Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy focusing on winning, not returning to Green Bay

Mike McCarthy’s return to Lambeau Field this Sunday sets the table for a game with emotional ties for both sides, but beating his former team isn’t necessarily adding to the Cowboys coach’s motivation for a win in Week 10.

“I really want to win the game. Is that good enough?” said McCarthy, via the team’s website. “I mean, it’d be great. We’re 6-2 — this is for me, it’s really the same as it’s always been. You have a chance to really take a deep dive into the things that we’ve done very well and things that we need to improve on, and that’s really what we spent [Monday] on.”

McCarthy’s long and successful tenure with the Packers stands as a prominent era for a franchise with rich history. From 2006 to 2018, McCarthy’s time in Green Bay included six NFC North titles, four NFC Championship Game appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XLV. McCarthy oversaw a delicate transfer from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another (Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers), and his 125 regular-season wins as Packers coach stand as the second-most in the franchise’s storied history.

His run with the Packers eventually fizzled into an unceremonious end during the 2018 season when the club fired McCarthy following a Week 13 loss. The soon-to-be 59-year-old took a year off from coaching before the Cowboys came calling ahead of the 2022 season.

McCarthy on Monday did admit that he talked to his team about his experience in Green Bay, but maintained the focus of his message was aimed at realizing the situation of visiting a reeling Packers team that hasn’t played a home game since Week 6 (Oct. 16).

“I don’t think I would have been doing my job if I didn’t address it,” he said. “Trust me, I’m the last person that wants to create any type of distraction or questions for someone else because, you know, we’re at the point here now we’re starting the third quarter of the season. We know what it takes to win a football game and they’re obviously coming off a tough loss. We’re really trying to get an advantage today and we’re going to be spending the afternoon working on Green Bay — that’s really where my mind is at.”

Coming off its bye week, Dallas enters Green Bay with a 6-2 record and in need of a win to stay afloat amid a competitive NFC East. The Cowboys face a Packers team that lost its fifth straight game Sunday, and is seemingly circling the drain as major injuries continue to mount.

How McCarthy will be received at Lambeau remains to be seen. McCarthy started Monday’s news conference downplaying his return to Green Bay, but got emotional once talking further about a city that named a street after him after bringing the the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Titletown. McCarthy gathered himself before mentioning several assistant coaches on his staff also making their returns to Green Bay, and reverted back to his initial thoughts about the game when talking about his players.

The emotions will certainly be there for McCarthy, but the Cowboys coach only hopes to release them following a victory on Sunday.

“Well definitely, there’s 10 of us that did spend time there,” McCarthy said. “Sometimes life gives you an opportunity to go full circle to go back and show how much you’ve grown, and that’s part of our contribution to winning the game this week. … I think anytime a team from this part of the country goes north. There’s a difference — the grass is different, the weather is changing — so I’m really focused on making sure our team is ready to do the things we need to do to win the game, you know, and just make sure they’re ready for this stadium.

“You know, a lot of our guys have never played there. … We’ve talked about it briefly this morning and we all want to go there and win the game.”

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