Should the Green Bay Packers get rid of head coach Mike McCarthy? The answer may not be that simple.
Any time a team with playoff aspirations starts off slow, there is usually something or someone to blame. Sometimes the answers are as simple as injuries to a key player or players, other times the answer is much more complicated. But, more often than not, the head coach gets most of the blame.
When your quarterback is a two-time MVP and possibly the best quarterback to ever play, and there is a new GM in town, there is no doubt where the blame will fall. On the head coach.
Head coach Mike McCarthy is on the proverbial hot seat this season. With his team at an underperforming 3-4-1 McCarthy’s seat may never have been hotter.
In previous seasons McCarthy may not have had much to worry about. Ted Thompson was the GM and McCarthy was his first and only head coaching hire during his tenure.
But this season there’s a new GM who implemented his own form of team management and the Packers have been much more diverse in their team management than they were under Thompson.
Although Brian Gutekunst has worked side-by-side with McCarthy prior to his hire at GM, he could look to make his own hire. And McCarthy is giving him reasons to make a new hire.
McCarthy’s scrub of his playbook has so far seemed fruitless and more like his previous one.
McCarthy has also been criticized with not “scheming” to get players open or the ball to a certain player. This criticism has come from both former and current players with the most notable coming from Aaron Rodgers after the victory against the Bills.
Any conversation would not be completed without mentioning McCarthy’s play-calling. This past Sunday’s game was a perfect example of McCarthy at his worst. Three straight passes on a first-and-goal from the two-yard line when Aaron Jones has run through the Patriots defense to that point is more than questionable.
Also play-calling disparity. The Packers only had 25 run plays to 43 pass plays, with four of them being runs by Rodgers. That’s more than double the calls.
The Packers did not trail by double-digit points until very late in the game. There was no reason to have that big of a disparity in called plays. The run game was working, possibly better than the passing game.
With the control Rodgers has at the line of scrimmage, the play-calling issue is purely speculation. Rodgers could be changing would-be run plays to something else. What isn’t speculation is McCarthy’s game management.
McCarthy has yet to use one back in a featured capacity. Prior to the season McCarthy stated there would be a committee approach at the running back position but he would ultimately stick with the hot hand.
Well that hasn’t been the case. Aaron Jones has been the hot hand since his return from suspension yet has not seen the load a running back of his caliber should see.
Any one of those reasons could be enough to frustrate the front office and leave them pulling put their hair. It’s been clear all season long, the coach on the other sideline has had the upper hand against McCarthy.
There is also speculation McCarthy’s message to the team has grown as stale as his play-calling. The Packers have given uninspired efforts in more than a few games this season. That is a reflection of the head coach.
If players are no longer responding and his offense is stale, it must be time to move on, right?
The answer may not be that easy.
From a front office perspective, there will be a ton of pressure to get the hire right. This isn’t a rebuilding project. The team will have a 35-year-old two-time MVP who wants to win more rings right now. There isn’t a whole lot of time to allow a coach to settle in.
The GM must also make sure the coach has the credentials that will make a two-time MVP respond and respect. Possibly one who has been to and won a Super Bowl before in some fashion, either as a coordinator or head coach.
Getting this hire wrong would waste another 2-4 years of Aaron Rodgers.
The same pressure that would be on the GM would be double on the coach. They would walk into a pressure cooker knowing there isn’t time to “build” their culture. It’s already in place and it starts with Rodgers. Who by the way hasn’t exactly had the best relationship with the previous coach.
For these reasons, someone like Lincoln Riley would not be the best choice. It might be too big a gamble for Gutekunst to make. The same can be said for any up-and-coming coordinator without head coaching or Super Bowl experience.
I get the success of Doug Pederson and Sean McVay has changed the narrative a little bit. But for every McVay, there is a Norv Turner. For every Pederson, there’s a Mike McCoy. Guys who were thought to be the next big things in coaching and showed they are better coordinators than head coaches.
Turner and McCoy never had Rodgers, but Rodgers as we are seeing, does not guarantee victories. The job could also just be too big for a coach not ready for that next step costing the team and Rodgers more years.
That could be a gamble the team is not willing to take.
Also, should the hire be an offensive guy or a defensive guy? If you go defense you would then be on the search for an offensive coordinator with the pedigree of a winner. Those guys might be holding out or heading for a head coaching job as it is.
Two coaches the Packers could possibly look at or land, that fit the criteria I feel should be important (Super Bowl experience), come with big question marks.
One is Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels has already had a chance as a head coach and did not fare well. While many agree he simply wasn’t ready, who’s to say he is now?
Yes, years have passed and he’s had time to mature, but the change of heart act last year may prove he hasn’t. One day he was to be the next head coach of the Colts, the next day he wasn’t.
Who’s to say he would even want the job? Could his change of mind have been because of the promise to take over for Belichick? Would Aaron Rodgers be that much more enticing than Andrew Luck?
The second would be an old nemesis Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh is currently the coach at Michigan and has been linked to a return to the NFL in every year since he left. Would this be the job that could pull him away from the college game?
And if it could, would he be the right hire? Harbaugh wore out his welcome in San Francisco, and would his hard style work with Rodgers?
A secondary concern would be what to do with the defense. If there is a new hire, do they keep on Mike Pettine or re-make the defense for the second offseason in a row?
There are more factors than those that must go into a head coaching hire. The Packers will ultimately have to choose to go with the coach they know or into the unknown.
It’s easy to say there needs to be a change, but there are just not many Super Bowl coaches out there waiting to be hired. There will always be talent to be hired, but with a quarterback and fan base growing antsy for another ring, the choice has to be right or we are just wasting more years.