For all of the NFC North titles, trips to the playoffs, and even the Super Bowl victory in 2011, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has had an upper echelon quarterback as his starter. McCarthy has been blessed to have Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and the current best quarterback in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, be his predominant starting quarterback.
Most NFL coaches would kill to have just one quarterback like that, but McCarthy has had two. But still, during his now 12 seasons as the Packers head coach, his team has only been to one Super Bowl and more stunningly just three NFC championship games. Most would expect more from McCarthy and his teams, since the NFL is a quarterback driven league. Even with just the one Super Bowl victory, McCarthy has stated publicly that he is a “highly successful football coach.” That might be true, if that statement read “highly successful football coach, if I have a Hall of Fame starting quarterback.” One thing has shown these past two games against the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions, Mike McCarthy isn’t an elite head coach without Aaron Rodgers.
Mike McCarthy Isn’t an Elite NFL Head Coach Without Aaron Rodgers
Back in 2013, McCarthy was also without the services of Rodgers, who broke his other collarbone at that time. That season, the Packers limped to an 8-7-1 record, with McCarthy being bailed out by quarterback Matt Flynn who had to be signed when Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien couldn’t get the job done as the Packers starting quarterback. Once again with Rodgers out with a collarbone injury, McCarthy and the Packers are struggling.
Most thought that the Packers wouldn’t be in such dire straits this time like they were in 2013, just because stepping in as the quarterback was Brett Hundley, a former fifth round pick who has been “blessed” to spend three seasons under McCarthy’s tutelage. Many so-called experts have claimed that McCarthy’s a great quarterback coach. Sure, Favre had one of his best seasons under McCarthy’s watch and yes, McCarthy played a part in Rodgers development, but realistically, Favre’s and Rodgers’ success is because of Favre’s and Rodgers’ talent, not McCarthy’s coaching ability.
Hundley struggled in his first game as a starter, but the finger shouldn’t be pointed at Hundley, but rather McCarthy. For that game, McCarthy’s game plan was one you would expect if the quarterback was signed and forced into starting, not a game plan for a quarterback who has been with your team the past three seasons and learned under a “great quarterback coach”. Things seemed to improve, to a degree, in the Packers loss to the Lions for Hundley. Hundley threw for 245 yards and a touchdown, but it should be noted a lot of those yards came when Hundley was running an up-tempo offense, an offense where it appeared Hundley was in charge, not the “great quarterback coach”.
McCarthy came out after the game and stated that “he believes in Hundley”. Something he should say and truly believe, especially if McCarthy is as a good a quarterback coach many believes he is. What McCarthy needs to do is actually show that he believes in Hundley, take the training wheels off, and see what he can really do. Hundley had some strong moments against the Lions, build on that. The Packers still have a great corps of wide receivers, Hundley needs to air it out a little more. At this point, under McCarthy’s flawed game plan, defenses are sitting on those receivers, knowing that the Packers aren’t going to throw the ball deep. McCarthy needs to set his young quarterback for success, not failure, the latter being what he has done the past two weeks.
McCarthy’s in Charge, Defense’s Failure is His Responsibility
The Packers defense is bad, there is no sugar coating that. I think cornerback Damarious Randall summed it up pretty well after their loss to the Lions. It is pretty obvious to everyone watching the Packers defense perform that they aren’t getting it done and they aren’t getting it done under defensive coordinator Dom Capers watch. It is obvious to everyone but McCarthy, the man who oversees Capers and the defense.
Once again, without Rodgers covering up the lack of execution by the Packer defense, everyone is witnessing how truly bad it is. The person who has been leading this underachieving unit has been Capers, something he has done since 2009. The Packers defense, for the most part, has been the weak link of this team while Capers has been in charge. But yet, his job status remains secure, something that baffles most fans. However, if you are looking for blame, instead of blaming Capers, blame McCarthy. McCarthy is the one that decides who stays and who goes on his staff and unfortunately for Packers fans, he is loyal to Capers, even though he isn’t getting the job done.
The Great Ones Rise to the Occasion
When Tom Brady was sidelined with a season ending knee injury in 2008, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick inserted back-up Matt Cassel and they finished 11-5 last season. When Brady was suspended last season, and their backup was injured, Bellichick inserted rookie Jacoby Brissett and the Patriots won. That is what makes a great head coach, you take what you are given and you still lead your team to victory. Mike McCarthy has shown, without Rodgers, he can’t do the same. McCarthy isn’t a great head coach, he is a head coach who has a great quarterback, and there is a huge difference. Sadly, it appears that the Packers are learning this the hard way. The one positive that will come out of this lost season, people can stop claiming that McCarthy is an elite head coach. It just isn’t the case.