All it took was a loss to a 2-9, now 3-9, Arizona Cardinals team to be the final nail in the coffin for the inevitable. The rumblings surrounding the Green Bay Packers, over the past month or so, involved head coach Mike McCarthy being on the hot seat and the most likely candidate to be relieved of his job. And the front office made it official after the loss.
Packers brought in Mike McCarthy after the game and fired him; he was not expecting it, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 3, 2018
In his 13 seasons as head coach of the franchise, McCarthy had a splendid career 125-77-2 record, the second-most 10-win seasons in the NFL during this stretch (eight), nine playoff appearances, six NFC North titles, and a Super Bowl.
He’s just the first head coach since 1972 to win a Super Bowl with an organization, and not finish a season which he started with them.
How can a team with such a successful coach let him go? Not every relationship was meant to last. McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have never had a good relationship, which is one of the biggest reasons for the firing.
Both are very different and stubborn in their own ways. Rodgers is ‘California Cool’ and progressive while McCarthy is more blue-collar and old-fashioned. Both struggled over the vision and playcalling of the offense.
McCarthy’s offensive gameplan became stale and non-innovative, relying on Aaron Rodgers to be the hero too often. And that is not sustainable which was showing through their offensive struggles. Rare offensive struggles that are the reasons for their disappointing season.
At 4-6-1 before Sunday, Green Bay was still alive in the playoff hunt, although the pulse was barely there. But, after an embarrassing loss at home against a bad team, it’s officially over. Mathematically, they aren’t finished, but it’s hard to envision the Seattle Seahawks (7-5) and Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) collapsing to the point that they would let the Packers back in.
Plus, the Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) and Washington Redskins (6-5), who played during Monday Night Football, are ahead of the Pack. As are the Tampa Bay Buccanneers (5-7) and Carolina Panthers (6-6). There are just too many teams for Aaron Rodgers & Crew to jump.
Rodgers has been a shell of himself this year and has looked entirely unenthused, almost to the point that it feels as if he quit on McCarthy. And some of the basic throws he has missed, which he routinely makes, and the lack of emotion afterward adds further fuel to the fire.
The gameplan and playcalling were suspect, and in the day and age of bright, innovative offensive minds such as Sean McVay, Matt Nagy, Andy Reid, Josh McDaniels, Frank Reich, etc., Rodgers was stuck in the past with McCarthy who failed to adapt.
This is not to say that McCarthy is a bad coach because he isn’t. He is a good, not great coach who won’t be unemployed for long with because of his resume. The 56-year-old just wasn’t a fit with the Packers’ superstar.
We can’t absolve Rodgers from all this either. McCarthy was the popular scapegoat for years, being viewed as the problem, but there’s no doubt that Rodgers was a part of it. The quarterback isn’t known to be as coachable as a Tom Brady or Drew Brees, or as relatable to teammates. And when you pair someone like that with a coach he doesn’t respect much, nothing good is going to come.
But now Rodgers is “free” per se; thus all eyes will be on him. Some will argue that the excuses are running out for him- McCarthy is gone, so show us what you got. Rodgers has to prove he can get along with coaches and not be a team-killer because if the struggles continue, he will be the one constant in all their drama.
But there are no excuses for the Packers’ front office either. They cannot miss on the next hiring. Rodgers is on the back nine of his career, so they cannot afford to mess up and start the process all over.
And the job is attractive as it gets because they have an all-time great quarterback at the helm. Throw in a number one receiver in Davante Adams, good offensive line (when healthy), talented running back in Aaron Jones, and a group of young but talented defenders, the Green Bay Packers’ head coaching vacancy is perhaps the most attractive job on the market. Thus, there’s no excuse for not getting a candidate at the top of your list.
And there aren’t a lack of quality options either. There probably isn’t a Sean McVay or Matt Nagy out there, but Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury are some of the hottest coaching prospects because they are of a similar mold: elite, young, bright minds who have exciting and creative spread offenses.
Riley coached 2018 first overall pick, Baker Mayfield, in his Heisman-winning season, and is now helping Kyler Murray make a legitimate run at the award. His offensive system is considered the best in the country, and concepts from it are growing in stature in the NFL.
But, Kingsbury isn’t too shabby either, coaching burgeoning superstar Patrick Mahomes in college, while also getting a phone call from Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay to join his staff for the remainder of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is another offensive coordinator from the Andy Reid coaching tree who will get a hard look from many. He is a part of the same lineage as Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy.
And of course, the go-to name for many is New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is already getting some buzz. He has worked under Bill Belichick and with Tom Brady for years and has earned the respect of both, which speaks volumes.
The Packers have four games left to salvage what they can from a bad season. And once it ends, it will be the beginning of a new era, and one the city of Green Bay hopes is the return of the exciting times.