Packers’ Next Decision Looms Large

Now that the dust has settled and Mike McCarthy has been relieved of his head coaching duties by the Green Bay Packers, the media focus has turned to a combination of reviewing his tenure and predicting the candidates for his now vacant job. There’s a lot to digest and I’m certain that what I’m about to write won’t be anything earth shattering comparatively. I have my guesses and opinions, but I don’t have a clue as to who the Packers will select as their new coach heading into 2019. What I do know is that their choice is going to be one of the biggest decisions in franchise history. The upcoming hire will either make or break the Green Bay Packers for the next 5-10 years and potentially even beyond.

The situation reminds me a lot of the 2005 decision to move on from Mike Sherman and bring on Mike McCarthy. Granted McCarthy’s tenure was much more successful than Sherman’s. Both coaches’ tenures ended during the back half of their future hall of fame quarterback’s career. Mike McCarthy was able to come in and reset Brett Favre’s career after a lapse in fundamentally sound play at the end of Sherman’s run. The next Packers’ coach will need to do the same with Aaron Rodgers. McCarthy was fortunate to have #12 waiting in the wings while he got to the doorstep of the Super Bowl with Favre, but he deserves credit for developing and grooming Rodgers into the superstar that we’ve become accustomed to. He also was able to pass the torch from Favre to Rodgers and completed a Super Bowl run in the process. To me, these are the highlights of McCarthy’s era. Obviously the current Packer team is still a talented roster that will include Aaron Rodgers for the next 5+ years, but there are many question marks that will need answered. Will the Packers’ next coach be able to match Mike McCarthy’s early career achievements? The pressure will be on to do so.

The first thing that the new hire will need to accomplish is building trust and respect with Aaron Rodgers. McCarthy had this at the beginning of his tenure, but the rumors of a strained relationship grew louder and louder in recent years. Rodgers can be prickly and stubborn, so it’s pertinent that the Packers properly vet a candidate that will make it work with him. There will be pressure on Rodgers to find his old form and put his struggles from this season behind him. When he plays his best, he can carry this team. When he’s off? We’ve seen it this year. Agitated, dysfunctional, inaccurate, all of the above. The current roster is not deep enough right now to handle an average to good Rodgers. If the Packers are going to win they need great to otherworldly Rodgers. At 35, it will be interesting to see if this past season was a fluke or if it is the beginning of an overall regression. A new coach (McCarthy) was able to come in and press the reset button for Brett Favre. He corrected Favre’s issues that plagued the 2004 & 2005 seasons and had the Packers one mistake away from the Super Bowl in 2007. Perhaps a new coach will be able to replicate that success with Aaron Rodgers as he heads towards the end of his career.


More: A Tale of Two Halves

It seems pretty obvious that DeShone Kizer behind Aaron Rodgers is not Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre, so it seems that if the Packers are going to keep their Hall of Fame quarterback streak going at three straight, they’ll need to find the heir within the next 3-4 years before Rodgers calls it a career or loses his game. Granted, to do that it’ll take a combination of the new coach and GM Brian Gutekunst working together and frankly, sheer luck. Ask the Cleveland Browns how easy it is to find your franchise quarterback. They’ve had 25 or so cracks it and just now seem to have found one that will stick around. Luckily the Packers are two for two over the past 25 years. It will be difficult to go three for three.

Couple the main looming issues that revolve around the quarterback position with the fact that the roster still needs developing in some key aspects (mainly OLB, WR, O-Line, and yes…still secondary) and there’s yet another cause for concern. Brian Gutekunst will be entering his second offseason as General Manager this spring and he’ll enter that with a brand new headcoach with a new style and plan of attack. These types of relationships usually take time to develop and to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. It will be hard to grocery shop for a recipe when you don’t quite know what the recipe is supposed to be. Gutekunst will have to be on his A-game throughout free agency & the draft starting this offseason and moving forward. The clock is starting to speed up as Rodgers’ window begins to close. The Packers simply cannot afford to let opportunities slip by in both the draft and in free agent negotiations.

You could write a book about the shortcomings of the post-Super Bowl XLV Packers, (and I’ve got a pretty nice outline for one, until a better author comes along and writes it first) but for the most part Mike McCarthy’s Packers will be fondly remembered by fans. Zach Kruse wrote an excellent piece trying to explain McCarthy’s legacy here. The Super Bowl victory will undoubtedly walk Mike right into the Packer Hall of Fame. The heartbreaking playoff losses will always sting and maybe haunt some of the players and McCarthy himself, but overall he deserves a “Job well done.” He always represented himself with class and it was not hard to see the respect that he had for the position of Head Coach for the Green Bay Packers. The short term feelings of Packers fans will fade away with time and McCarthy will go down as one of the great coaches in franchise history. His tenure fizzled at the end, but during his hey-day the Packers were relevant and buzzing. In his own words, they were, “nobody’s underdog.” Things change quickly in the NFL, it’s the nature of the beast, and we probably won’t know for a few years just what happened inside 1265 Lombardi Ave that led to his demise. One thing we do know is that no matter the score or circumstance, Mike McCarthy represented the Packers with class. Regardless of who the next head coach of the team is, he will have big shoes to fill in that regard.

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