Sending Mike Packing right call for Green Bay
Fired coach won more games than Lombardi at Lambeau, but had to go
On the face of it, Green Bay have got rid of a man who has led the team to the second most wins in Packers’ history – Mike McCarthy has more wins in Wisconsin than even the late, great Vince Lombardi.
But, in the cold light of day, the Packers are staring at the very real prospect of a second-straight year without featuring in the postseason, while for all those wins, one of the most talented teams in the NFL over the last decade has only lifted one Lombardi Trophy during McCarthy’s 13-year reign.
When you factor in he’s had who many consider the greatest quarterback in the league over that period, Packers’ CEO Mark Murphy’s decision seems more sensible than savage. And, ultimately, he has probably made it with the future of Aaron Rodgers in mind.
In sporting terms the stud gunslinger is in his twilight, having turned 35 on Sunday. But in NFL terms the California native is a relative babe – six of his contemporaries are older.
And with Tom Brady still leading the New England Patriots to Super Bowls at 41 and Drew Brees, 39, still breaking records at breakneck speed with the New Orleans Saints, you have to believe there’s plenty of time for Rodgers to earn himself that second Super Bowl ring.
No12 has been vocally critical of his team’s play-calling this season and is described by some as being so smart that he’s difficult to coach.
But why shouldn’t the coaching be criticised? It’s hard to defend their 4-7-1 record. It is the joint ninth worst in the league – with two of those victories coming against the wretched 2-9 San Francisco 49ers and the perennially mediocre Buffalo Bills (4-8). The last straw was Sunday’s 20-17 defeat to the awful Arizona Cardinals (3-9).
When assessing the bigger picture, that record is likely to see them miss out on the postseason for a second year in succession, which has never happened previously under McCarthy – who prior to 2017 led his side into the playoffs eight seasons in a row. They never reached the Super Bowl after that exhilarating 31-25 2010 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but were always at the forefront. A year later they posted their best regular season record under McCarthy of 15-1, but lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the eventual champions the New York Giants.
In 2014 and 2016 they were thwarted in the NFC Championship game by the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons respectively – both of whom found Father Time too much to handle in the finale as Brady led the Patriots to his and their fourth and fifth titles.
Another factor that points to a parting of ways being the correct decision is how strong the NFC is.
The Philadelphia Eagles last year broke a three-year stranglehold AFC teams held on the Lombardi – four of the last six winners have come from there. But the AFC’s dominance has been built largely on New England and the ageless Brady – who has led his team into four of the last seven Super Bowls.
The NFC, meanwhile, is hyper competitive this year, with the 11-1 LA Rams the best team in the league and both they and the Saints among the top three scoring teams. The Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys and Seahawks are all jostling for playoff position too and boast powerful line-ups.
Meanwhile, in a loaded conference, the once-leading Pack are falling behind into the chasing pack – which is simply unacceptable when you have a QB as good as Rodgers.
Of course McCarthy’s feats at Lambeau Field shouldn’t be forgotten. Regardless of the sole Super Bowl triumph, he will go down as one of the most successful coaches in franchise history. Only Green Bay founder Earl ‘Curly’ Lambeau won more games (231) than McCarthy. The Packers won six NFL Championships under Lambeau from 1929-44 before the influential Lombardi kick-started the Super Bowl era with two more and three Super Bowls – including the first two in ’66 and ’67.
It would be 30 years before the Packers would win a fourth title in 1997 thanks to the arm of Hall of Famer Brett Favre. They are now joint third for most Super Bowl wins alongside the Giants, courtesy of McCarthy and Rodgers’ 2010 exploits. But ultimately, at the top level of sport there is rarely any room for sentiment. The NFL is particularly cruel environment, you either sink or swim.
The ‘Lambeau Leap’ is a wellused phrase coined by fans and commentators – touchdowns in Green Bay are often celebrated by the scorer jumping up into the arms of the vociferous Wisconsin crowd. Murphy has taken a leap by letting go of McCarthy. Now he must find the right replacement and hope he and Rodgers can launch the Packers back into the arms of the NFL’s elite.
Pack your bags: Mike McCarthy’s 13-year reign in Green Bay is over and his replacement must get the best out of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.