The Green Bay Packers abruptly ended Mike McCarthry’s time as head coach less than four hours after an embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Some point to McCarthy’s record as a head coach, 135-84-2, as a reason why the Packers should have kept him.
But, while that is a great record, the past four years looked different. Over those years he has been 31-28, a terrible record for a team with future-hall-of-famer Aaron Rodgers.
To counter this, McCarthy made coaching adjustments this past offseason, bringing in Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator and Joe Philbin as the offensive coordinator. Under Pettine, the Packer’s defense started out the season on top. The same cannot be said for the offense, which has been extremely lack luster.
Despite having the talented Rodgers along with other elite players, their offense ranks 17th in scoring. Some blame may fall on Philbin who, as the offensive coordinator, would be responsible for offensive performance. But, Philbin doesn’t actually run the offense, since McCarthy would not relinquish play-calling duties.
Watching the Packers this season, it is easy to see the play calling is the biggest problem. Whether it is running on third and long, a slow developing play on third and short, or only giving the league’s leader in yards per carry (Aaron Jones) the ball 11 times, his play calling consistently failed the Packers offense.
There were also reports of problems with his relationship with Aaron Rodgers. Packers’ president and CEO Mark Murphy hinted in October there was tension between Rodgers and McCarthy and it is not hard to see why.
Rodgers only needs to look at previous opponents to see teams whose coaches used smart play calling to beat the Packers’ defense. Sean McVay did with the Rams, as did Bill Belichick with the Patriots, effectively exposing defensive weaknesses. They, along with Andy Reid in Kansas City, have led the transformation of today’s NFL offense with trick plays and creative schemes.
Meanwhile, McCarthy’s offense was still running the same plays that gave it success in 2011. While those plays worked then, defenses have changed to counter them.
Without adjustments, McCarthy’s offense had fallen behind. His strategy became apathetic, constantly relying on Rodger’s ability to scramble and create.
When the Packers were forced to go without this mobile version of Rodgers, as they were this season, or go without him completely, as they did last season, the play calling didn’t adjust to support the changes.
It was best for both sides to part. McCarthy could definitely go on to have great success with another team, but that should not cause doubt on the part of the Packers. Restarting would allow McCarthy to build the best offense with his new team for their personnel.
By parting with him now instead of at the end of the season, the Packers have a whole month to set up interviews with potential head coaching candidates, rather than a few days during the offseason.
Packers’ fans should remember McCarthy as a great coach who helped lead one of the best offenses in history for many years. Sometimes people just need a change of scenery to succeed. Hopefully for the Packers and McCarthy, this change will be what they have needed.