Mike McCarthy: The most underrated of them all


As an eight-year head coach, Mike McCarthy has pounded out winning records 37 games over .500, with one Super Bowl victory, four NFC North Division championships, and one conference championship.

The Packers, under McCarthy, have won 82 out of 128 games for a .646 win percentage. He is also one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the league.

Head coaching produces frequent name changes at the position from year to year for a reason, and the reason Mike McCarthy has stayed this long has to do with winning, the common thread for longevity in the NFL.

… and the reason Mike McCarthy has stayed this long has to do with winning, the common thread for longevity in the NFL.

Sure, there might be a few with better records during the Green Bay Packers history, such as Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, and Mike Holmgen – they are all legends of the game; icons of the NFL.

Lambeau was with the Packers for nearly three decades. After playing and coaching that long, Green Bay’s prized ionic stadium has borne his name. That says something.

Vince Lombardi went on to have his name associated with the Super Bowl trophy, many calling it “The Lombardi Trophy” and that says something extra-large about him.

Mike McCarthy

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

And Mike Holmgren, the coach that put Green Bay back into the winning tradition as head coach in the 1990s, was coaxed by dollar signs to move on to a coaching and general manager’s position in Seattle that paid him the big bucks

Here are Lombardi’s, Holmgren’s, Lambeau’s and McCarthy’s statistics as head coaches:

Vince Lombardi – 89 wins, 29 losses, 4 ties

Mike Holmgren – 75 wins, 37 losses

Curly Lambeau – 209 wins, 104 losses, 21 ties

Mike McCarthy – 82 wins 45 losses, 1 tie

Coach McCarthy deserves a reward of being the least recongnized coach in the league. Over the years he has produced competitive teams year after year, but seldom a word is even spoken of his accomplishment in maintaining the winning tradition.

One of the possessions Mike carries with him is not only knowing talent, but developing talent.

When I hear Mike McCarthy say that so-and-so is making progress and will improve, I know so-and-so is going to be a factor on the field, making the plays the team needs.

McCarthy rose through the ranks because of the handling the players, creating not just good players but the best players. McCarthy, now 50 years old, was born of blue collar parents in Pittsburg, Pa., back when the steel mills were the area’s biggest employers. As a youth Mike recognized his love for the game of football, telling people he was going to work in the NFL – a big statement for a young guy. His coaching career began as a graduate assistant at Fort Hays University in 1987 and 88. He moved on to the University of Pittsburg from 1989 to 1992, coaching quarterbacks and receivers.

Moving to Kansas City in 1993 he coached the Chiefs until 1999 when he came to Green Bay to coach Brett Favre, a player so talented the team had trouble managing him. This lasted only a year, when the New Orleans Saints called to promote Mike to offensive coordinator, where he stayed until 2005, when he took another job with San Francisco.

His last promotion came from the Green Bay Packers, beginning in 2006 when he began his head coaching career.

McCarthy is going down as the best head coach to never be noticed. After his first break-in year as head coach, he took the Pack to champs of the NFC North Division.

Mike McCarthy has his say.

Underrated, but improving year after year, the best thing during his reign has been his ability to produce teams with first rate talent. Working in unison with Ted Thompson, the team’s talent guru, the Packers have created a new norm of playoff contender year after year. There have not been any given years the team would not contend for a title, or qualify for the playoffs.

Talk around town and the league is that as long as this team in Green Bay keeps the nucleus of McCarthy and Thompson together, along with their staff, they will continue to produce a winner.

McCarthy brought more to the table than building players and winning games. He builds game plans that end in positive results. He has also gained a new element to his coaching duties during the past few years that we have only seen out of a few other coaches over the past 4 or 5 decades.

Vince Lombardi was a master at pumping the team up to play “over their heads” as he did during one game vs the LA Rams in the mid-1960s, when the team was behind by three touchdowns going into the second half. They played close to dead even for most of the third quarter, then pulled out three consecutive drives and an onside kick recovery turned into a touchdown in the final seconds to win.

Player after player gave credit to the “Coach” for that victory.

It seems as if MM has developed some of that same “knack” with motivation, or at least we think we noticed it more over the past few years.

Beyond his play calling, the offense Mike McCarthy runs is a brand of its own. To go along with it, writing plays within the scheme can bring an extra element to a team. MM adds that dimension. His newest noticable changes in his team’s M.O. is using the rushing game to create even play calling between the pass and the run. The balanced attack, as it had been dubbed years ago, seemed to drop off during the incoming changes that brought the NFL from a balanced game to a predominently passing game.

Mike McCarthy

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Look for a few new plays coming down for Green Bay now that MM has the Eddie Lacy attack in place. MM has developed a few trick plays, but uses them sparingly enough to keep the element of surprise a factor. More pass plays can develop with a solid running game, and MM is the guy you want calling and scripting.

In the next chapter to McCarthy’s history in Green Bay, let’s hope he can find a few plays to make a difference.

Whatever those trite little changes bring, it’s looking like a great season coming for all us Packers fans. The defense is improving, and the offense, well, being on fire would be a cool thing.