Mike McCarthy, as we all know, it nobody’s underdog.
It’s what I love about him.
Sadly, though, he’s the underdog every week for like the last month. And he’s not doing anything to prove anybody wrong or change that perception.
He seems stale, complacent. Even with Joe Philbin (who ran a very exciting and energetic offense in Miami after running one of the most productive offenses of all time in Green Bay in 2011) back to help him out, things don’t seem to have gotten any better. It’s like he lost the fire that led to all that bluster.
In McCarthy’s first year as a head coach, he was coaching like he had something to prove. It was like he wanted to show everyone he deserved to be a head coach.
Then when Favre left, he worked so hard to prove that he wasn’t just the product of a HOF QB, that he could win without Favre.
He worked super hard on developing Aaron Rodgers and it showed – Rodger’s preseason film and limited regular season snaps those first few years weren’t pretty. Big Mike made it a point to develop him – like he had something to prove.
And he did, he even proved he could win a Super Bowl.
Then what? Prove you can build a pinball offense that can score at will like none ever before? He did that in 2011.
Then, a long stretch of rough years, ended by bad injuries, bad defenses, and whatever fluke you want to blame 2014 on came and went.
Now, it feels like it’s worn on him, like his muse is gone. There’s no more creativity and the only fire he seems to show is at the refs over terrible calls.
I know he’s a classy guy that’s doing his best, but he seems lost. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with young stars like Aaron Jones and MVS. He gets them some touches so they can do their thing, but it’s so… mechanical… so obligatory. Jones need carries? Run him up the middle a dozen times and let him do his thing. MVS looking good? Ok, give him vertical isolation routes.
There’s nothing creative done to help the young stars, they just have to succeed on their own skills and determination.
McCarthy looks like he’s coaching with nothing left to prove.
After being as highly successful as he’s been, what is left to prove?
And when you have nothing left to prove, what are you even doing?
It feels like a mindset shift has set in and there’s no way to go back.
It’s very unlike Sean McVay, who’s trying to prove something this year. It’s very unlike a guy who was trying to prove something last year: Doug Pederson.
Pederson came in eager to prove he belonged as a head coach. He was eager to prove that being aggressive could pay dividends. he proved all that and more.
But McCarthy isn’t a first time head coach, anymore – he’s seen a lot of success. He can’t possibly have the same drive as a new couch out to prove himself.
Maybe a guy like Andy Reid is a better comparison.
Reid had a lot of success in Philadelphia, then hit a rough patch in his career, similar to what McCarthy has shown us. Now, Reid seems to have been reinvigorated by switching teams. It’s a chance to prove his time in Philadelphia wasn’t a fluke.
After dropping from 10 wins, to 8 wins, to 4 wins in his final years with the Eagles, he put up 53 wins in his first 5 years in KC and is currently sitting with the best record in the league at 8-1. Does he have a lot of talent there? Sure. Does Green Bay? Absolutely.
If you can’t move the ball with Rodgers, Jones, Adams, MVS, Graham, Cobb and a host of solid support skill guys working with a very competent offensive line… then what are you doing?
Maybe you’re not coaching with purpose, maybe the fire is gone. Maybe, like Reid, he needs a new challenge – the kind of challenge that can only come with a change of scenery.
Changing scenery is messy though. The Green Bay Packers are a team that values stability.
I get that.
That stability might even pay off.
Maybe. After all, there it’s happened in other places.
Could McCarthy have a career revival like Sean Payton did and, after a few mediocre years, return to reclaim the top spot in the conference with a aging QB?
Sure, anything’s possible.
What would it take?
Well, Payton had his revival it by continuing to find new ways to use Drew Brees while getting new talent like Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore.
McCarthy hasn’t worked Rodgers the way Payton has worked Brees. And with Aaron Jones and Jaire Alexander, the talent seems at least comparable.
It’s the results that aren’t.
Now, I’m not gonna blame McCarthy for fumbles or penalties. Saying that those things are indicative of an undisciplined coach is a bit much – these are players and human beings (and McCarthy’s teams are historically pretty solid in their penalty standings) – but there are certainly results to be held accountable for and, absent the issues that the Packers have faced in the past few years (like facing a revolutionary new offense, injuries decimating a position to the point of laughability, a season-ending injury to 12, or dealing with Dom Capers), there aren’t a lot of excuses.
McCarthy is the largest common denominator in the recent rash of disappointing seasons. The other issues may have simply been masking that.
Maybe he should have been an underdog.
Maybe we need an underdog.