Following a loss to the previously 2-9 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, the 4-7-1 Green Bay Packers fired head coach Mike McCarthy. His departure ends one of the most successful head coaching runs in Packers history.
One day, McCarthy will have a ton to look back on and feel proud of regarding his run in Green Bay. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV, reached four NFC Championship games, and won six NFC North division titles. Also, he got a chance to coach a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
However, it’s very possible McCarthy will be remembered for what didn’t happen during his regime…more success.
Rodgers and McCarthy only won one Super Bowl. While that would be great for many franchises, it could easily be considered underachieving – considering the trajectory of Green Bay during McCarthy’s tenure.
Sure, it’s easy to see a rookie coach losing his first conference championship game appearance as McCarthy did when the New York Giants brought the curtain down on the Favre era in Green Bay during the 2007 NFC Championship game in Lambeau Field. Clearly, there would be other days with Rodgers – Favre’s able successor.
It appeared Rodgers was coronated as the NFL’s next all-time great after Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in February 2011. Incredibly, that would be the final time the pair would compete for a Vince Lombardi Trophy.
After winning the Super Bowl, Green Bay would win only one playoff game over the next three seasons despite going 15-1 during the 2011 regular season.
Green Bay appeared to get over their postseason struggles during the 2014 playoffs. A divisional round home win sent the Pack to defending Super Bowl champion Seattle for the NFC Championship game. Armed with the eventual MVP that season (Rodgers), McCarthy’s Packers squandered a 19-7 lead in the game’s final five minutes to lose out on a trip to another Super Bowl.
As subsequent seasons passed, the Packers failed to recapture their Super Bowl promise. An appearance in the 2016 NFC Championship game showed that the Packers were all flash and little substance. While Rodgers continuously bailed out Green Bay in key regular season moments, Green Bay’s eroding core couldn’t help carry the weight come playoff time.
An injury-plagued 2017 for Rodgers ruined Green Bay’s chances to reach the playoffs. Perhaps signing the two-time MVP to the richest contract in league history would allow Green Bay to re-build its core?
Instead, Green Bay got on the fast track to another season of missing the playoffs in 2018. Whether it was McCarthy’s poor coaching decision to not go for it on a 4th and 2 late in a game against the Seahawks; Mason Crosby’s meltdown in Detroit; a blown lead and a tie against the Vikings; or an unruly kick returning decision made against the Rams; it wasn’t in the cards for the Packers this season.
Not helping matters was his uber-talented quarterback. Rodgers, who is on his pace to post the lowest QBR of his career as a starter, hasn’t quite been the same this season in critical moments including missing game-changing throws in losses to Seattle and Minnesota. Further mudding the waters this season was the deteriorating relationship between McCarthy and Rodgers.
However, when a franchise doles out $134 million to your quarterback, ultimately the head coach is going to be left holding the back for the team’s failures.
McCarthy will land on his feet in due time. His track record is too good for him to sit on the sidelines. Just as Andy Reid needed to get out of Philadelphia and find some new scenery, the same could be said of McCarthy.
As for his former quarterback, whoever takes the helm the Green Bay may have to face the looming prospect that one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time is on the downside of his career.
No head coach may be able to fix that problem and in turn, help Rodgers return to the Super Bowl.