(Photo by Packers.com)
When a man’s career head coaching record is 108-59-1 (winning percentage of .646), and achievements also include three NFC Championship appearances and a Super Bowl victory, no one would never think that everyone, including management, would put him on the hot seat. None of us truly know if the Green Bay Packers and their top executives, general manager Ted Thompson and team president Mark Murphy, have done that to head coach Mike McCarthy. Except, public pressure can play a role in one’s exit when expectations are below the fans and media’s standards.
Fans in Green Bay and others watching the Pack usually have this annual belief that the team is always Super Bowl bound considering that the team has what is arguably the NFL’s best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Also, the saying “You can’t win without a quarterback” is figuratively tattooed on their and others’ arms, legs, and other parts better off hidden. Because the Packers have Aaron and a ring with him, it grants them and the fans a championship birthright, even though things like special teams blunders can kill the chances of getting rings.
I wonder where I have seen such a moment take place.
Since that moment and the end of the 2014 NFC Championship loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it seems to have gone all downhill according to Green Bay’s level of standards. The passing game’s deadliness has jumped the shark, running game is covered in cheese and getting cleaned up by a wide receiver; and, based on Thompson’s need to make free agency about age and overconfident recyclability, almost no one familiar or talented stays on defense anymore.
All of that combined with losing in the playoffs to the Arizona Cardinals in a 2015 Divisional Round overtime game has made the fans sour on McCarthy to where an overweight Eddie Lacy gets a pass for his weight when (with all due respect) a heavy-looking McCarthy talks about it.
The Packers under McCarthy are currently 4-4 after coming off an unexpected loss to the 4-5 AFC South mediocrity-dwelling Indianapolis Colts, and a loss to the Tennessee Titans could mean the beginning of his end. Most likely, it will make the Packers admirers relieved of what they feel is the abyss considering that many use his record without Rodgers in 2013 (2-4-1) against him.
But in fairness to McCarthy, despite him being viewed as a bum that is riding on the coattails of the NFL’s arguably best quarterback, he has done things that show that he has coaching value.
In 2006, one season after Brett Favre threw twenty touchdowns versus twenty-nine interceptions McCarthy coached him to improve his ratio by throwing eighteen versus eighteen. A season later, Favre under his watch was the runner-up to Tom Brady in the MVP race by passing for twenty-eight touchdowns versus fifteen interceptions.
McCarthy also helped Rodgers grow by being his teacher while his throwing ineptness was evident. In his first five games, Rodgers completed 48.4 percent of his thirty-one passes for 111 yards and zero touchdowns versus one interception. When his coming out party debuted against the Dallas Cowboys as a substitute for an injured Favre on November 29, 2007, he completed 69.2 percent of his 26 passes for 201 yards and one touchdown versus no interceptions.
Unfortunately, history is translation for forgettable, and when there are fans that fail to remember about Favre betraying his Packers allegiance by becoming a Minnesota Viking, Rodgers’ early struggles, or the early bright spots of McCarthy, let alone Mike Holmgren, the saying could never be truer.
Except, if the Packers fire McCarthy barring a trip to the NFC Championship, he will look like a hot coaching commodity considering that Super Bowl winning coaches do not grow on trees. At least two jobs will open up at year’s end, and even if you are no fan of his, you definitely would care if McCarthy took a bad job.
Take a look at Hue Jackson. As a hot commodity due to his success as the Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator and many retrospectively respecting his past work in Oakland, many were befuddled by his arrival to Cleveland.
In a September 2016 tweet, NFL Network analyst Brian Billick asked people to “[Look] at the [Cleveland Browns] schedule [and] find a single win. [They] can’t do it!” Tragically, losing and incidents of instability have trashed the Browns branding, to say the least, and, even McCarthy’s deterrents would feel that he has too many accomplishments to take a similar job.
Ideally, he would have to take a job like the 2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, a team Mike Tomlin inherited when he got his first head coaching job. An organization with a roster one calendar year removed from a Super Bowl win would be a coaching prospect’s dream, but such circumstances rarely come around. If he were to take one after a team cleaned house, it would have to come with the following: highly available draft choices, a roster with a few holes, personnel executive competence of his or the owner’s choice, and a chance to make the playoffs. Based on all the potentially available jobs, there may be little to choose from.
- Pros: A bad division for easy playoff entry (AFC South), a competent eye for draft talent, general manager Dave Caldwell, and no lost draft picks in blockbuster trades.
- Cons: Inconsistency at quarterback, running back, and offensive line and a defense that allows 26.9 points per game (2.29 points per drive) and 5.0 yards per play.
- Pros: A bad division for easy playoff entry (AFC South), the Green Bay zone-blitz run by Dick LeBeau, a new good eye for draft talent, John Robinson, gained draft picks from the Los Angeles Rams in a trade for Jared Goff, and a franchise quarterback, running back, and offensive line.
- Cons: Ineptitude on defense (linebacker and safety) and at wide receiver outside of Rishard Matthews.
- Pros: An abundance of draft picks from the Philadelphia Eagles in the trade for Carson Wentz.
- Cons: The AFC North, unproven executives, unstable ownership with little patience, and nonexistent talent with the exception of a few positions.
- Pros: A supportive ownership with a talented defense, able running backs, and an adequate but entertaining quarterback.
- Cons: The Patriots rule the AFC East and the playoff drought since The Music City Miracle.
New York Jets
- Pros: He can wear green again.
- Cons: They’re the Jets! Only that organization can tease fans with figurative band-aids like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, and Ryan Fitzpatrick after its owner, Woody Johnson, frames his team based on what his company (Johnson & Johnson) specializes in, band-aids.
Los Angeles Rams
- Pros: A defense that allows 20.9 points per game (1.82 points per drive).
- Cons: The NFC West, an unready, unproven quarterback, a pass rush that averages just 2.1 sacks per game, lost draft picks for Goff, only two competent skill position players (Kenny Britt and Todd Gurley), and a poor offensive line.
- Pros: A lethal quarterback-wide receiver trio (Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, and Marvin Jones) with a front office led by emerging newcomer Bob Quinn.
- Cons: The NFC North, an inconsistent running game and defense, and the disadvantage of not playing outdoors.
- Pros: A decent quarterback-wide receiver tandem (Andy Dalton and A.J. Green) with a running game made stable by a healthy Jeremy Hill, playoff experience, and a proven front office led by Duke Tobin.
- Cons: The AFC North, an aging and inept secondary, underachievement at linebacker, no complement to Green, and a failure to win a playoff game since 1990.
- Pros: He can spend more time with his family and learn about more new-aged offenses while being paid by the Packers till the reported end of the 2018 season.
- Cons: Less relevance as a future candidate and increased chances of seeing worse jobs open.
I am the last guy who wants to defend a coach and act condescending to a fanbase by telling it to appreciate him because it will never have a coach that close to him. Frankly, I do believe that most coaches have shelf lives because they are tuned out, have deteriorating organizational relationships, and run out of ideas. However, people watching the Pack must realize that is easier to fire someone than finding a replacement. Plus, it would be a stupid idea to think that McCarthy cannot help a team.
When he has helped the quarterbacks listed above and aided in the successes of Aaron Brooks as a quarterback in New Orleans and a struggling Stanford’s wide receiver’s (Ty Montgomery) transition to running back, it is obvious that he can be a good coach. If he has to change things, having offensive coaches that know different schemes and can add diversity to his playbook and a new defensive coordinator can give him new life as not all playbooks and schemes match every roster.
Still, yet to be determined is the Packers playoff fate as they are still alive to not only be a wildcard but win the NFC North. If the team coughs up games the way it did to opponents that it should have beaten, McCarthy may have plenty of good options to choose from. He could help his new team the way Andy Reid and Bruce Arians have respectively helped the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals and thus sustain his coaching success.