What can McCarthy ex­pect af­ter be­ing fired?

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports - Olivia Reiner and Jim Owczarski

GREEN BAY - Be­fore Mon­day, Mike McCarthy hadn’t wo­ken up on a De­cem­ber week­day with­out hav­ing to coach foot­ball in his en­tire NFL ca­reer.

The last time the for­mer Green Bay Pack­ers head coach was out of a job was in 1999. That sea­son, he was the quar­ter­backs coach for the Pack­ers. Af­ter the team’s 8-8 fin­ish, their worst record since Brett Favre took over as the start­ing quar­ter­back, the front of­fice cleared out the coach­ing staff.

McCarthy moved on to as­sis­tant coach­ing jobs in New Or­leans and San Fran­cisco be­fore be­com­ing Pack­ers head coach in 2006.

Pack­ers pres­i­dent/CEO Mark Mur­phy and gen­eral man­ager Brian Gutekunst made the de­ci­sion to re­lease McCarthy af­ter the 4-7-1 loss to the lowly Ari­zona Car­di­nals. McCarthy’s re­lease marked the first time the Pack­ers had dis­missed a head coach dur­ing the sea­son since 1953.

“I think a side ben­e­fit, quite hon­estly, is for Mike,” Mur­phy said. “I think he’s go­ing to be a strong can­di­date. I think there will be a num­ber of open­ings across the league and this al­lows him to fo­cus on the next op­por­tu­nity for him.”

In the short term, ESPN.com re­ported that McCarthy is go­ing to “lay low and try to fin­ish this pro­fes­sional chap­ter on the high road.”

What will hap­pen af­ter the con­clu­sion of the 2018 sea­son is un­cer­tain. McCarthy, a Su­per Bowl cham­pion who coached Aaron Rodgers for 10 sea­sons, has an at­trac­tive ré­sumé pre­pared for his job hunt if he de­cides to pur­sue one. How­ever, McCarthy will be re­ceiv­ing a pay­check through the 2019 sea­son re­gard­less; he signed a one-year con­tract ex­ten­sion last sea­son. He may take the year to de­com­press and cal­cu­late his next move.

McCarthy’s 26-year NFL ca­reer was mov­ing at the speed of Pack­ers wide re­ceiver Mar­quez Valdes-Scantling run­ning the 40-yard dash. Now, it has slammed to a halt.

“You’re go­ing 120 miles an hour and all of a sud­den (you stop),” spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Ron Zook said. “You don’t go 40 and it takes about six months to come down slowly. That’s just the way it is.”

Although the sit­u­a­tion is un­fa­mil­iar to McCarthy, his for­mer co­or­di­na­tors have been in sim­i­lar po­si­tions. Like McCarthy, Zook was fired in-sea­son. He was let go from his head-coach­ing job at Florida in 2004. Although Zook had been re­leased, he fin­ished out the sea­son be­fore mov­ing on to his next head­coach­ing po­si­tion at Illi­nois.

“I know the first year I was out, I didn’t re­al­ize I needed to be out, but I did need to be out,” Zook said. “I know (for­mer NFL head coach) Marty Schot­ten­heimer told me one time – and Mike knows Marty Schot­ten­heimer very, very well; worked for him – ev­ery head coach should go five years and then take a sab­bat­i­cal be­cause it’s 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.”

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Pet­tine was fired by the Cleve­land Browns in 2016 af­ter his se­cond sea­son as head coach. In 2017, he worked as a con­sul­tant for the Seat­tle Sea­hawks. He didn’t re­turn to coach­ing un­til Jan­uary 2018 when he joined the Pack­ers in his cur­rent role.

“It took me a while,” Pet­tine said. “I wasn’t ready to get right back in. It took me un­til about spring of that year un­til I went to visit the Chiefs. And just stand­ing on the prac­tice field, and it just clicked to me. ‘Hey, this is what I do.’ And I’m sure ev­ery­body’s dif­fer­ent, and I know some guys have jumped right back in and the fact that Mike has this month, you never know”

Although McCarthy’s fu­ture re­mains cloudy, his day-to-day in the short term seems much clearer, ac­cord­ing to Pet­tine.

“What it re­ally helps you do, though, is it puts things in per­spec­tive,” Pet­tine said. “It gives you time to spend qual­ity time – not just time, qual­ity time – with your fam­ily, friends, peo­ple you love that have sup­ported you along the way, and that was one of the best things for me, was to be able to spend that time and kind of, I don’t want to say re­build, but strengthen those re­la­tion­ships.

“And just know­ing how im­por­tant fam­ily is to Mike, I know that’ll be a big part of what he’s do­ing.”

In­jury up­date

The Pack­ers ap­par­ently will be with­out right tackle Bryan Bu­laga, who is doubt­ful with a knee in­jury and an ill­ness, for Sun­day’s game against At­lanta. That would mean backup tackle Ja­son Spriggs is in line to start.

Right guard By­ron Bell hasn’t prac­ticed all week with a knee in­jury but is ques­tion­able, along with long snap­per Hunter Bradley (an­kle), safety Ken­trell Brice (an­kle/con­cus­sion), left guard Lane Tay­lor (foot) and cor­ner­back Bashaud Bree­land (groin).

The Pack­ers ruled out safety Raven Greene (an­kle).

Clark hon­ored

De­fen­sive line­man Kenny Clark has emerged as one of the Pack­ers’ bet­ter play­ers in his third sea­son out of UCLA, but the 23-year-old has taken his game to an­other level off the field as the club’s 2018 nom­i­nee for the league’s Wal­ter Pay­ton Man of the Year award.

One of the more cov­eted end-of-sea­son awards in the NFL, it rec­og­nizes one player for his com­mu­nity work as well as ex­cel­lence on the field.

“I’m just hon­ored to be a part of that and be a nom­i­nee for it,” Clark said. “I was re­ally happy. It’s good. I al­ways try to help peo­ple out and I’m al­ways try­ing to give back and stuff and then for the Pack­ers and ev­ery­body to rec­og­nize it and make me the nom­i­nee, it’s great.”

Rodgers was a fi­nal­ist for the award in 2014.

Should Clark win the award, $250,000 will be do­nated in his name to the NFL and United Way’s Char­ac­ter Play­book and $250,000 to the char­ity of his choice. By just be­ing nom­i­nated, Clark will have $100,000 split in the same fash­ion.

The full­back is back

Danny Vi­tale left North­west­ern as one of the pro­gram’s top pass catch­ers with 135 ca­reer catches, but since en­ter­ing the NFL as a sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers in 2016 he has been used pri­mar­ily as an “old school” full­back and spe­cial teams player. He ap­peared in 24 games in 2016 and ‘17 with the Cleve­land Browns, catch­ing seven passes on 10 tar­gets.

“It just kind of goes along with the po­si­tion – you’ve got to have the will­ing­ness and men­tal­ity to go out there and get af­ter some­body,” Vi­tale said. “If you don’t got it, you’re not go­ing to be in the league very long.”

In­jured this off­sea­son and re­leased, Vi­tale signed with the Pack­ers on Oct. 22. He was pro­moted to the Pack­ers’ 53man ros­ter Dec. 1 and played Sun­day against Ari­zona.

Be­fore his ac­ti­va­tion, the Pack­ers had gone with­out a full­back all sea­son. This year marked the first time since 2014 that the team didn’t carry at least one full­back for a game, and it has hap­pened only three times since 2010.

“There’s only so many of us out there,” the 6-foot, 239-pound full­back said.

“I think there’s prob­a­bly 19 or 20 teams that even ros­ter one right now and they usu­ally only ros­ter one, so it’s a very, very small group. I think it’s a very elite group be­cause there not a lot of peo­ple who want to be able to do it, and the peo­ple who can might not have the men­tal­ity for it as well. I take a lot of pride in that.”

JIM MATTHEWS / USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Mike McCarthy (left) will gain a new per­spec­tive on life while he’s out of a job, de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Pet­tine says.

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