and become a legitimate contender in 2022.

One significant change, however, must come with a reduction of penalties, as McCarthy explained Wednesday:

Michael Gehlken @GehlkenNFL

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said reducing penalties is No. 1 focus. “Way too many.” Of Cowboys’ playoff-record 14 penalties Sunday, seven were pre-snap. “There’s no excuse for it.” Pre-snap and holding penalties must be curtailed. <a href="https://t.co/fgHde2y3S8">pic.twitter.com/fgHde2y3S8</a>

The 14 penalties on Sunday doomed the Cowboys against the 49ers, but it has been a problem all year. The squad led the league with 141 accepted penalties this past season, per NFLPenalties.com, plus an additional 27 that were either declined or offsetting.

Reducing these mistakes could have helped Dallas take better advantage of the No. 2 scoring margin in the NFL (plus-172).

There will still be a lot of pressure on McCarthy and the entire roster to produce a better result in 2022.   

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