For the Green Bay Packers, this off-season has been one of change. When an NFL team goes through the type of changes that the Packers did, it usually isn’t a good thing for the head coach of that team. However, for Mike McCarthy the changes that occurred to the Packers this off-season appear to be in line to benefit him the most, which now shifts the spotlight directly on McCarthy. Success in 2018 for the Green Bay Packers falls on the shoulders of Mike McCarthy.
Success for the 2018 Green Bay Packers Falls on the Shoulders of Mike McCarthy
It is pretty rare when a team suffers a losing season that the head coach who was in charge of that team is granted more power. But that appears to be the case when it comes to McCarthy and the Packers.
After going 7-9 this past season, their first losing season since 2008, the Packers went through a major realignment with their organizational structure. Longtime general manager Ted Thompson was moved to a senior advisory role, although the details if it was a decision made by president Mark Murphy or by Thompson himself has yet to be revealed. Although Thompson was the man that hired McCarthy and the person in charge of the Packers when they won their last Super Bowl in 2010, it appeared that McCarthy had grown tiresome of Thompson’s draft and develop roster approach.
McCarthy and his coaching staff dealt with having to prepare rookies and second-year players to contribute every season because of Thompson’s reticence to use free agency. It appeared that McCarthy had become frustrated with Thompson’s constant refusal to utilize free agency to the fullest, with having not just to rely on players the Packers had drafted but to also lean heavily on undrafted free agents, players who were passed on during the seven rounds of the draft.
There isn’t much doubt that McCarthy was excited when the Packers hired Brian Gutekunst to become the top personnel executive for the Packers, especially after hearing Gutekunst talk about how he would approach player acquisition. With a new person in charge of the roster and if Gutekunst’s talk of his approach becomes reality, McCarthy got what he has wanted the past couple of seasons. But it just doesn’t stop there for how this off-season has gone McCarthy’s way.
Reporting Directly to the Man in Charge
For some, the move of Thompson to his new role came as a bit of a surprise, but when Murphy decided to change the front office structure, a structure that had been successful since Ron Wolf was general manager, that came as a major surprise. Not only did McCarthy get a player evaluator who has said he would utilize free agency, but it appears he also gained some more power by not having to report to Gutekunst, instead reporting directly to Murphy, the president.
The change in the front office might have stemmed from McCarthy himself. When reports started to leak out that Russ Ball, the top contract negotiator for the Packers with no background in player evaluation, was the top candidate to replace Thompson, new reports of McCarthy’s displeasure of this also started to leak. If both of these reports are true, it appeared that McCarthy played a high stakes game of political poker, and in the end won. Not only did it prevent Ball from becoming general manager, something that some were against, but it also allowed McCarthy the opportunity to report directly to the person that sits as a pseudo owner for the Packers, Murphy. For McCarthy, it was another feather in his hat.
Surrounding Himself With Familiar Faces
When the season concluded, McCarthy finally did what Packers fans have been clamoring for. He fired longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers and replaced him with former Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine. Although fans have been begging for Capers’ replacement for years, McCarthy had been reluctant to do so, but after another poor defensive season by the Packers, McCarthy’s hand was forced.
While Capers departure wasn’t much of a surprise, the moves McCarthy made to his offensive staff was. Former Packers player and longtime assistant Edgar Bennett was relieved of his offensive coordinator duties. Although it is McCarthy who calls the plays, it was Bennett who took the fall. McCarthy did offer Bennett another position on his staff, which some might call a slap in the face to Bennett who had been a dedicated member of the Packers for so long, Bennett decided to depart and take a position on Jon Gruden‘s staff on the Oakland Raiders.
Joining Bennett was Alex Van Pelt (quarterbacks) and Luke Getsy (wide receivers), creating two more spots on McCarthy’s staff. With the departures, McCarthy brought in Joe Philbin, Frank Cignetti, and Jim Hostler. Philbin is a former longtime Packers assistant and former Miami Dolphins head coach. Philbin’s return seems to have made quarterback Aaron Rodgers very happy, with reuniting him with a former assistant that he has high respect for. However, not all of McCarthy’s hires have excited Rodgers.
During Super Bowl week, Rodgers let it be known that he wasn’t happy about McCarthy not consulting him about the hiring of the new quarterbacks coach and the departure of Van Pelt, somebody that Rodgers was very close to. Cignetti, somebody who has known McCarthy for many years, will need to win over his new quarterback, but also do something that McCarthy failed to do last season, get backup quarterback Brett Hundley to produce. It might be a long shot, although McCarthy has a lot of faith in his old friend. Cignetti doesn’t have much of a track record, with having a resume filled with stints on losing franchises. But again, McCarthy got what he wanted. He is surroundedbyh people he knows, another example of how success in 2018 for the Green Bay Packers falls on the shoulders of McCarthy.
Speaking of Hundley, recently McCarthy stated that Hundley “wasn’t ready to step up” and talked about “we,” meaning the team and his staff should have done a better job helping Hundley out. In reality, it wasn’t “we” that failed Hundley, but McCarthy himself. Even though McCarthy never asked for the title of “quarterback guru,” it is something he has been given. With having three seasons to prepare Hundley for playing, it was McCarthy who needed him ready to play. It appears that Van Pelt and Bennett were made the scapegoats for Hundley’s failure, but the failure falls at McCarthy’s feet.
Packers fans and the team itself hopes McCarthy doesn’t have another chance to prove that Hundley can be a capable quarterback. It appears that Rodgers will be at full strength when they start training camp next season and all hopes are that he will be able to play a full injury free season. If not, it will be up to McCarthy and his new gang of assistants to show they are capable of making Hundley a productive NFL quarterback.
Put Up or Shut Up
A new top personnel executive has said he will explore every possible alley to improve the Packers. The capability of reporting right to the man in charge. A contract negotiator with no personnel evaluation experience not getting the general manager job. The hiring of assistant coaches with years of familiarity. A star quarterback being at full strength. These are all of the things that have happened for McCarthy this off-season. For him, Christmas came after December.
It appears that McCarthy got everything he wanted, hinging on if Gutekunst proves to be a man of his word. If McCarthy is right, it should lead to at least the Packers getting back to the Super Bowl. If not, it will be another season wasted for Aaron Rodgers and most likely, the last season McCarthy is the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Yes, success in 2018 for the Green Bay Packers falls on the shoulders of Mike McCarthy. As they say, be careful what you wish for.