Mike McMarthy’s comments don’t fit the narrative
McCarthy has to stop coming up short of titles
Atlanta — Mike McCarthy has always talked a big game. You know, that confident, almost cocky approach that Ted Thompson labeled “Pittsburgh macho” when hiring McCarthy 11 years ago.
On Jan. 12, 2006 — less than 24 hours after McCarthy had been named Green Bay Packers head coach — McCarthy strolled to the podium at his introductory press conference and dropped the following whopper.
“I’d like to acknowledge the fans of Green Bay and just to let you know that there will be an unconditional commitment from Ted (Thompson) and myself to bring a World Championship back to Green Bay,” McCarthy said that day.
On the eve of training camp this season, McCarthy said, “It’s about winning the world championship. It’s part of our every day fiber here in Green Bay.”
In the years between, McCarthy has taken a “championship or bust” approach to each and every season. Working with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, state-of-the-art facilities, a solid management team and a passionate fan base, it’s easy to see why McCarthy boldly talks about titles every year.
So after the Packers’ 2016 season ended with an embarrassing 44-21 loss to Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, it was odd to hear some of the following thoughts from Iron Mike.
“This was a hell of a season,” said McCarthy, whose team failed to show up in its biggest game of the year. Or this: “This team provided a lot of great moments for me as a coach, for our organization, and hopefully our fans feel that way,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy isn’t wrong. His team certainly provided Packer Nation with a magical carpet ride after a dreadful start.
Green Bay played some of its worst football of the McCarthy era and sat at 4-6 on Nov. 20. But McCarthy reminded the world he was a “highly successful” coach, then watched his Packers catch fire at the perfect time.
Much like McCarthy’s lone championship team did in 2010, Green Bay peaked down the stretch and won eight straight games before Sunday. The Packers had every reason to believe a second Super Bowl appearance under McCarthy was in the offing, but instead they played their poorest game in more than two months.
McCarthy and the Packers had reason to be proud of how they finished the season. But for a coach that talks about titles over and over, NFC runner-up isn’t good enough.
And comments like “hell of a season” don’t fit the narrative. Even McCarthy’s players — the ones who hear the “championship or bust” message hammered into their heads all year — weren’t as “pawsitive” as their head coach.
“It’s always championship or bust with us,” Packers linebacker Joe Thomas said. “We feel like we have the team that can win it. We came up short this year.” Packers center Corey Linsley agreed. “Our goal is to obviously focus on winning a championship every year,” Linsley said. “We know the players that we have and we know the coaches we have and the general manager we have. They’re all championship level. We know the expectation.”
McCarthy is now 1-3 in NFC Championship Games. And his performance in conference title games has left plenty to be desired.
McCarthy’s Packers were an 8-point favorite against the visiting New York Giants in the 2007 NFC title game. But Giants’ boss Tom Coughlin outcoached McCarthy and New York notched a 23-20 overtime win in Brett Favre’s final game as a Packer.
Green Bay defeated host Chicago, 21-14, in the 2010 title game. Two weeks later, the Packers toppled Pittsburgh, 31-25, in Super Bowl XLV.
In 2014, McCarthy’s Packers led Seattle, 19-7, with just more than three minutes left. At that point, Green Bay had a 99.9% chance of winning the game according to ProFootballReference.com.
Down the stretch, though, Green Bay made every mistake imaginable as the Seahawks rallied for an improbable 28-22 overtime win. That game remains the greatest collapse in franchise history.
Then on Sunday, McCarthy’s team didn’t appear ready to play, fell behind 31-0 early in the third quarter, and were never in the game.
Afterward, McCarthy gushed about his team saying he was, “very proud of my football team, particularly the things that we were able to fight through throughout the course of the year. I can’t say enough about the group of men that’s been a privilege to coach.”
The Packers deserve credit for rebounding from their miserable beginning. Then again, this gifted group should have never been 4-6 in the first place.
But that rough start forced the Packers to become road warriors after the wild-card round. And that path was too much for this group to overcome.
Now, another year is gone from the certain Hall-of-Fame career of Aaron Rodgers. And when the 2017 campaign begins, Rodgers will be just three months shy of his 34th birthday.
“I think it’s just, if you’re not the champion every year, it’s a little disappointing,” Rodgers said.
Added Packers linebacker Clay Matthews: “It’s hard right now when you’re asking these questions to have some type of positivity on the season when you come up short. We’re not afraid to back away from our expectations and that’s ultimately getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it.”
In Green Bay, Super Bowl championships qualify as a “hell of season.” Conference runners-up quickly fade to black.
Perhaps someone needs to remind the head coach of that.
After the loss to the Falcons, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is 1-3 in NFC Championship Games.