The clock has run out for Mike McCarthy in Green Bay.
Three-fourths of the way through his 13th year at the helm of the Packers, McCarthy was relieved of his duties by Mark Murphy in the immediate aftermath of an embarrassing loss to the previously 2-9 Arizona Cardinals in Week 13.
“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers. As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately.”
Anyone who’s watched the Packers this season has been aware for some time that this marriage was headed for divorce, possibly a bitter one. The offense, McCarthy’s main charge, has been a disaster relative to what was expected of it this season.
The long and short of it is that the most successful strategies for modern NFL offenses have blown by what the Packers have been running and McCarthy has been too stubborn to adapt. The talent is there. A star quarterback who, while down this year compared to his usual superhuman efforts, is one of the greatest of all time. One of the best receivers in the NFL in Davante Adams, plus a slew of other receivers with various skills that give an offense plenty of options. A running game that has been mostly effective this season despite being abandoned seemingly at random in certain weeks.
Despite all that, the Packers are 4-7-1 through 12 games and, unlike in previous years, the blame falls largely on the offensive side of the ball.
Packers brought in Mike McCarthy after the game and fired him; he was not expecting it, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 3, 2018
At this juncture, it’s easy to point out the negative aspects of McCarthy’s tenure, specifically in the last handful of years. This season speaks for itself. Keeping Ron Zook as his special teams coordinator has been widely, rightfully criticized. The play calling has been bad.
That’s before even touching on the inconsistencies and mismanagement that have plagued him since he took over in 2006. We all know about the confusing conservative play calling and the instances of taking the foot off the gas late in games, so to speak.
Needless to say, McCarthy had to go. The biggest surprise is that the organization actually pulled the plug before the end of the year.
There should be optimism for the future, combined with a hope among Green Bay fans that the team will hire a coach who has more of a forward-thinking, or at least modernized, offensive plan.
However, with all of that in mind, it’s important not to forget the good things McCarthy did during his time as the Packers’ coach. Because, as bad as the 2018 version of him has been, the majority of his career was a rousing success.
First and foremost, he helped lead the team to its fourth Super Bowl championship, a win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV. Lombardi, Holmgren, McCarthy; not bad company when it comes to championship winners.
Beyond that, he compiled a .618 winning percentage (125-77-2), reached the playoffs nine times and won the division six of those years. That’s extremely successful for any team, save for the Patriots of the 21st century. Remember: That particular franchise is the exception, not the norm.
McCarthy’s tenure was a success no matter how you look at it. But one of the things that is too often overlooked is his ability to develop players. Specifically, he deserves credit and praise for turning Aaron Rodgers into one of the best quarterbacks the sport has ever seen.
Rodgers entered the league with a great deal of fanfare, considering he was a first-round pick but also because of how far he fell in the draft (the story is as well-known as any at this point). There were plenty of rave reviews about his game, though those came with plenty of detractors, too. He was a product of Jeff Tedford’s college system that produced busts before, he wasn’t the tallest, he had some mechanical issues. One evaluation even said he couldn’t “create on his own.”
We know what Rodgers is now. But, as Chris B. Brown mentioned in his 2015 piece for Grantland about the McCarthy/Rodgers dynamic, the coach was paramount when it came to developing the quarterback.
“Rodgers has clearly benefited from McCarthy’s training. As good of a prospect as Rodgers was coming out of Cal, it’s striking how different he looks now: he’s more athletic, more natural, and has a stronger arm. While primary credit goes to the long hours Rodgers spends developing his craft on his own, McCarthy provided a structure for that process.”
The Aaron Rodgers we know today, the two-time MVP, most efficient passer in league history, borderline wizard with the ball in his hand, would never have existed without Mike McCarthy’s tutelage.
Sometimes in life, things just run their course and need to end. That’s epitomized by the McCarthy era and its finale on Dec. 2. The good far outweighed the bad in the nearly decade and a half he was in charge, but as 2018 has dragged on (and for even longer than that, depending on your level of pessimism) it’s become more apparent on a nearly daily basis that this relationship wasn’t going to get any better. It was time.
He wasn’t a perfect coach by any means. You can argue (with minimal resistance) that he’s been a downright bad coach this season. Following a blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans back in 2016 (a year in which the Packers won the NFC North), he said “I’m a highly successful NFL head coach,” a quote which came back to bite him in the public sphere once things turned sour in his final season.
Historically speaking, however, he wasn’t wrong.