INDIANAPOLIS — Spoiled by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, former Packers coach Mike McCarthy was excited to coach Daniel Jones.
Instead, they will face each other — maybe for years to come — in one of the NFL’s most-heated rivalries.
An NFL source told The Post that, though McCarthy always favored the Cowboys above other head-coach vacancies this offseason, he thought the “Giants’ job was very good because of Daniel Jones.” McCarthy interviewed with the Giants on Jan. 4, but he left town without an offer and headed to a 12-hour-long sleepover meeting with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The Cowboys hired McCarthy on Jan. 6.
“I had a great experience with the Giants,” McCarthy said at the NFL combine. “First-class organization and can’t say enough about [co-owner] John Mara and the time I was able to spend there. It was a lot of fun, thought the interaction was good, but it’s a process and things happen for a reason. I’m very blessed to be a Dallas Cowboy.”
Jones hired McCarthy to replace Jason Garrett, who wound up as Giants offensive coordinator under Joe Judge when the NFC East developed its own mini-coaching carousel. Judge has yet to say a Giants player’s name in three mass interviews as a way of showing a blank slate to all, including Jones.
The Giants tried to arrange a second meeting with McCarthy after the Cowboys’ interest became public, a source said, but it was too late.
McCarthy spent 2019 out of the NFL, living in the shadows of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., after he was fired by the Packers and the Jets chose Adam Gase in their search.
McCarthy and Matt Rhule, who received a seven-year contract and next-level wooing from the Panthers, were considered the Giants’ top candidates until Judge’s Tom Coughlin-like intensity dazzled in his interview.
Though the Giants have the draft capital and salary-cap space (about $74 million) to improve the defense and be a “quick turnaround” with general manager Dave Gettleman’s willingness to hear personnel input, McCarthy saw the Cowboys as “the one where you could win a Super Bowl.” He previously won a Super Bowl with Rodgers and is said not to have been discouraged by Jones’ NFL-high 18 fumbles as a rookie.
Now McCarthy faces an unsettled quarterback situation: Dak Prescott is a free agent, and an inability to strike a long-term contract extension could force the Cowboys to apply the one-year franchise or transition tag and thus create friction.
McCarthy said Prescott is “definitely” a franchise quarterback. He had “no comment” for speculation six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady could leave the Patriots for the Cowboys in free agency.
“Defenses get you to the championship,” McCarthy said. “The quarterbacks win championships, and I definitely feel Dak is that quarterback.”
Prescott is 6-2 with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions in eight career games against the Giants. The Cowboys haven’t been to an NFC Championship since the 1995 season.
“Number one, you look at what he’s done in his time in the league,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been impressed with him since the first time I saw him live up in Green Bay. He’s gotten off to a great start and built a really good foundation.”