Mike McMarthy’s com­ments don’t fit the nar­ra­tive

McCarthy has to stop com­ing up short of ti­tles

Packer Plus - - News - ROB REISCHEL Send email to ro­breis­chel@gmail.com

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.

MIKE DE SISTI / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

After the loss to the Fal­cons, Pack­ers head coach Mike McCarthy is 1-3 in NFC Cham­pi­onship Games.

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