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Despite His Vocal Critics, Mike McCarthy’s Legacy in Green Bay Will Be a Positive One

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Despite His Vocal Critics, Mike McCarthy’s Legacy in Green Bay Will Be a Positive One

In the wake of the firing of head coach Mike McCarthy, it felt rather trite to select and analyze a “game changing play of the week.” So here is one last reflection for today on McCarthy’s coaching tenure in Green Bay.

Over the last several years, Mike McCarthy has been a lightning rod for criticism in Green Bay, particularly from fans on social media platforms.

What we have seen out of the 2018 Packers indicated that it was indeed finally time for McCarthy and the Packers to part ways. The team is clearly in need of a new direction and a refresh to its offensive schemes and philosophies, and McCarthy could not prove he was capable of delivering the adjustments the team needed to salvage its system.

Given the circumstances this team was in, losing a game at home in December on the Frozen Tundra to a team from the desert that’s won only two games this year with a rookie quarterback, rookie head coach and generally awful offense is the kind of thing that will get you fired in this league. And ultimately McCarthy, Super Bowl-winning coach though he is, was not immune to that.

I won’t get into the decision to part with McCarthy any more than that—Cheesehead TV has already gone into this extensively today, in different angles. Some recommended reading:

·         Zach Jacobson says firing Mike McCarthy was “a difficult but necessary decision

·         David Michalski says the firing of McCarthy is just the “first of many moves” the Packers must make to right the ship

·         Ross Uglem spends some time appreciating the best moments of McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay

As for me, I’m here to address what McCarthy’s lasting legacy will be in Green Bay, both in terms of how fans remember him and the kind of impact he has had on the team.

Probably the most common criticism one will find of McCarthy is that he “only” managed to win one Super Bowl in a tenure that included the services of two Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

I’ve always found the very foundation of this claim to be quite ridiculous—in an age where the New England Patriots have completely redefined expectations of fans of what makes for a successful team, it’s easy to sit back and say one championship makes for a “failure” without considering just how damn hard it is for any team in any given year to be in contention for a title.

But there are other problems with this criticism.

For one, it completely takes for granted the work McCarthy did to rehabilitate the career of Brett Favre.

When McCarthy arrived in Green Bay, Favre was coming off the worst year of his career, a 4-12 campaign in which he threw 29 touchdowns and looked completely washed up. Within two years, McCarthy had turned a player many had fully written off into an MVP candidate at age 38.

The resurgence of Favre in that 2007 season and his final great year in Minnesota in 2009 are such important parts of Favre’s legacy as a player in this league that would very well not have happened without McCarthy managing to rein him in and build an offensive system that accentuated his strengths and limited his penchant for boneheaded mistakes that had grown out of control by the end of the 2005 season.

I won’t go into the whole “chicken and egg” debate surrounding Aaron Rodgers’ growth into one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history, but it’s certainly fair to say that Rodgers, especially early on in his career, benefitted greatly from McCarthy’s tutelage, and had he landed with another coach may very well have become a bust, given McCarthy completely reworked his throwing mechanics to better suit the professional level of play.

I think it is fair to be disappointed that the Packers have not gotten another crack at a Super Bowl in Rodgers’ time as quarterback, but there are so many more factors that go into that beyond McCarthy’s coaching, and yet he tends to take more grief than anyone for “wasting Aaron Rodgers.” It’s an unfair and inaccurate assessment of the quality of coaching McCarthy gave to this team for so long.

Unfortunately, as tends to happen among fan bases, especially on the internet, the growing frustration over a lack of a follow-up trip to the Super Bowl since the 2010 season led to an increasingly angry and impossible-to-placate group of Packer fans.

It became uglier than ever throughout much of this year, and there have been some truly sad and despicable things said and written about McCarthy by Packer fans this year. You come to expect it—spend enough time on Twitter or any fan site or forum and you’ll find a plethora of garbage human beings railing against “Fat Mike” or “McFatty” or any other kindergarten-level insult you can think of.

It’s part of what has made McCarthy’s firing such a bittersweet moment for me personally. While anyone can objectively see it was clearly his time to go, the waves of fan resentment have been quite disheartening, considering the man played a major role in turning this team around when it looked like it was turning into an irredeemable dumpster fire after the Sherman era, then brought the team a championship and helped keep it in contention just about every single year.

Ultimately, history is going to be kind to Mike McCarthy. The wins, the championship and the sustained success all speak for themselves. I just hope the Packer fans who have been so ruthless in calling for his head are able to eventually appreciate everything he gave to this team, and welcome him back to Green Bay with open arms when he is eventually inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.

Beyond fan perceptions, McCarthy will have an important impact on the head coach position for the team moving forward.

One thing even the most steadfast critics of McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay can never argue against or take away from him is that he was the embodiment of most of the very best qualities and values of this franchise.

He was intensely loyal to his players and coaches, occasionally to a fault. Never once did he publicly throw a member of his staff or any of his players under the bus.

He had tremendous respect for the history of the franchise and for the traditions of the Green Bay Packers.

He had a great appreciation for Green Bay as a city, often likening it to his hometown of Pittsburgh in terms of its blue collar nature and its embrace of its team.

He was an excellent leader, who on more than one occasion rallied the team in difficult times to come together to achieve excellence.

Simply put, he was the embodiment of a “Packer guy,” a perfect fit for the organization from an “intangibles” perspective at head coach—something that Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst will certainly value and look for when they search for his successor.

In Mike McCarthy’s introductory press conference in 2006, he famously said that the biggest challenge the team had lying in front of it would be how it handled success—an almost unthinkable concept, given the disastrous season the team had just had in 2005 and the dearth of talent the team was dealing with at most positions.

But that confidence and belief in his guys never faded, and it helped produce a championship in a year where he proclaimed, “We’re nobody’s underdog.”

The time is right to move on, but Green Bay will miss Mike McCarthy for so many reasons that don’t even relate to the play on the football field.

And some day, Packer fans will, too.


Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (48) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

Well said!

This will be an unpopular opinion here, but I appreciate MM and all he's done for the Packers. He, along with TT, will deservedly be in the Packers HOF some day. I do not think Mike will be unemployed for long, and I wish him success in his future gig - hopefully in the AFC. ;)

Thanks for everything, Mike.

Lare's picture

Seen more love for McCarthy in the last several hours than I've seen for him in months. Green Bay is better for having McCarthy here the last 13 years. But I'm sure that he's happy to be moving on to the next chapter in his life.

It is what it is, not what it was or what it's going to be.

Since '61's picture

Excellent job Tim. As I've posted here a few times since MM was fired, we can only hope that the Packers select a new HC who takes the Packers to playoffs for 8 consecutive seasons and 9 out of 10 seasons and hopefully wins another SB or 2 or more.

Given the success rate of NFL the coaches the odds are actually against that happening.

Most importantly we find another HC who brings MMs value system and appreciation for the Packers history and tradition with him. MM was, is and always will be proud to be a Green Bay Packer and I will always respect him for that and for representing the Packers with pride and dignity. Thanks, Since '61

Savage57's picture

I did some research on what happens with new HC's in terms of wins, losses and tenure. It's pretty much a coin flip, a 50/50 deal.

The Packers opted for Door #2. I just hope they don't wind up getting zonked.

Since '61's picture

Savage, interesting take on new HCs. I'm looking at it from the point of view that since MM was hired in 2006 108 NFL coaches have been hired by 27 teams. The Packers, Pats, Saints, Steelers and Bengals have all had the same HC since 2006.

Of the 108 HCs hired since 2006 only 4 have won a Super Bowl. The other winners since 2006 include Dungy, BB(2), Peyton, Coughlin (2), MM, Cowher, and Tomlin. All hired before or at the same time as MM.

It depends on how we want to define success. Like you I hope that we do not get zonked or end up in another long term drought like the '70s & '80s. Thanks, Since '61

Doug Niemczynski's picture

Well said.

stockholder's picture

MM left a hole in many peoples heart. The effect will not be fully understood until we become champions again. Management must change: We build up the player, but not the team.

dblbogey's picture

10-12 years is the life cycle of good coaches. Mike was good at a lot of things and certainly belongs in the HOF.

BillofAltoona's picture

I totally agree with your debunking of the "McCarthy wasted Rodgers' prime" argument some Packer fans insist on. I think as time goes on we will see that Rodgers had some flaws himself that contributed to "only" one Super Bowl title.

Pierre's picture

I think McCarthy was the beneficiary of having a great QB in a division whose teams were often mediocre early on. Hence all the division titles GB won. The problem was that MM was unable to instill a toughness or discipline in his teams to be able compete against good quality teams and that’s why the Packers lost so many playoff games. He also had a history of losing close games and overtime games in the playoffs. His play calling was so predictable and unimaginative. He only got to one Super Bowl and it should have been at least two...except for that loss to Seattle. He should have been released after that debacle versus the Seahawks.
Another thing that Mike never practiced was to have his offense go pedal to the medal once they had a lead and to keep being aggressive on offense. The best winning teams never let up trying to score points but that was not Mike’s approach. I believe this costs his teams key victories, especially in playoff games they could have and should have won. He seemed content to just have a lead...and this was a shortcoming of his. He too often played games not to lose rather than to keep being aggressive in putting more points up on the board. This approach cost his teams quite a few chances to play in more Super Bowl games.

The TKstinator's picture

Poopy flavored lollipop delivered.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

Absolutely right!!!! He coached scared and is way overrated.

LeotisHarris's picture

Well done as always, Tim. Coach McCarthy was the right choice to succeed Mike Sherman, and a great fit for Green Bay and Wisconsin these last 13 years. He is a good man who always put his team first.

I think it's important to remember it was TT who made the call to hire Coach McCarthy. I've seen so many "what if the Packers had hired Sean Payton" posts this year. As if somehow Payton would have eclipsed McCarthy's success. Sean Payton would have disgraced the franchise and the brand. Mike McCarthy won a Super Bowl. He was a respected leader, one who recognized the important role of team leaders and team-building outside of football. One only needs to look to Detroit to see how a collection of extremely talented individuals can fail as a team year-in, year-out.

I agree it was time for McCarthy to leave. I wish the Packers had waited until the end of the season. I believe that's what Bob Harlan would have done. I've said this before here, but I don't think Coach ever recovered from the double hit of the loss in Seattle followed by the death of his brother. Hopefully now he'll have time to confront those losses and deal with the grief. He doesn't look healthy.

Thanks for this article, Tim. It is a fitting tribute to a good man. One of many to come, I hope.

scullyitsme's picture

He’d still be the coach if he just gave Aaron Jones the damn ball. Over simplifing I know but his loyalty to his average players and average coaches were his undoing. I wish him well, I even respect the loyalty on a personal level, I’d like to be his friend, just not his business partner. Hmm, well i take that back, fired or not, he’s still loaded.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I am grateful for what MM did for the Packers and WI. I also hope that the silver lining for him is to enjoy the Holidays with his family and get a head start on whatever he wants to do next. I look forward to his entry into the Packers Hall of Fame.

nostradanus's picture

Yes McCarthy was a fine man and coach
Yes this team is rebuilding and have been since Gutey took over
Yes it will take a year or two
Needs : OLB-ILB-Safety-OL- really they could use help everywhere just throw a dart and pick best players available in the draft period
Thanks Mike McCarthy for A good run!

John Kirk's picture

I feel for anyone on a human level when they face termination of employment.

The difference between my perspective and the sentiment here is I don't feel the need to eulogize Mike McCarthy because he's not dead, nor is he worthy of unsolicited accolades.

What is this need to deify people who coach a game and act as if this is some sort of funeral? This guy will be back making as many millions as he was making here as if nothing ever happened.

This guy was the coordinator of the 32nd ranked offense when we stunningly made him the head coach of this franchise. He had no business ever being hired here. Some will say but, but, what about his time in New Orleans? The Saints didn't keep him around and when he was done there he had to make a lateral move to another OC position where he nurtured it to a last place finish in the NFL. Anyone feeling like hiring Mike McCoy after Mike McCarthy? That's the equivalent of what we did when we hired him.

If you want to live in the belief that Mike McCarthy was good for the Packers that's fine. Many believe Ted belongs in the Packers Hall of Fame when it's abundantly clearly he hurt this franchise for years. Read the SI piece if you disagree. I didn't need to but it was nice to see some extra confirmation of his destructive effect.

Will always smile when people speak to McCarthy resurrecting Favre's career. That season Sherman got blown out was a coordinated effort to get rid of him, and Brett paid the price.

When Brett had his best season in Minnesota under Chilly ball it showed it had little to do with coach and everything to do with motivation.

If When Rodgers regains his form of old this new HC will be credited for resurrecting his career. Any voice is going to resurrect him after McCarthy's of which he checked out from.

I did not respect Mike McCarthy as a head coach and found him to be intellectually dull. I didn't respect him as a man for his dalliance in the front office that was shameful.

We're all free to see McCarthy as we wish. I just happen to see him 180 from this piece. No ill will going forward. I'm elated he can no longer drag down something that should've reached higher altitudes than it ever did while he was here.

Ted is now gone. Mike McCarthy is now gone. Just one more to go, and we might have something but that only comes when/if Mark Murphy blows this next hire. It's hard to know which I want to have happen because I find Murphy as vacuous as this season has been for most of the base.

As a Packers fan I am thankful New England exists. It's amazing how many disclaimers I've read when it comes to the Packers "accomplishments" in light of the Patriots. Sadly, the Pats do exist and McCarthy never got us to being anywhere near as good as they are with a similar quarterback. If you can convince yourself that the Packers have the same "success" with Belichick as they did with McCarthy then you can truly call McCarthy a great coach. If you can't convince yourself of that, and you shouldn't be able to, maybe you begin to understand why the "dark" side of the base thinks McCarthy was a millstone around the neck of this franchise.

HankScorpio's picture

"I didn't respect him as a man for his dalliance in the front office that was shameful."

The facts are against your catty fake news gossip.

MM's wife filed for divorce in 2004 and was granted one in 2005. MM was hired in 2006. They married in 2008. It's in the Wisconsin court records and took me all of 5 minutes to confirm that it didn't go down like you say.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

On Point John!!

Spock's picture

John Kirk, What is shameful is comments like this from you, "I did not respect Mike McCarthy as a head coach and found him to be intellectually dull. I didn't respect him as a man for his dalliance in the front office that was shameful.". I didn't miss your comments while you've been 'away' at all. Yes, MM will still be a well paid man and probably be coaching somewhere else soon, but if there is no reason to "eulogize" him there is far less reason to attack the man's character. I find your comments distasteful, especially your inference that he is "intellectually dull". That is a pathetic comment to make about ANYONE and shows how much less class you have than Mr. McCarthy. The one thing I will always respect him for is his not ever throwing anyone under the bus for their mistakes. Something IMHO you could learn from him.

Striker's picture

Well said, Tim.

Samson's picture

CHTV ---Try this novel idea. ---End the MM eulogies.
Starting 12/4/18 - try focusing on the future of the Pack.
This is still just an NFL HC moving on (MM didn't bite the dust). --Just about all HCs at all levels get fired, eventually.

Jersey Al's picture

Our writers are free to write what they want and express their own opinions. And that's how it will always be. If it makes you feel any better, MM won't be getting any eulogies from me.

Samson's picture

Nothing wrong with free speech even if it's redundantly boring & exaggerated.

The TKstinator's picture

Um.....too easy.

Tim Backes's picture

I understand the sentiment, but a Super Bowl winning head coach was just fired midseason, the first ever for the Packers in 100 years to be fired midseason and just the second Super Bowl-winning coach ever to be fired midseason. It will be the first time in 13 years the Packers have had to engage in a coaching search.

Certainly you can understand the significance, and the interest in considering why the move occurred and reflecting on what led us to this point and how one of the most important coaches in franchise history will be remembered.

Bure9620's picture

MM will be remembered fondly in Green Bay and celebrated in the long run. In fact, this will be similar to the Andy Reid/ Philly sitiation, both He and the Packers will have success moving forward. MM will find the right team (Its Cleveland) and MM will have success in bringing the Browns back to the playoffs and making them relevant. The Packers will hire the right fit for HC and contend for Championships. This year was awful but I don't think the Packers are all that far away. A good hire, strong draft and smart FA signings will put the Packers back in the hunt.

Samson's picture

History really does repeat itself.
The TT apologists showed up out of the woodwork when he was shown the door. -- Now the MM apologists are crawling back on center stage to decry MM's bus ticket out of town. --- Nothing changes with the die-hard homers.

Try this -- give the GB hierarchy some credit for showing some balls & forcing a new direction. -- If you haven't noticed, the Pack is one of the bottom dwellers in the NFL at the moment.

LeotisHarris's picture

"At the moment" is key, Samson. And if you are a fan of the Packers you have the opportunity to appreciate a sense of history almost no other fan base is given. If you've been to Lambeau you've witnessed what "die-hard homers" have built. You can visit a Hall of Fame unlike any other in sports; a Hall of Fame where coaches, players, and others, living and deceased, are "eulogized" for a sense of history and perspective. "Eulogized" for their accomplishments and failures, for what they've given to the community and the team.

Try this -- allow others to not see the world as black and white. Give thought to the possibility of an action creating both positive and negative results. Above all, don't be an asshat.

HankScorpio's picture

There is very little evidence that anyone has not noticed the Packers are NFL bottom dwellers this year.

For all the love shown MM the last two days around here (and there has been a lot of love shown), not many have said firing MM was the wrong choice. I can think of one person that said he should not be fired in the hundreds of comments I've read.

Some have not been fans of doing it now instead of after the season. Others have said that there is plenty of blame to go around. Still others have chosen to remember the good and ignored the ugly end. And on and on it goes. The common theme of the vast majority of the love is the acknowledgement that the 2019 Packers needed to move in another direction.

4zone's picture

We've had to witness some heartbreaking losses in MMs tenure, but we've gotten to see far more electrifying wins by far. We are a spoiled lot we Packer fans. I for one remember suffering through years of no playoff appearances and being pulverised by Berry Sanders and the Bears.

In the end, I think everyone needed a change here. We have yet to see if we will have a new, long term successful coach, or a return to the mediocrity of decades past. MM was always a class guy and represented this small town team with everything he had. Best of luck coach, thanks for your contributions to the Green Bay Packers and their fans and community.

JLab3's picture

Now we get to see if the Green Bay problem is coaching or organizational. I hope for our sake it's the former but I'm not so sure.

johnnyd17's picture

Packers will be lucky if they can somehow repeat the success of McCarthy with the next hire

HankScorpio's picture

If it were a game of "Deal or No Deal", I'd take MM's exact record over the next 13 years from the next HC over the unknown possibility of more or less.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

MM is an average at best HC. I don't get all of the people who think just because he had a good winning percentage and we made the playoffs all but 3 years under his tenure somehow makes him a genius and a great HC. Get real people, he had 2 of the best QB's to ever play the game. I could have done that. Have you actually watched the games??? He get's out coached in every big game, he doesn't make adjustments, he takes way too long to recognize talent and who should be playing and once he does figure it out, he reverts back to the same old stale strategy, so what exactly makes him a great HC? Constant underachieving?

dobber's picture

"Get real people, he had 2 of the best QB's to ever play the game. I could have done that. "

No. You couldn't.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

You love him so much follow him to Cleveland or whatever team that is stupid enough to hire him you idiot!!

dobber's picture


I'll be the idiot.

But I'll be the idiot who knows my response wasn't about MM per se, but on the hyperbole of your statement, the ridiculous nature of asserting that you or I could run an NFL team on a week-to-week basis 52 weeks per year, and do it better than any of the current 32 NFL head coaches.

LeotisHarris's picture

Easy, dobber. You're dealing with a carbon-based lifeform which uses multiple exclamation points, extra question marks, and name-calling. Just leave it alone. It will go away.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

Exactly where has he been highly successful without #4 and #12?

HankScorpio's picture

Favre was coming off a 29 int season when MM took over. Rodgers was a rookie with bad mechanics when he got to GB. Both are great players that MM helped display their greatness.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

Yeah and he got fired after a home game loss MM is the problem!!! If he were such a great coach why did this happen?? You are clueless!!

HankScorpio's picture

Coaches are hired to be fired. It's the nature of the business. Bill Belichick was fired once upon a time.

I agree that it was time to MM to go. But that doesn't change much.
Bottom line is that he's right when he said that he's a highly successful football coach. He's probably finding his way to the top of the interview list for more than one team that is lining up a new HC for 2019.

GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

Heres MMs record as 2005 Offensive coordinator SF was 4-12.

Despite having a better record than the 2–14 Texans and 3–13 Saints, statistics site Football Outsiders calculated that the 49ers were actually, play-for-play, not only the worst team in the NFL in 2005,[1] but the worst team they've ever tracked.[2] According to the site, the 49ers offense in 2005 is the third-worst they'd ever tracked.[3][2][4] The 49ers 3,587 total offensive yards were the fewest of any team in 2005, and their 239 points scored were third-worst in the NFL

White92's picture

I'll always love the "we're nobody's underdog" quote.

I'll remember him fondly.

cheesehead1's picture

Thanks Coach for all you’ve done. Many playoff appearances and a SB Title! Many teams never get a sniff at a SB. Good luck in the future, whatever you decide.

PatrickGB's picture

Tim, great take on all this. It’s perfectly fine to have mixed feelings. To care about a team and the man who coached them is what a good fan should always be. I for one (make it two if I include Tim) will be glad to finally not have to read all the asinine appearance jokes at MMs expense.
Of course the people my last sentence applies to might not understand the word “asinine” and instead giggle like a bevis and butthead clone.

Spock's picture

Tim, Nice article. Well thought out and IMO a fitting description of the man and his time with the Packers. Most of us fans agree that it was time to move on but it is also a time to reflect on all the great football we got to witness in past seasons under this coach. He will always have my respect as a man who has shown great character under often trying circumstances. I choose to remember the "McCarthy years" mostly with fondness. As a lifelong Packers fan I prefer to remember the good times more than the bad. Tim, I think you've captured the essence of how most Packer fans feel about this. Excellent writing!

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"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."
"The Bears still suck!"
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall. "