McCarthy vs. Rodgers

I try to make some sense of who was to blame.

Dallas's hiring of Mike McCarthy has certainly brought back the debate of who was to blame for the final two plus years of his tenure spiraling out of control.  The short answer to this is probably injuries.  Injuries exposed a weakened infrastructure and a philosophy that had clearly run its course.  As a result, changes were made and the Packers are rebuilding the franchises infrastructure nicely during the second year of this overhaul.  

Now that Mike McCarthy has agreed to a 5-year deal in Dallas, the Aaron vs. McCarthy debate has started to garner some discussion by those of us who are bored from a week without Packers football (including myself).  I think the old adage remains true in this scenario; no one wants to see their ex happy.  This mindset definitely is apparent in the reaction from some of the fanbase (myself included) whereas other members of the fanbase loved McCarthy's style and coaching philosophy.  

So what this essentially comes down to is a pissing match between the Rodgers backers like myself and the Rodgers haters which seems like half of the fanbase at this point.  Let me start off by saying that Rodgers has definitely taken a step back.  I don't think anyone can argue that at this point.  I think it was fair to give him a pass in 2017 and 2018 as he played through and missed time because of some serious injuries.  With all things considered, Rodgers numbers were good and his accuracy issues were understandable since he was playing on a fractured tibia.  This year, there was no excuse, the frustration and criticism were definitely warranted.  

Now to the issue of Rodgers vs. McCarthy- I really think this was just a clash of personalities.  Rodgers is an extremely talented, extremely bright, and extremely stubborn player who was so engrained into one mindset that it probably took him a while to see that the offense philosophy needed to change.  I think he and McCarthy just got into a place where they couldn't work together anymore and it was time for a change.  

The polarizing issue that seems to come up in every argument is the usage of run versus the pass.  McCarthy's supporters criticize Rodgers for abusing his free reign and putting the offense in an unbalanced space by changing the plays at the line.  The McCarthy bashers (like myself at times, I'll be honest, I wasn't his biggest supporter over the years) will cite every stat that shows a slanted view of why the Packers were dead last in 1st down runs, carries per game, and overall run percentage.  

Let's take a step back from the blame game for a moment and take a look at what got us to this point.  The fact of the matter was for most of Rodgers tenure, the passing game was the primary focus of the Packers offensive scheme.  The Packers had one of the most high-flying offenses in the league and Rodgers was making incredible plays week after week.  Rodgers averaged 34 touchdown passes per year from 2010-2016 despite suffering his first broken collarbone in 2013 which limited him to just 17 touchdowns.

After 2014, Eddie Lacy's role began to diminish and Rodgers was charged with shouldering the load on offense.  In 2016, Rodgers threw 40 touchdowns and all was right with the world.  In 2017, he suffered his second collarbone break and was not the same when he returned.  The reality is that he has never been the same since.  

Now, let's get back to 2018 which saw the Packers rank dead last in overall rushing percentage.  The popular theory is the run game suffered because of Aaron (Rodgers).  It seemed like McCarthy and Rodgers would find subtle ways to blame the other for the Packers struggles on offense (Rodgers took more jabs). The bottom line is it just did not make sense for a physically ailing Aaron Rodgers to completely abandon the running game to the tune of 11 carries per game for Aaron Jones in the 12 games that he played.  

Let's look at the change in rushing philosophy from McCarthy to LaFleur- in 16 games in 2019 Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams had a combined 343 carries which amounted to an increase of almost 6 attempts per game.  So, if Rodgers was responsible for checking out of 6 runs per game in 2018, why would he suddenly commit to the run in 2019?  Was the Mark Murphy line of "don't be the problem" an edict to Rodgers not to audible?  Who the hell knows, all I know is that a 13-3 record makes us all grateful that the Packers are just 3 wins from bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to title town.

Sound off:

Let me know which side of the debate you stand on, is this on Rodgers or Mike McCarthy's system? As always, I look forward to the discussion.

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Comments (34)

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scullyitsme's picture

January 08, 2020 at 11:21 am

For me it’s as simple as McCarthy was the head coach. That makes it his fault. The reality is if it was arod changing the plays too much, that’s the head coaches fault for not getting in his face and stopping it. So to me, even if it was Rodgers fault, it’s still McCarthy’s.

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murf7777's picture

January 08, 2020 at 11:28 am

Scully, there's a lot of truth in what you say. Unfortunately, if upper management, undermines that authority (Arod you will get what you want), then that leaves MM as a lame duck and no where to go but out.

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LayingTheLawe's picture

January 08, 2020 at 04:35 pm

I agree. Part of the job of a coach is to get everyone on the same page. And I think your qb would be number one on that list. To let it get that bad between coach and qb shows it was over and past time to move on.

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DragonSilk's picture

January 09, 2020 at 06:19 am

In most situations your view would be correct, but fails to take into consideration the salary situation. If any conflict between the 2 upper management has to consider the $100 million contract extension they just gave Rodgers and the salary cap implications. This gives Aaron more power if things ever came to him or me.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

January 08, 2020 at 11:20 am

Aaron Rodgers is no dummy and he fully realized that he MUST get along with LaFleur. Thus, I believe there were likely instances and perhaps more often that he would have liked things done differently, but instead supported LaFleur's position.

Regarding the disagreements between Rodgers and McCarthy is may have been 50-50 or perhaps substantially slanted to one side or the other. Nevertheless, it was paramount in Rodger's view that it appear the he and LaFleur were a "team" and working and conducting themselves as one to the viewing public.

Whatever, the case, I really like the product we are seeing.

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murf7777's picture

January 08, 2020 at 11:22 am

It was a dysfunctional relationship at the end and as it is with most of relationships that go sour, both have fault in why the relationship ended in divorce. The past no longer matters, so let's move on from MM and focus on what's ahead with MLF. We have a bright future.

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CAG123's picture

January 08, 2020 at 12:03 pm

There’s a SI article that talks about these things in detail and apparently this whole thing goes way deeper than just Rodgers and MM the Packers organization as a whole got lazy and complacent. Communication between Rodgers and MM dwindled and they just weren’t on the same page like a QB and HC should be MM frequently missed offensive meetings with Rodgers during the week to discuss game plans and that’s apparently where they went over plays they wanted to use. When MM would miss these meetings he would sometimes change plays in the game plan without AR knowing. I don’t know how true this is but MM allegedly snuck out of a meeting and went to his office to get a massage (hilarious if you ask me). I think the blame goes more like 50% TT with MM getting 30 and Rodgers getting 20. TT ran that place like a museum and refused to infuse talent into the roster thus putting a larger workload on Rodgers apparently they were always working to get trades but TT wouldn’t sign off on them and come draft time the scouting department felt like some of their work was being wasted because if TT liked someone they were getting drafted.

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TheBigCheeze's picture

January 08, 2020 at 11:50 am

who gives a rat's ass?......M O V E - ON!!!!

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Lare's picture

January 08, 2020 at 11:56 am

I'm sure mistakes were made by numerous people that led up to the unsuccessful 2017 & 2018 seasons. I'm guessing that they learned from those mistakes are looking forward to more success in the future.

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Packers2020's picture

January 08, 2020 at 12:00 pm

This article is just click bait.

Who cares. MM is gone.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 08, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Move on. 50/50. It takes two to tangle. Do we play Dallas next year?

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splitpea1's picture

January 08, 2020 at 03:08 pm

No.

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Since'61's picture

January 09, 2020 at 03:32 pm

Maybe in the playoffs. Thanks, Since '61

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Turophile's picture

January 08, 2020 at 05:34 pm

Some people find it difficult to move on.

It's the same with "Who was at fault for the Favre vs Packers acrimonious parting
(Hint: it was all Favre).

Or how about "We should have taken T.J.Watt instead of Kevin King".
(Hint: true, but rather irrelevant. We took who we took. Let it go.

PS In reply to Leatherhead's comment, we don't play Dallas in 2020 (a shame - we have a very good record against the Cowboys in recent years). We do play the Saints and 49ers away though............they are probably very tough games.

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pacman's picture

January 08, 2020 at 12:28 pm

This article is only relevant now to find out why AR still threw so many deep passes after Adams came back instead of sticking with the short game and AJ. It's hard to imagine a new head coach MLF saw a winning game plan and just threw it out the window. That had to be AR. If not, MLF is a pretty bad play caller even if he might be a good people guy.

I'm pretty sure all the AR bashers are only that because he tries to go deep too often (presumably due to his ego). He's throwing behind on short passes too. He just isn't the AR of old and doesn't admit it.

So now we are amazingly in the playoffs (Gute/Smith's get the credit here, and some luck) and there is no more "let's try this" stuff. If AR is still missing long throws (and we are not up by 3 scores), it's time for a Patton like speech (you'll know what to do!) from Gute to MLF/AR.

I just hope AR has been practicing and not vacationing these last 10 days.

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wildbill's picture

January 08, 2020 at 12:30 pm

When Lombardi left I was sadden, when Starr retired I was heartbroken. When Holmgren left I was confused, when Favre left I was heartbroken. The key is great coaches always seem to move on and I accept that easier than the great field warriors. Rodgers carry’s god-like status in Green Bay and he probably knows that and can be difficult to deal with, but that being said I am glad McCarthy left instead of Rodgers.

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madtowndan's picture

January 08, 2020 at 01:01 pm

10 years from now, one of the two will write a book, and all of the gory details will be revealed.

I don't care who is to blame - just move on and KEEP WINNING!

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jclombardi's picture

January 08, 2020 at 05:16 pm

And you are....??

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LayingTheLawe's picture

January 08, 2020 at 04:57 pm

Everything sounds good in your argument as long as you ignore that the Packers are 13 -3 in the first year the McCarthy offense is replaced. Luck doesn't cut it as an argument when the stats would say it is due to low mistakes and high efficiency in the red zone. Rodgers in decline and a subpar group of receivers were unmanageable for McCarthy but adapted to well in his absence. The idea that a McCarthy back would lead the league in tds is not in the realm of possibility and shows the change in the plan.

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Renllaw's picture

January 08, 2020 at 01:12 pm

This may not be popular, but I think it is just way too simple and easy to view this as a Rodgers vs. McCarthy issue. I believe there were many issues that all came to a head. Most of them are the fault of one of the things I love about the Green Bay Packers.

Loyalty.

But in this case, it was loyalty to a fault. The Packers kept in place a GM that had obviously health issues, not willing to play in the free agency era, and was underperforming in talent evaluation for several years, depleting the overall talent level.…. Out of loyalty.

Mike McCarthy, also loyal to a fault, kept in place Dom Capers for far too long. When it was obvious to others that his schemes were becoming predictable and dated, McCarthy stuck by him until it was desperation time…. Out of loyalty.

Hiring Pettine was the right move but it was too late for McCarthy at that point. Sticking with Capers had already cost him. Another decision that hurt him was bringing back Joe Philbin. The offense was already looking stale and predictable. Instead of being innovative, he brought back a colleague that reinforced the same old same old.…. Out of loyalty,

All of this lead to predictable football schemes without the talent we once had to out execute opponents. An equation that led to a frustrated Aaron Rodgers that started to show his frustration in passive aggressive comments and the media firestorm we saw the last year.

I love that the Packers show patience, appreciation and loyalty to the Packer family, but they also need to demand excellence and innovation from them as well. Murphy seems to have recognized this and began a culture change. So far, so good!

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CAG123's picture

January 08, 2020 at 02:31 pm

Yep I appreciate the Packers penchant for stability the more successful franchises have that but when it’s time for a change it’s time for a change DC should have been shown the door after 2014 he wasn’t like let’s say a Dick Lebeau who had years upon years of success in Pittsburgh and the roster had just finally gotten old he was shit after 2010. Looking back it’s kind of hard to say when the Packers should have gotten rid of MM and TT maybe 2016 for Ted because man when you look at the hot mess they had on the defensive side of the ball outside of a few players he definitely should have been given the boot so many of those guys like Gunter, Brice, Rollins, Perry, Datone Jones, Jayron aren’t even in the league anymore.

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mrj007's picture

January 08, 2020 at 08:54 pm

Great post. Probably Jimmy Graham is playing because of loyalty as well. Just another example of the “loyalty to a fault” culture. Familiarity breeds contempt and seems this Story is a classic example.

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BoHunter's picture

January 08, 2020 at 01:27 pm

Spot on Rennlaw, great post !
BoHunter

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Handsback's picture

January 08, 2020 at 02:19 pm

One question, well make it a two part question: Would the Packers be 13-3 w/o Amos/P.Smith/Z.Smith? Would MM be 13-3 With the current roster?
When TT missed on so many drafts, Gutsey had to find a way to improve the roster that reeked of LOFT . TT would have never signed those FA.
Rodgers last collar bone separation really affected his play. I'm not sure if he'll ever be the player he once was, but the diminished QB that he is ...is still better than 2/3 of the NFL starters.
MM fell into a great situation at Dallas. He has maybe the best RB in the league, a top 5 QB, All-Pro WR, 3-All Pro Oline guys, a DE that can sack the QBs and very fast LBs. They need work in the DB area, but it's very solvable.

A time for change was needed, it was both Rodgers and MMs fault that they didn't get along so a split happens. Life goes on and the two will face each other again, unfortunately it will probably be in the playoffs.

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mrj007's picture

January 08, 2020 at 08:56 pm

Too bad Elliot will only get 6 carries a game...

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LayingTheLawe's picture

January 09, 2020 at 02:22 pm

Without big changes to the offensive plan this team goes like 9 - 7 with McCarthy. The improved d keeps them close but there's no way a McCarthy running back is leading the league in tds and without that how are they scoring points?

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Qoojo's picture

January 08, 2020 at 03:05 pm

MM's teams generally had poor defenses and special teams. He kept Capers way too long. Rodgers isn't great this year, to put it politely. Yet, with a decent defense and special teams, what's the packers' record?

The TT-MM combo just wasn't great at recognizing talent towards the last few years, and utilizing the talent on the team. A few times, MM would only start using a younger more talented guy once injuries forced his hand. Coaches and the GM work together to evaluate the talent. I find TT and MM both at fault here.

I think Rodgers has some part too. I think he phoned it in, and just did his own thing last year. Clearly fed up with a simplistic offense. I think he still has issues with wanting to hit the long ball too much instead of just accepting what is given, moving the chains, which should later open up longer routes.

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GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

January 08, 2020 at 04:21 pm

During press conference, MM just admitted he lied to JJ about watching every play during 2019 season because he wanted the job. Wow! And he’s bringing in Joe Philbin. Cowboys will remain mediocre.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

January 08, 2020 at 05:28 pm

McCarthy will be in Dallas. LaFleur is in Green Bay. Rodgers is still a Packer. Nothing can be done to change the past. The future has yet to be written. Move on. Go! Pack! Go!

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PackfanNY's picture

January 08, 2020 at 06:11 pm

The most ironic part of the day has been listening to all the positive about “McCarthy” wins, playoff wins, SB wins, 4-0 at Jerry World as if they that has all been transferred to the Cowboys. Yet, two weeks ago when I was telling my friends he was a good hire I was told he never did anything, he’s not a strong candidate etc. Well, well, well how times have changed.

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stockholder's picture

January 08, 2020 at 06:57 pm

This article should never have been written before the play-offs. Put the blame on the media. Their Words were music to the ears of most. Cleaning up the blood doesn't change anything. MM didn't burn any bridges. Why would Arron Rodgers? Change can be a blessing for everyone.

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croatpackfan's picture

January 09, 2020 at 08:06 am

I am and I was fan of Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. I believe there is the time for co+operation and when that time finish, the best way is to separate.

I do not buy that blame should go to either side, as I do not buy that credit should be only on one. I truly believe both become sloppy on success they had together and complacency of both produced lot of problems. Complacency of both.

What I do not like is that Aaron Rodgers very often, direct or subtle, put blame on others (WR, RB, TE, coaches). But I also do not like that Mike McCarthy did not call some names publicly when there is need for that. I can understand reasons of both, but sometimes to much is to much and to little is to little.

Packers decide to part the ways with HC, not with QB. I'm OK with the decision. So, I am still fan of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy. But I am also fan of Packers and when Packer will play against Cowboys I will support Packers no matter who is QB and who is HC of opponent.

That is all.

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Since'61's picture

January 09, 2020 at 01:35 pm

So we have a playoff game this Sunday and we're discussing a media fabricated debate that ended over a year ago and we're being asked to choose sides. Yes, this makes sense.

First, let's work in reality. MM and AR were two people in a situation that neither created or had control of and both of them realized it and could not do much about it. Simply put, talent on the Packers roster was declining from the end of the 2014 season and onwards.
And to that numerous injuries and the Packers were playing professional football with guys who should not even have been in the league at several positions especially on the defense. Let's not forget the poor draft picks, Perry, Datone Jones, numerous CBs, one or two of whom were basketball players etc. Then TT elected to dismember the interior of the Packers OL by not re-signing Tretter, Sitton or Lang.

The Packers looked like the Packers during the 2016 "Run the Table" 8-0 run. Then we saw how bad the roster actually was once Rodgers was injured in week 6 of the 2017 season. This is a critical point in the alleged debate between Rodgers and MM.

Rodgers had a chance to be on the outside looking in for the 2017 season. When that happens to anyone who has been inside for a long period of time the flaws, mistakes and weaknesses become all the more obvious. As a result when he returned in 2018 he realized what he was stepping back into but he knew that he had little control over the situation resulting in his "players play, coaches coach and GMs administer" quote. Playing with injuries, a turnstile interior OL and a weak receiving corp didn't do much for the offense. The defense was a poor tackling, poor technique, cluster fxxk.

Just look at the difference adding a few better players on offense and defense has made for the 2019 season. As I have posted before what could Rodgers and MM have achieved with this defense and the offense that we still had from 2011 - 2016. With a healthy Rodgers probably at least 2 more SBs. It's not a matter of Rodgers or MM it was a matter of Rodgers and MM with not much else to work with.
Now on to important stuff like the upcoming playoff game. Thanks, Since '61

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Slim11's picture

January 12, 2020 at 01:07 pm

Renllaw nailed a big part of it. There was also a SI article in 2015/16 which made the same observation.

Since '61 also identified a major part of the problem that being player talent. That's more on TT and MM than on AR.

There's another element which the article and posters here have not identified and that's MM's comfort level. In his 13 seasons in Green Bay, he acquired a comfort level that, in part, led to a decreasing work ethic.

He began coaching down, or up, to the level of competition posed by that week's opponent. Go back to 2015 and the game against the Patriots. McCarthy put together an excellent game plan and the Packers beat the eventual SB champion. Many, including me, thought this was a Super Bowl preview.

Compare the above mentioned game to the 2018 debacle against the Lions in Detroit. I was at that game. The Lions had one of the worst, if not THE worst, run defenses in the league. Aaron Jones was back from a one-game suspension and was healthy. IIRC, he had eight carries. How does that happen? IMO, MM ignored the run game. This was also the game Mason Crosby left 13 points on the field.

I was also at the 2017 game in Cleveland where Cleveland almost beat the Packers. Rodgers was still injured but I believe that team could have beaten Detroit in 2018.

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