Well Packer fans, it’s official: Mike McCarthy is gone.
For many of you, McCarthy’s firing comes with a great big “it’s about time,” after clamoring for the coach to be gone for a couple years now. For others, it’s “about time,” but many thought that “about time” would last through the end of the season. Either way, it seemed more and more likely with each passing week that this would be McCarthy’s final season with the Packers.
McCarthy leaves the Packers with 125 wins, six NFC North titles, four NFC Championship game appearances (1-3) and one Super Bowl appearance (1-0). Not bad for 13 seasons of work, but it was time to go.
McCarthy’s offensive plan had become stale. NFL offense’s have become faster and more creative, but McCarthy hasn’t kept up with the changes. Legendary college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski from Duke was once worried about how the “one-and-done” players would ruin the college game. Instead of remaining steadfast, he adapted and started recruiting the one-and-dones. He had to. It was how the college game was evolving, and he had to adapt. McCarthy never evolved and was unable to adapt to the changing NFL landscape.
What we’ve seen over the past few weeks, is the new Packer front office is a no-nonsense front office. Starting safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix was traded after questioning his status with the team beyond this season. Ty Montgomery was traded after a kick return gaffe that potentially cost the Packers an opportunity to beat a powerful Rams team. Jermaine Whitehead was cut the day after he was ejected from a game for slapping an opposing player in the helmet. And now, after a terrible December home loss to a two-win Cardinals team that essentially knocks them out of the playoffs, McCarthy is gone with four games remaining on the schedule.
With McCarthy gone, this front office has made it clear that no one is safe. The coach is usually the first one to go in a purge, and for the most part that happened with McCarthy. The front office can now choose “their guy” for coach and see what players will fit within their scheme. Aaron Rodgers is likely safe, as is much of last year’s draft class (being it was the new regime’s first class). But the roster could have a much different look to it next year, as the front office will now get to use these final four weeks as an evaluation period and see what players may fit for what they’re looking for in a new coach. Packers president Mark Murphy, who officially fired McCarthy, said the search for a new coach would begin immediately. And with that being said, so will the evaluation process of the players.
Notice I said Rodgers is likely safe, and that the coach is usually the first to go in a purge. Well, if the coach goes and nothing changes, then players start going by the wayside and the front office brings in new players to fit the new coach’s scheme. With McCarthy now gone and Rodgers at 35 years old and still having trade value, if the new head coach and Rodgers don’t fit well together, Rodgers’ roster spot may not be safe and he could provide some value on the trade market.
Chances are the “face of the franchise” isn’t going anywhere. The new head coach will be brought in as someone who can mesh with Rodgers, considering he is such a large investment and one of the greatest ever to play the quarterback position. A young, offensive mind with some innovation would be perfect. Someone who can both unleash Rodgers and the offense, but still remember that Rodgers is 35 and not a spring chicken anymore. But hey, you can never say never. This front office is different than front offices Packer fans are used to and would shock the world if they didn’t let Rodgers finish his career in Green Bay.
For McCarthy, it’s good bye Green Bay. McCarthy will latch on somewhere else due to his strong resume. Hello, Cleveland? The Browns have a young quarterback he can mold, young playmakers on both sides of the ball and a front office full of former “Green Bay people” that are familiar with McCarthy. It seems like a logical fit and McCarthy could turn around the Browns for the better.
I liken McCarthy’s departure to the way Andy Reid left Philadelphia: a good football coach with a regime grown stale, and a change of scenery needed for both sides, likely re-energizing both sides.
Philadelphia fired Reid after going 4-12 in 2012, his worst season in Philly. Kansas City hired him four days later. Philly had a couple rough years under Chip Kelly – Reid’s replacement – but won the Super Bowl last year under Doug Pederson, who was with Reid in Philly and followed him to KC. Kansas City is now one of the most explosive teams in the NFL with Reid at the helm. Win-win for both sides. Hopefully the same happens in Green Bay with whoever becomes the next leader of the Green and Gold (minus the Chip Kelly storyline) and for McCarthy where he lands.
If I were the Packers, I’d be on the phone with Lincoln Riley, the current head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners. Riley is 35 and a definite up-and-comer in the offensive coaching ranks. With his current success at Oklahoma though, Riley will likely be one of, if not the, hottest names on the market. And also, can a 35 year-old old coach mesh with a 35 year-old future Hall of Fame quarterback? It would be interesting for sure, but I think it could work. Riley fits the mold of the young, innovative offensive minded coach Green Bay needs, but would the “Sean McVay method” work in Green Bay (young, offensive minded, up-and-coming coach completely turning a team around). And how much would it cost to pry him from the Sooners? Still, Riley is definitely worth a long look.
There are dozens of candidates out there, but I think John Defilippo (OC, Minnesota Vikings), Pete Carmichael, Jr (OC, New Orleans Saints), Kliff Kingsbury (Former HC, Texas Tech), Jim Harbaugh (HC, Michigan Wolverines), Josh McDaniels (OC, New England Patriots), and Zac Taylor (QB coach, LA Rams) are the names people will most see associated with the Packers’ coaching search.
Whoever it is, let’s hope they can return the Packers to the promised land and bring home a couple more Lombardi trophies. Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger – McCarthy found that out the hard way with his inability to adapt to an aging quarterback. This needs to be a head coach who will be around for Rodgers’ remaining years.
The heat is now on the front office. Don’t screw this up.